March 9, 2011- In a bold gambit to put an end to the weeks-long budget standoff in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) split his controversial budget-repair bill in two on Wednesday, allowing the Senate to pass the most hotly contested provisions while their 14 Democratic colleagues remained out of state.
The parliamentary maneuver, first reported by local press, enabled the Senate to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers without the quorum required to approve fiscal legislation.
It was also a 180-degree reversal by Walker and state Senate Republicans, who have insisted for the past three weeks that the collective bargaining provision was designed to help alleviate the state’s budget problems. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) had previously said he would not attempt to pass any portions of the bill without Democrats present.
Wisconsin Democrats decried the move as an unprecedented and blatant end-run, but it was clear that they were powerless to stop it. Indeed, it took the conference committee only a matter of minutes to pass the severed off measure by a four-to-two vote. Minutes later, the same bill passed through the entire Senate by an 18-1 margin, with Sen. Dale Schultz, a Republican moderate who had proposed a compromise measure, lodging the only no vote.
Justin Sargent, a staffer to Senator Chris Larson (D-Wis.) called the maneuver completely unexpected. It showed, he added, that this “obviously wasn’t about any kind of financing, it was an attack on working families.”