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NOTE: Earlier today, I wrote this diary because I thought that Wisconsin State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) had unilaterally disarmed by refusing to even attempt to amend the proposed Wisconsin state budget, when, in fact, the Republicans didn't even allow an amendment process. I am reuploading this diary with a statement below the orange divider.

Remember when then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), who, at the time, was running for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate, unilaterally disarmed and decided that he wouldn't run a real campaign against Republican challenger Ron Johnson, and Feingold ended up losing re-election to Johnson?

Well, Wisconsin State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, unilaterally disarmed yesterday by refusing to propose a single amendment to the extreme, draconian Republican budget proposal that passed the state assembly without a single Democratic vote.

Let me tell you how extreme the Republican budget proposal is in Wisconsin...it privatizes public education statewide by expanding school vouchers, contains dozen of other controversial policy measures that don't belong in a budget, and gives huge tax cuts to the wealthiest Wisconsinites...and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how bad the Republican budget in Wisconsin is.

Progressive bloggers Ed Heinzelman and Heather DuBois Bourenane were particularly critical at how Barca and the other Assembly Democrats unilaterally disarmed by refusing to propose amendments to the extreme Republican budget.

Here's how Heinzelman responded:

Although it doesn’t always pay to tilt at windmills, the decision by Wisconsin Assembly Democrats and Assembly Minority Leader Representative Peter Barca to refrain from offering a single amendment to the biennial budget is downright perplexing. On the one hand I can understand the futility of offering up amendments that have absolutely no chance of making it into the budget…and the Democrats reportedly had over two hundred budget amendments ready to propose…but they may have left themselves open to accusations of not doing their jobs come 2014.
Here's how DuBois Bourenane responded:
what?!? no debate til 5:30? no 212 amendments? nothing? I don't get it. What just happened?
Barca's decision not to push any amendments to the Republican budget, despite the fact that Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos outright said that he would oppose any Democratic-proposed amendments simply because they were Democratic-proposed amendments, plays right into the Republicans' hands, as they're going to paint the Democratic Party of Wisconsin as a political party that is devoid of ideas and run by a bunch of whiners who won't do their jobs in the 2014 campaign season. While that is a highly unfair way to paint Democrats, Republicans have done so in the past in Wisconsin and other states, and have achieved electoral success by doing so.

Even Alan Grayson, a Democratic member of the U.S. House from Florida who is notorious for making over-the-top remarks, knows something about legislating while in the minority:

During a private meeting with liberals in February, Grayson outlined a plan called "Operation Bust Their Chops," in which Democrats, now in the minority, would use the amendment process to force Republicans into voting against things that may be popular back home — funding for schools, for example.
Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature have used the "bust their chops" strategy in the past, including getting Republicans to vote against an amendment to a mining bill that would have ensured that mining companies actually hired Wisconsinites.

The only reason why Peter Barca has even been mentioned as a potential Democratic opponent to Scott Walker is because he couldn't win his own party's nomination if he were to run for re-election to the Wisconsin Assembly. The tactic of Democrats unilaterally disarming and whining about bad Republican legislation only helps Republicans get elected. The tactic of using the legislative amendment process to force Republicans to vote on good, common-sense ideas, in my opinion, is a much more effective legislative tactic for Democrats when they're in the minority, because, even if their ideas don't become law, it's easy to paint the Republicans as obstructing progress despite the fact that they have full control of the legislative process like they currently do in Wisconsin and are able to ram an extreme, right-wing agenda into law.

If you wonder why the Democrats are in the minority in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature and a radical-right Republican is in the Governor's Mansion, it's because the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is run by a no-ideas establishment.

I was later told by a fellow DailyKos diarist that Republican Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos did not allow an amendment process, which is what forced Barca to say that he and his fellow Democrats in the Assembly were going to take their case against the Republican budget to the people of the State of Wisconsin.

Personally, I think Barca should have made it clear that Vos wouldn't allow an amendment process and criticize him for ramming an extreme budget through the Wisconsin legislature without allowing time for an amendment process and debate, if not objected to it in a similar manner to what Chris Larson, the leader of the Democrats in the Wisconsin State Senate, did when Republican Wisconsin State Senate President Mike Ellis shut down debate suddenly and even broke his gavel while throwing a fit.

Originally posted to Aaron Camp on DailyKos on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 04:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)

    "It's not enough to be in the majority, you have to stand for something." -Russ Feingold

    by DownstateDemocrat on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 04:10:55 PM PDT

  •  That's what you get (0+ / 0-)

    for living in Wisconsin. You should move out here to California, not only do we have sane politicians but the weather is like a thousand times better.

    •  I live in Illinois, actually (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Puddytat, jhecht, peptabysmal

      I've been interested in writing about Wisconsin politics since 14 members of the Wisconsin State Senate fled to my home state a couple of years ago in a failed attempt to stop an anti-collective bargaining bill from becoming law.

      The Democrats here in Illinois are absolutely milquetoast and are downright hostile toward progressives. Despite Democrats having supermajorities in both houses of the Illinois General Assembly, marriage equality didn't even come up for a vote in the state house, yet special tax breaks for large corporations and irresponsible, industry-written fracking legislation were passed into law.

      "It's not enough to be in the majority, you have to stand for something." -Russ Feingold

      by DownstateDemocrat on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 04:44:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No thanks (0+ / 0-)

      I'm allergic to earthquakes.  At least you can shelter from tornadoes and get out when flooding happens, but earthquakes - yikes.  

      I was in California for about a week as nervous as a deer within a circle of hungry wolves.  Yes, the weather is nice, but .... your land moves unexpectedly and without warning.

      There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

      by Puddytat on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 05:07:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Now the Republicans own this budget (0+ / 0-)

    Lock, stock, and barrel.

    I'm no philosopher, I am no poet, I'm just trying to help you out - Gomez (from the song Hamoa Beach)

    by jhecht on Thu Jun 20, 2013 at 05:05:27 PM PDT

  •  Tipped, recced and republished to (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AnnieJo

    I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

    by ruleoflaw on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 05:02:10 AM PDT

  •  I think that "wouldn't allow an amendment process" (0+ / 0-)

    is actually not accurate.

    The GOP was ready to allow the Dems to speak, to bring forward any amendments through the course of one day -- but they told them up-front that NOTHING would pass.

    I like the way Dave Cieslewicz, former mayor of Madison, characterized the Dem  tactic in an Isthmus column yesterday:

    Think about what would have happened if the Dems had done what they had tried before -- and every minority party has tried since there were minority parties. First, the message would have gotten muddled. There's so much wrong with this budget that dozens of amendments (200 would never have actually been offered for a vote) would lead to cacophony...

    And here's a subtle reason that Republican leaders were so upset that they didn't get more of a fight. Offering up these amendments would have actually given Republicans in marginal seats the chance to vote with the Democrats while not changing the final outcome. With a vast 60-39 vote margin, the GOP has the luxury of giving some of its members the option to vote against some items that might not go over well in their districts. So, for example, a Republican from a district where vouchers were unpopular could say that he voted against their expansion without mentioning that he eventually voted for the final budget that did just that.

    On balance, I think the surprising move was a good one.

    If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

    by AnnieJo on Fri Jun 21, 2013 at 10:58:18 AM PDT

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