One thing is now clear after two weeks of protests and political theatre resulting from Governor Walker’s desire to end collective bargaining for state and public employees.
Grave damage has been done to the Wisconsin State Assembly. As a result, nothing can ever be the same. The Republicans who speak endlessly about detesting government have now brought hate to the very institutions they so long have railed against.
I was shocked, and truly saddened with what I have seen, heard, and read over the past hours concerning how the Wisconsin State Assembly conducted itself in the closing seconds of what was the longest session in Wisconsin’s history.
I worked in the State Capitol, laboring for the ideals that made my time there memorable. So it was almost physically painful to witness what happened early this morning as the Assembly came to the point of ending debate and voting on the budget repair bill. It was then that needless political chicanery took place from the Republicans. As I watched the news videos I saw the ugliest thing ever to be seen in the place where I had stood years earlier on the side, and marveled as the process unfolded.
Today I wanted to cry.
Is this what we have become? No one…..NO ONE… can be proud of any part of this outcome. It was shameful. The Republicans had no need to ram the vote in this manner. After all the hours that had elapsed would it have been so horrible to have conducted the vote in a seemly fashion? A proper procedural fashion? The outcome was never in doubt, so to do it properly would have been bad in what way?
Not only was the passion so high for the GOP to win this one, they were almost gleeful in destroying the internal dynamics that are required to make any legislative body function. For that we all should feel sad. This is not a good day for any citizen in the state, regardless of party.
While I have problems with the way the Republicans handled this matter, I am also very distressed that the Democrats shouted in this manner while on the floor. That they were justified to be angry is not in doubt. I would have been angry too, but I think the Assembly floor was not the place to make this kind of statement.
As my mom would say, “You can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube.”
Just after 1 a.m. on Friday, Assembly Republicans finally defeated the last of dozens of amendments that Democrats wanted to attach to the bill. Republicans use a procedural rule to bring an end to debate and call a vote early. The vote took just a matter of seconds, so fast that 28 members didn’t even get to vote, most of them Democrats. The bill passed with a 51-17 vote, with four Republicans voting against it.
Democrats and those still left in the gallery shouted, “Shame” and “cowards” as Republicans filed out of the chamber, escorted out of the building by police.
“This is what corruption looks like. This is just terrible. Now look, you have the right to make whatever motion you want, but people have to be recognized, Mr. Speaker. That’s your job,” said Senate Minority Leader Peter Barca.
“If you really want to have a vote, have a process, let us debate the bill,” said Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison.