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Budget Repair Bill Passes Assembly

Well, this has been an enjoyable three days hasn’t it?  And it ended pretty much how it was guaranteed to end — with child-like screaming.

After a bitter, 61-hour debate that was the longest in living memory, the sleep-starved state Assembly voted in just seconds early Friday to approve a watershed proposal repealing most union bargaining rights held by public workers.

Just after 1 a.m., Republicans cut off debate on Gov. Scott Walker’s bill and in pell-mell fashion the body voted 51-17 to pass it. In the confusion, nearly one-third of the body – 28 lawmakers including 25 Democrats, two Republicans and the body’s lone independent – did not vote on the bill at all.

All Democrats voted against the proposal along with four Republicans – Dean Kaufert of Neenah, Lee Nerison of Westby, Richard Spanbauer of Oshkosh, and Travis Tranel of Cuba City.

Democrats erupted after the vote, throwing papers and what appeared to be a drink in the air. They denounced the move to cut off debate, questioning for the second time in the night whether the proper procedure had been followed.

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” Democrats shouted in the faces of Republicans as the GOP lawmakers quietly filed off the floor and a police officer stood between opposing lawmakers.

“Cowards all! You’re all cowards,” yelled Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) as another Democrat tried to calm him down.

Most Republicans had no comment on the vote afterward and some were escorted out under police protection. Earlier in the night, Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) said that Democrats had been given more than two full days and nights to make their case – effectively turning the debate into a filibuster – and that Republicans had done nothing wrong.

“It seems clear our side wants to vote and I challenge anyone watching to say we have not held out for an adequate debate,” Suder said.

“The democrats were clearly stalling,” said Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc). “That’s why Assembly rules allow for a vote on final passage. We took that vote and did what the people of this state asked us to do on Nov. 2 – get spending under control.”

At this time last year, I was doing some contract research jobs, and as part of it, had to watch hours upon hours of State Senate and State Assembly debate footage.  It wasn’t stellar TV-watching, and in fact, if I wasn’t getting paid to go through it all, I would have turned it off five minutes in.  That being said, what’s been going on in the State Assembly these past three days has been a disgrace to the body and a disgrace to the State Assembly Democrats.

38 six-year olds would have been on better behavior in that room than these 38 duly-elected representatives of Madison, Milwaukee, and those handful of parts in-between.  Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and his team — for all the grief they’ve been given over how they’ve been accused of “shutting down debate” — have been far more generous with the rules than either former Democratic Speaker Sheridan and especially former Majority Leader Tom Nelson was.

Debate should have been shut down days, not hours ago.  The only thing Fitzgerald should be chastised over is the fact he was letting both the goons outside of the chamber as well as the goons inside the chamber dictate the terms of debate.  The Assembly has rules, each and everyone of the 96 members in there (recall there are 3 empty seats due to elevations to Walker’s Administration) knows them.

As for how the vote itself went down, I’m not cool with it, but I also think those saying its “illegal” are grasping at straws.  In closing, I share what Ryan Gruber, aka “The Recess Supervisor,” a former State GOP Assembly Staffer and a man who possibly the only thing I share with him are a few friends at various think tanks out in DC, wrote about the debate.

Goodness knows that the Assembly GOP was none too excited about the manner in which Governor Doyle and the AssDems slammed the 09-11 budget through the Legislature, or any one of a number of other bills. But they also didn’t try to hold the entire body hostage for days on end with tired, recycled arguments. They made their political points and then they sat down let the process move forward.

Guess what, Democrats? Everyone’s heard you. Everyone heard you Tuesday. Nobody’s even listening to you at this point, except to see if we can get some more witty Pocan/Kramer banter, or take a drink every time Kelda gives the same pious, insipid good government speech again – the one that sounds like she’s reading from the “How a Bill Becomes a Law” coloring book.

For Democrats to ask – no, demand – additional compromise beyond the changes made in Finance shows how badly they fundamentally misunderstand the purpose of the minority. They can stomp around the building and send their letters to the Governor, on and on, but at the end, nobody’s obligated to negotiate with them or give them anything. They aren’t in charge. It’s almost as though they slept through the November elections (well, their campaigns definitely did), and now they refuse to recognize that just as the 2006 and 2008 elections had consequences for the GOP, the 2010 has consequences for them.

Now someone tell those fugitives in Illinois to get their collective asses back to Madison.  The tantrums lasted long enough and they’re kidding themselves if they’re going to get some sort of “Prodigal Son” treatment upon their return.  This last week has been an embarrassment of riches for anyone who’s called Wisconsin “home.”

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