Madness in Madison – Should the Democrats Come Back?

By YeOldeScribe ~ March 2nd, 2011 @ 12:57 am

As many of you are well aware, it’s been almost two weeks since Senate Democrats in Wisconsin fled the state in protest over Republican Governor Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. On Thursday, February 17th, all 14 Democratic Senators fled the state so the chamber couldn’t take a vote on Walker’s Budget Bill, essentially indefinitely delaying its passage. The State Senate, which is made up of the 14 Democrats and 19 Republicans, requires that quorum (at least 20 members present) be required to pass all bills that have fiscal aspects tied to them. The Budget Repair Bill clearly counts as a fiscal measure, and is thus stuck in limbo until at least one Democrat returns – or is captured by the po-po.

Unsurprisingly, the missing senators are either viewed as heroes who are upholding governmental legitimacy by using political games to stop something they know to know to be unjust, or they’re traitors who are abandoning their appointed political offices and are acting like whining two-year-olds who aren’t getting their way. Supporters of the missing senators also argue that the Democrats leaving is no different than them using a filibuster to stop legislation from moving forward. Those who think the Dems should return are quick to point out that a) there’s a reason the Wisconsin Senate doesn’t recognize/allow the filibuster, and b) if you’re comparing your just cause to a filibuster… your cause might not be so just.

So are the missing/mutinous Wisconsin Democrats fighting the good fight? Is their cause just? Well, that depends on what their cause is. It was originally reported that the Dems had left to stall a vote on the budget repair bill until the next day (which would have been Friday). Then the fleeing Senators extended their protest over the weekend so protesters wouldn’t have to miss work to dissent… but they still haven’t come back, and we’re quickly approaching week three without a State Senate. Even one of the renegade Senators didn’t anticipate the protest taking this long. can’t stress enough how much of a bad idea we think the Budget Repair Bill will be for the state of Wisconsin, and we’re actually torn here. On one hand, we want to support the missing Dems for standing up to a bully trying to force bad legislation down the collective throats of Wisconsin citizens. On the other, we recognize that in this instance, the Repubs and Walker supporters are making some valid points. Our final verdict is that had the missing Democratic Senators returned to the state by Tuesday, Feb. 22nd, we wouldn’t have a problem with their antics. Unfortunately, the Dems are still on the lam, and at this point we can no longer support or condone their absence.

Here’s why:

First, the Democrats originally left the state to “slow the Budget Repair Bill down” and to “allow time for democracy (read: protests) to take place.” Unfortunately, at this time I can’t find the official quote from the WI Senators besides State Sen Lena Taylor’s hilarious Facebook status, but I’ll keep looking for the quote (post it in the comments if you can track it down).  We were fine with this – in fact, we supported this decision. But the Democrats have been missing for almost two solid weeks now. That’s not slowing the process down, it’s throwing on the brakes with a screeching halt. In other words, their original justification for leaving the state is now invalid, and the Dems are just coming up with new excuses at this point. Not cool, guys (and gals).

Second, the Senators do have a responsibility to show up. The people of their districts elected them to office to support their views and to represent their beliefs. Supporters will argue that by refusing to partake in the political process they are representing their constituents’ viewpoints. However, there’s a much simpler explanation – by refusing to voice their opinions and running away instead, the Senators refuse to have their constituents’ voices heard. Also, it’s important to note that even when you don’t agree with an election and the subsequent results of said election, you still have to abide by it. For example, after Democrats took over a majority in all branches of government and ramrodded healthcare reform through, Republicans cried foul – but they voted. They then campaigned against the bill, and as a result, they overtook Democrats in the House and put up a good fight for the Senate, too. That’s the smart play for the Democrats in Wisconsin – fight the bill with everything (legal) in their arsenal, and when they’re inevitably defeated, campaign like crazy against it for the next election cycle. At this point the Dems are throwing their credibility (and the credibility of their cause) out the window.

Finally, just because the Democrats have stalled the Budget Repair Bill doesn’t mean that the government – or even the Senate – has taken the week off. The Assembly and Governor’s office are still functioning as normal (or as normal as possible with tens of thousands of people in their place of business). And the Senate can still get a lot done without the Dems there too. Remember what we said earlier – the Senate requires a quorum for votes on all bills that have fiscal aspects tied to them, but not everything is tied to money. For example, because the Democrats were absent, Republicans were able to pass a restrictive voter ID project beyond an amendable stage. Because the bill has fiscal aspects, it can’t pass until quorum is reached, but instead of Democrats debating the bill, proposing amendments and discussing its merits, they’ll be unable to change anything about it when they return. So what else can the Republicans get done while they have no opposition? Only time will tell, but we sincerely hope that the Democrats return soon so they can be the vice of dissent they were elected to be.

In the end, what was originally a worthwhile, innovative and at times funny way to get back at Republicans for ignoring them has backfired. The missing Senators are no longer doing any good for themselves or their cause on the run, so they should return, and now. It’s a little simpler than Walker’s claim that “they have a job to do, so they should come home and do it,” but (for once) the governor is on the right track.

Unfortunately, Fox news is still Fox news … but they’re on a different kind of “right” track. The kind that leads right to Stupidville, USA. (And yes, Glenn Beck does happen to be Mayor Dictator of the city.)


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