Updated July 24, 5:50 p.m. ET
Wisconsin state Sen. Tim Cullen quit the Democratic caucus Tuesday — throwing a cloud of uncertainty over the party’s narrow 17-16 majority, their biggest victory from the waves of state recall elections.
Cullen announced his decision Tuesday after Majority Leader Mark Miller unveiled a list of committee chairmanships in which Cullen was the lone Democrat missing.
Cullen’s statement leaves some ambiguity as to his new intentions:
As of the sending of this email, I am no longer a member of the Senate Democratic Caucus. I will decide over the next few days or weeks whether to become an Independent. I will not become a Republican.
This entire episode makes clear to me that Sen. Miller has no time for my independent ideas and my support of bipartisan solutions to the state’s problems.
Miller disputed Cullen’s version of events, and said Cullen was indeed offered a chairmanship.
“I am disappointed in Senator Cullen and the decision he made today,” Miller said in a statement. “Senator Cullen turned down the chairmanship of the Committee on Small Business Development and Tourism. He told me that if that was the committee offered to him, he would rather chair no committee at all. It was an important committee as small business is the economic engine for Wisconsin.”
It is not yet clear what effect Cullen’s decision will have on majority control of the chamber. The legislature is out of regular session for the year, and Republican state Sen. Rich Zipperer recently announced he will resign to become Gov. Scott Walker’s deputy chief of staff.
In 2011, Cullen was among the 14 Democratic state senators who fled the state in an effort to block Walker’s law eliminating most collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Update: Cullen told TPM that he is still a Democrat — for now.
“I’m a Democrat — I’m not a member of the caucus,” said Cullen. He said he will speak to people over the coming weeks to decide whether to become an independent.
“If I become an independent, the freedom that gives you is to decide issue by issue, case by case, what you’re going to do, and you’re not bound by your party or your caucus,” he said. “So that’s conjecture as to what may or may not happen in the future. But I’ll be free to do what I believe is right for my district, and what I believe in.”
Cullen said he still supports President Obama for re-election, and Rep. Tammy Baldwin for U.S. Senate.