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Monday, January 16, 2012

Walker's Legislative Steamroller Not Quite So Formidable Now

Walker's steamroller runs out of steam
Tomorrow's the big day. After months of signature collection, petitions to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker must be turned in by Tuesday. The call to wrap things up actually came last week, indicating the kind of comfortable buffer petitioners have achieved. There were no urgent pleas to keep signing until the very last second, no big final push, just the message that it was time to fold up shop, to make sure all your petitions are signed and dated, and to turn that paperwork in on time.

Of course, this is the second round of recalls in Wisconsin, sparked by Republican overreach and a union-busting law. The first was toward the end of summer last year, when Democrats took two seats in the state Senate. Republicans, after launching a counter-recall, gained no seats. Democrats had come within one seat of taking the Senate majority, while Republicans had fallen from one seat to three seats from taking a quorum-proof super-majority.

Somehow, this got spun into a win for Republicans. The Democratic goal, after all, had been to take the majority in the Senate. Democrats had gained two seats and lost no ground, Republicans had lost two seats and gained no ground, therefore Republicans had won. "Tonight’s results demonstrate that responsible budgeting measures and job creating policies can prevail over mountains of liberal special interest money from those fighting to maintain the unsustainable status quo," said Chris Jankowski, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee. "This tremendous victory is a significant step toward returning government to the people and protecting the hard-working American family and businessperson. By beating back countless liberal special interest dollars and paid supporters, the strength of responsible Republican ideals is obvious and foreshadows continued Republican victories in 2011, 2012 and beyond."

Only in the bass-ackward mind of a Republican is losing two seats winning. And not just winning, a "tremendous victory." Why, it was a landslide! A few more "victories" like that and there won't be any Republicans in the Senate at all.

And now we see what their "win" has brought them.


Associated Press:

Republicans who control the Legislature have their sights set on passing just four major bills and little else during the session that begins Tuesday and runs through mid-March.

They insist it's not due to inter-party gridlock, but instead the negative influence of recalls against four Republican senators and the ongoing bitter partisan atmosphere that hinders building coalitions across party lines.

The four bills Republican leaders say they are working to pass would clear the way for an iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin, ease laws related to developing on wetlands and environmental regulation, and create a venture capital fund to assist start-up businesses.

"Republicans last year feared Democrats might take control of the Senate after the recalls and block their proposals. Democrats did pick up two seats, leaving Republicans with a narrow one-vote majority," AP reports. "That slim majority and threat of more recalls leave lawmakers on edge."

"When a legislator is under recall and looking down the barrel of a recall election they're going to be more sensitive," said Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, himself the target of a recall election this time around.

And whether any of this agenda will actually get done is another question entirely. The venture capital fund probably stands the best chance, while the rest may face a rocky road. Of course, the recalls may still turn the Senate over to Democrats, which means that things could change drastically. Even Republicans are acknowledging this.

"Because of the fact that we have four senators under recall and uncertainty that surrounds the Capitol, that will mean that very few bills will pass," state Rep. Robin Vos, the GOP co-chair of the Legislature's budget committee, told the AP.

Previous to the recalls, the GOP was a legislative steamroller, passing bills nearly as quickly as the Governor could sign them. Now, not so much. The steamroller's out of steam. Republicans can't afford any more "wins" like they had last year. If they suffer through another "tremendous victory" like that, they'll be out of business for a while.


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