Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature do not need a 3/5ths quorum to pass non-budgetary legislation.
Gov. Scott Walker previously rejected calls to pass the collective bargaining provisions of the budget bill separately. Walker’s reasoning was that while the collective bargaining provisions in isolation may not be budgetary, they were part of and necessary to budget repair.
Walker’s position was not the most politically advantageous, because he left himself at the mercy of the Democratic state Senators who have deprived the state Senate of a quorum by fleeing the state.
It’s time for Walker to reconsider because Senate Democrats have no intention of negotiating on collective bargaining, or of returning anytime soon.
Senate President Scott Fitzgerald sees team Obama behind this:
“We’re really beginning, I think, to believe that this isn’t just about the Wisconsin state Senate or the legislature,” he said. “This is about ties directly from the White House down to many of those that are involved in the recalls, and really how Wisconsin plays out in the next presidential election.”
At this point, if there is no breakthrough very soon, there is not much to be lost by splitting the bill, passing collective bargaining reform (perhaps along the lines of compromise proposed by Walker in his e-mails with Democrats) without the need for a quorum, and letting the Senate Democrats stay in Illinois forever if they want to.
Update 6:55 p.m. – Fox News reports the Republicans are in caucus to split the bill, with a vote possible as early tonight. If this happens, Republicans can pass the collective bargaining portion separately, and then if the Democrats still fail to return, they will bear the blame for any budget problems caused by their absence without the cover of the collective bargaining issue.
Wisconsin news sources are reporting the same thing:
A source confirmed to WISC-TV that Republican senators intend to remove fiscal portions of the budget bill in order to pass it without Democratic senators.
All 14 Senate Democrats left the state to prevent quorum on the bill. It takes at least 20 senators to take up any budget bill.
But not all parts of the proposal are budget-related.
Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch said he thinks Republicans plan to “ram through” parts of the bill that take away collective bargaining rights but that don’t cost any money. Sen. Jon Erpenbach said he thinks they will do anything they can to bust up public unions with or without Democrats there.
The Senate convened unexpectedly around 4 p.m. Wednesday to create the committee, which planned to meet for the first time at 6 p.m. It was unclear what the committee would do.
Update 7:35 p.m. – Fox News reports the bill passed 18-1, with all financial terms stripped out so no need for quorum. Coverage at Live Event.