MADISON, WI (FDL) – I’m watching the debate in the State Assembly on the budget repair bill, which is nearing an endgame. About an hour ago, Assembly Democrats agreed to limit debate to a final 38 amendments on the budget repair bill. Assembly Republicans had threatened to shut down the process procedurally. There is no real “filibuster” in the Assembly, as I understand it, so the Democrats couldn’t drag out the process indefinitely. All the previous 50-odd Democratic amendments have failed, including one last night that would have stripped the provision allowing for no-bid sales of power plants. I imagine that the Assembly will wrap work on the budget repair bill with basically no changes either today or tomorrow. The Republicans generally are keeping a united front. Democrats aren’t happy about this state of affairs and letting that be known on the Assembly floor, but there’s no real filibuster, and the Republicans basically said they would shut down debate totally, so there wasn’t much of a choice.
The real showdown, of course, is in the Senate, where the “Wisconsin 14” remain out of state to deny Republicans a quorum. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald got the notion this morning that some Democrats were sleeping in their own beds at night and leaving the state in the morning, so he sent the state police out to their homes this morning in an attempt to force them back to the Capitol. This failed, and it’s not clear what information it was based on. In addition, troopers could not arrest or otherwise compel Senators back to Madison even if they found them. Sen. Jon Erpenbach called it a “waste of time.” Sen. Lena Taylor added, “we aren’t there why waste their time and taxpayers money.”
The Senate did take up some non-fiscal bills yesterday, and are trying to use this as a way to get the Democrats back to the state.
With 14 Democrats remaining in Illinois and continuing to boycott the Senate, Republicans easily passed a bill repealing a requirement that law enforcement collect data on the race of all drivers they stop.
Republican leaders also scheduled a vote for Thursday on a bill to require people to show photo ID to vote. That bill – abhorred by Democrats, who believe it will disenfranchise voters – also could get through the Senate with little debate because Democrats have shown no signs of returning.
Right now, we’re in a stalemate, and these tactics aren’t going to bring back the Democrats. Many of them have personal ties to organized labor and simply won’t agree to a process that strips their rights.
The mechanics of this process obviously favor the Republicans; the politics increasingly favor the Democrats. More on that in my next post.