After nearly three tumultuous weeks of protests, 24/7 media coverage and national attention in and around Madison, Wisconsin, state senate Republicans decided Wednesday night to use a procedural maneuver to push through an otherwise unpassable budget repair bill amongst a throng of stunned Democratic leaders, media and onlookers.
The bill's measure effectively eliminates collective bargaining for public-sector employees in Wisconsin, except for wage bargaining.
Gov. Walker and Wisconsin Republicans attempted to negotiate with the missing 14 state senators who had disappeared across state lines to Illinois. The state senators' AWOL antics denied the Republican officials in Madison the necessary quorum it needed to go forward with the budget repair bill.
In the end, the Senate’s 19 Republicans approved the measure, 18 to 1, without any debate on the floor or a single Democrat in the room.
"In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin,” said Mark Miller, the leader of the Senate Democrats who fled to Illinois on Feb. 17 to block just such a vote from occurring. “Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.”The outrage enveloping the many pro-union and anti-Walker protesters and supporters was palpable.
"I think it's akin to political hara-kiri," said Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar). "I think it's political suicide."
Gov. Walker offered a brief statement,
"The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused," Walker said. "In order to move the state forward, I applaud the Legislature's action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government."Similarly, Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)summarized his party's committment to the Wisconsin voters with,
"The people of Wisconsin elected us to do a job," his statement said. "They elected us to stand up to the broken status quo, stop the constant expansion of government, balance the budget, create jobs and improve the economy. The longer the Democrats keep up this childish stunt, the longer the majority can't act on our agenda."To be sure, the main stream media will be abuzz about the turnaround of events in Wisconsin, especially the liberal-leaning media. Boycotts will ensue, walk-outs and other planned protests will also follow.
For example, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore announced on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show last night that all high school students in the nation should boycott the bill's passage by staying home from school Friday.
In the end, however, Gov. Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans were duly elected by the citizens of the Badger state to fulfill a promise to fix the budget and set the state on a course of fiscal sanity.
The Governors of other states will be watching closely how Walker did not back down amidst immense political pressure, especially in a state where collective bargaining for public-sector workers was basically invented.
Ultimately, the newly elected, 44-year-old governor of a historically blue state, Scott Walker, has taught some of the other Republican governors like Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels and John Kasich a thing or two about grit.
And even though his poll and popularity ratings will suffer in the short-term, in the long run, Gov. Walker will be seen as a trailblazer of sorts, fighting for what's right for taxpayer's, not just what's popular.
And he may have even one-upped Mr. "Tiger Blood' himself.