The legislative standoff in Wisconsin appears to have reached a conclusion: Gov. Scott Walker made it clear that the essential part of his "budget repair" bill would be stripping public unions of collective bargaining power. Using a procedural maneuver to strip the anti-union legislation of its fiscal measures, Republican state senators were able to sidestep the absent Democratic lawmakers holding out for a compromise and pass the bill on Wednesday night.
Mark Miller, the Senate's Democratic leader, told the Associated Press there was nothing more his party could do to stop the bill: "It's a done deal."
Wednesday night's move, while surprising, was in keeping with Walker's uncompromising posture to curb his state's $3.6 billion dollar budget deficit by whatever means necessary. And Walker firmly believes that crippling his state's public employee unions will help solve the problem. Earlier in the week, during the standoff with Democratic lawmakers who had fled to Illinois in protest, the Wall Street Journal reported that several of the state's largest public-sector unions were willing to agree to a number of fiscal concessions but were rebuffed.
After the bill abruptly passed on Wednesday, Wisconsin Democrats branded it "political hari-kari," "thuggery," and "a violation of the law," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Scott Walker replied with this 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."
What happens next in Wisconsin?
- Expect the Protests Over the Next Few Days To Be Ferocious figures the Washington Post's Ezra Klein. "Unless a judge rules the move illegal--and I don't know how to judge the likelihood of that--Walker's proposed law will go forward.The question is whether Walker and the Republicans who voted for it will do the same."
- It Seems Unlikely That the Democrats Will Repeal The Bill writes Josh Barro at the National Review. "Once Wisconsin lawmakers get used to the new status quo, I think this is likely to be true there, too — why would mayors, school-board members, and state legislators want to give up a new budgeting tool they’ve been given?"
- Democrats Will Eventually Undo This concludes The New Republic's Jonathan Chait: "Obviously, Republicans think that crippling the Democratic Party long-term is part of what they need to do to control state-level budgets," he observes. "But I think the more likely result is simply that Democrats will pass a ball allowing collective bargaining among public employees as soon as they return to power. The ramifications of parties using their political power in order to try to cripple the opposing party are a lot deeper and more dangerous than Walker seems to be reckoning."
- This Will Only Galvanize the Labor Movement notes Greg Sargent at the Washington Post: "Walker could have reached a deal with unions and very plausibly declared victory. He could have rightly argued that his tough stance on bargaining rights forced major fiscal concessions." But he didn't budge from his anti-collective bargaining stance. "National Republicans can't be happy about this overreach," Sargent writes. "It has galvanized the labor movement, allowed it to restate its case to the public, given Obama an easy way to mend fences with unions, and complicated GOP outreach to blue collar whites in key swing states and districts heading into 2012."