Nuclear option in WI: GOP considers separate bill to pass public-union reforms; Update: GOP leader says no
posted at 2:15 pm on February 21, 2011 by Ed Morrissey
When Wisconsin’s Democratic state Senators fled to Illinois, they denied the Republicans a quorum — but only on fiscal and budgetary matters, where the quorum requirement is three-fifths, or 20 members. However, for all other matters, a simple majority qualifies as a quorum, which leaves the GOP with a trump card in this debate. If the Democrats refuse to return to debate and vote on the budget-repair bill, Republicans might split the public-sector union reforms into a separate bill and pass it in their absence:
Newly elected state Sen. Leah Vukey, a Tea Party favorite, told The Daily Caller the Senate could separate the removal of collective bargaining rights for state and local employees from the spending bill if the Democrats refuse to return. Vukey said she’s not yet sure if Wisconsin’s Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald will so so, but said it’s a possibility.
“All the collective bargaining stuff could be done as a separate bill,” Vukey said in a phone interview. “I’m not certain if we’re going to do that at this point.”
Vukey said the Senate could go a step further and make union membership voluntary for public sector workers, or change the rules so union workers would have to vote in favor of representation annually.
Note: The Senator’s name is Leah Vukmir, not Vukey.
That really would be a nuclear option, but it might also resolve the standoff. If the GOP passes the bill in a session with no Democrats, the Left can certainly complain about the legitimacy of such legislation. It might poison the well for the rest of this session for any cooperation from Democrats, but since they have already pulled their nuclear option of abandoning the state, it’s hard to see how this could make things any worse. Such a move could force Democrats to return to vote on the fiscal portion of the current bill, to which the union has already said they’d agree.
Also, Heritage attempts to cut through the hyperbole in its instructional four-minute primer on the debate in Wisconsin over public-sector union contracts, but it’s not easy. State Senator Leah Vukmir tries to talk to the actual issues, but the protestors in Madison only want to talk about Hitler and the coming Nazi regime if this bill passes. If Wisconsin voters needed a lesson on responsible and mature leadership and dialogue, the unions have certainly provided it … in a this-could-happen-to-you sort of way. Be sure to actually watch the video rather than just listen to it, as Heritage makes its points in overlays (via Fausta):
What’s at stake in this standoff is whether the voters will control public policy and the budget, or whether the unions will usurp that power by blocking the state legislature from performing their duties, not whether Hitler will arise again or whether Wal-Mart will teach the children of Wisconsin. The secondary lesson from this debate is that Wisconsin teachers need to learn a lot about history and civics before teaching either to Wisconsin children — and perhaps that Wisconsin needs school vouchers much more than they may have realized before now.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s top Democrat has belatedly condemned the Hitler comparisons:
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate is condemning signs carried by pro-labor protesters that compare Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Hosni Mubarak and showed the governor with a cross-hairs rifle sight over his face.
In an interview with CNSNews.com, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Press Secretary Graeme Zielinski said that Tate and the party “absolutely” condemn the inflammatory signs but says that they are not representative of the majority of the protesters who have taken to the streets in opposition to the Governor’s plan.
“This is absolutely not representative of what the protest is that’s out there,” said Zielinski. “Frankly it’s offensive to a lot of the protesters, average working men and women who are out here with their families peaceably demonstrating and exercising their first amendment rights.”
Hey, it’s perfectly within their First Amendment rights to make the Hitler comparisons, too. No one’s arguing that there should be a government intervention to censor that speech. In fact, most of us find that kind of expression by teachers who supposedly instruct Wisconsin children to be very enlightening, and very revealing.
Update: Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says that the GOP won’t break off the non-budgetary items into a separate bill — but get ready for the voter ID bill:
Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said today the Senate will not break out proposed collective bargaining changes from the governor’s budget repair bill so Republicans can approve them with just their 19 members present. …
Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said such a move would not happen, but Republicans plan to move ahead with regular Senate business. In addition to tomorrow’s calendar, that could mean public hearings on other legislation, and possibly a floor vote on a voter ID bill that Democrats don’t like.
“Just because they don’t want to participate, you cant shut down the people’s work,” Fitzgerald said.
A must-issue carry permit law may also be in the offing.