The mess in Wisconsin has happened before. In 2003, faced with a new Republican majority intent on redrawing an electoral map that preserved power for Democrats that the voters no longer gave them, the Texas Democrats fled the state. And in 2009, rather than allow a vote on an election security bill that they didn’t want, the Texas Democrats brought the state legislature to a halt — killing the voter ID bill and everything on the calendar that followed it.
That in mind, here’s the scene in Madison on Friday.
In the Wisconsin Assembly on Friday, Republican leaders had called lawmakers to the floor at 5 p.m. to take up Walker’s bill to fix a budget shortfall by cutting public worker benefits and bargaining rights. But they began business just before that hour, when Democrats were not yet on the floor.
Democrats charged into the chamber and shouted to stop the action as Republican staff urged their leaders to “keep going, keep going.” Republicans took the voice vote, putting the bill in a stage that prevented it from being amended in that house. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) called the move an “illegal vote” and demanded that Republicans rescind it.
“Unbelievable!” Barca screamed. “Unprecedented! Un-American! Not in keeping with the values of the state! You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Minutes later, Republicans agreed to effectively cancel the vote by allowing the bill to return to a stage in which Democrats can offer amendments. Democrats may have dozens of them, and the debate on the bill – whenever it happens – is expected to take hours. The Assembly adjourned until Tuesday.
So the Democrats are trying to bring both houses of the legislature to a full halt to kill the union bill. It may work, at least temporarily, just by running out the clock. But if what has happened in Texas is any guide, it will be a pyrrhic victory. Democrats in Texas have won very little since the 2003 run to the Red River. And after they filibustered the voter ID bill in 2009, which a heavy majority of the voters supported, they suffered an unholy beating in 2010. The Republicans now have a super majority in the House, and the man who led the filibuster, state Rep. Jim Dunnam, was defeated. He didn’t lose just because of that filibuster, but having that on his record certainly didn’t help him.