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Friday, February 25, 2011

Wisconsin Republicans Rush to Wait

Here's the message we can take out of Madison, Wisconsin today; Republicans are terrified. In the State Assembly, the GOP resorted to dirty tricks (again) to force through Gov. Walker's hopelessly corrupt "budget repair" bill.

Talking Points Memo:

After much buildup in the 61-hour debate -- of Republicans wanting things to be over, and Democrats railing against Republicans who they said would cut off debate -- at about 1 AM Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Kramer (R) announced that he would hear a voice vote for a roll call on final passage. Immediately, the majority Republicans shouted their ayes, and the Democrats were booing, as they tried to be recognized to demand a separate motion to cut off debate.

Then Kramer called the vote. Within seconds, the digital vote system on the wall announced 51 ayes and 17 nays, and voting was suddenly closed. With a total of 96 members, that got to a majority for the bill but left 28 members who hadn't had a chance yet to vote.

At that point, the Democrats got up, chanting "Shame! Shame! Shame!" and similar exclamations, as the Republicans filed out of the room.

This was the scene, as the GOP jammed the bill through in the dead of night in the only way they could -- by denying Democrats a chance to vote (courtesy of WISC-TV):

"Some of the Democrats I spoke to, such as state Rep. Kelda Roys, maintained that the vote was illegal," writes TPM's Eric Kleefeld. "Let's see whether they pursue such avenues in court."

Actually, let's see if they have to pursue such avenues in court. The sudden GOP rush to pass this in the assembly seems absurd at this point, as the legislation now gathers dust on the clerk's desk. It still has to wait for Democratic senators to return for a vote. I can understand wanting a break after sixty-one hours of debate, but you don't need to actually pass the bill to get there. There was really no reason to jam through this legislation in the dead of night. There's no rush.

In fact, if the idea was to get the absent senators to come running back in a panic, it didn't work.

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said Friday morning that he knows of "no intent to come back today" among the 14 Democratic senators in hiding in Illinois.

Risser said the senators, who fled last week in an attempt to stop Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget repair bill from passing, will be meeting later Friday morning.

But he said they have no plans to return in the near future, even after the Assembly passed the bill in the early morning after a heated floor session.

Fred's the longest serving state legislator in the nation, so at this point he's pretty good at this stuff. Another top dem was equally unshaken.

"We're here [in Illinois] for a reason," Sen. Jon Erpenbach told a Chicago TV station. "That reason is we believe what the governor is doing is wrong." That news story describes the fugitive senators not as outraged, not as distraught, but merely "irked." Clearly, this is only an annoyance for them and nothing that would cause them to come running home.

I believe that assembly Republicans used dirty tricks to push this through in order to manufacture some momentum behind the bill. Walker's shouting "VICTORY!!" with a megaphone from the capitol dome, but the fact is that nothing has changed. He's still on the wrong side of this, opposed to the public, and his flagship bill is still going nowhere.


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