In Wisconsin, back to work in the Senate — minus a party
MADISON, Wis. — With the Capitol braced for another week of protests and deadlock over a budget bill that would severely restrict public employees’ unions here, the top Republican in the State Senate announced that the body would resume consideration of other matters.
The move seemed intended to increase the discomfort of the Democratic state senators who have fled the state as a way of preventing a vote on the union legislation. Starting Tuesday, those senators, who are in Illinois, will have to watch from afar as Republicans continue the work of governing without them, taking up matters from the mundane to the controversial.
“By not being here, they’re basically deciding to let things go through the body unchecked,” said Scott Fitzgerald, the Senate majority leader. “They’re not here to represent their constituents. We’re here to work.”
The issues scheduled for consideration in the Senate on Tuesday were routine: an appointment by the governor, tax breaks for dairy farmers and a resolution commending the Green Bay Packers for their Super Bowl victory. But Fitzgerald said more significant legislation could also be in play, including a bill requiring voter identification that Democrats strongly oppose.
Governor Scott Walker, in comments delivered against the din of the raucous protestors gathered outside his office, praised the Senate Republicans for the move, which he said he hoped would entice the Democrats home. “It’s time for them to come back and participate in democracy,” he said.
It was another strange twist in a standoff that has captured the nation’s attention but seems no closer to resolution than when it began. Each party maintained an unwillingness to compromise on the most divisive elements of the bill, with Democrats accusing the Republicans of refusing to negotiate and Republicans accusing Democrats of shirking their duties. Other states, including Ohio, are considering similar legislation, and both sides are hoping to use a victory in Wisconsin to establish momentum in their favor.
Barring an unexpected return by the Democrats, it seemed that the Republicans would have the run of the chamber and be able to introduce, debate and pass legislation without the minority party to stand in opposition.
At issue is a normally obscure Senate rule that requires a quorum of 20 senators to vote on fiscal matters but just 17 to vote on other matters. There are 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats in the Senate.