Wisconsin Republicans Strike Quickly

by Jonathan Chait | March 9, 2011

I've been predicting the Wisconsin stand-off would come down to the success or failure of the recall campaigns. I guess I wasn't thinking about this possibility:

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted Wednesday night to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers after discovering a way to bypass the chamber's missing Democrats.
All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker's so-called "budget repair bill" — a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall.
The Senate requires a quorum to take up any measures that spend money. But Republicans on Wednesday split from the legislation the proposal to curtail union rights, which spends no money, and a special conference committee of state lawmakers approved the bill a short time later. 

What's more amazing is that the Wisconsin GOP Senate leaders has admitted -- on national television! -- that part of the point of Scott Walker's plan is to make it harder for Democrats to win elections:

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI), one of Walker’s closest allies in the legislature, confirmed the true political motive of Walker’s anti-union push. Fitzgerald explained that “this battle” is about eliminating unions so that “the money is not there” for the labor movement. Specifically, he said that the destruction of unions will make it “much more difficult” for President Obama to win reelection in Wisconsin:

FITZGERALD: Well if they flip the state senate, which is obviously their goal with eight recalls going on right now, they can take control of the labor unions. If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.

Obviously, Republicans think that crippling the Democratic Party is long-term is part of what they need to do to control state-level budgets. But I think the more likely result is simply that Democrats will pass a bill 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.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/85035/wisconsin-republicans-strike-quickly