Assembly Democrats Have No Spine: What Budget?

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.

Now I don’t think it would have been wise to propose and debate every single amendment ad infinitum. That would have played out worse in the press than walking away from this fight. But it may have been wise to introduce the strongest amendments, those with potentially the most support or at least the most empathetic recognition in the state and forced the Republicans to take a stand against them. Yes I think this budget may hoist the Republicans by their own petard…but the Democrats could have improved the return on investment with some well placed counterpoint!

Not sure this was well played.


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17 thoughts on “Assembly Democrats Have No Spine: What Budget?

  1. Perhaps Democrats in the Assembly didn’t offer amendments to force Republicans to vote for the budget, warts and all, instead of offering amendments and giving some Republicans the opportunity play politics to say that they tried to “fix” the budget in order to get some cover from the more objectionable parts of the budget.

  2. Zach,
    I think you have it mostly right, although it’s rare for the GOP to break ranks on any vote. 99% of floor votes are strictly party line. I think the Dems not offering amendments will help people understand the wall they’ve been banging their heads against. They were told point blank none of their amendments would pass. Republicans will have to completely own this stinking pile of a budget.
    On another point, it’s interesting to note the 3 Republicans that did vote against it. Nass, who hates his leadership almost as much as he hates the Democrats; Marklein, who’s announced he’s running against Dale Schultz; and most significantly, Steve Kestell, the chair of the Assembly education committee. Their own chair couldn’t stomach the voucher school expansion at the expense of public schools.

    1. You’re right about Republicans usually always not breaking ranks, but I wouldn’t put it past the Republican Assembly leadership to allow some dissension (knowing all along that they’d still have the votes to quash any amendments) so that some of the more vulnerable Republicans could get some cover to use in 2014.

      As you wrote, now Republicans will have to own the whole stinking mess that is the budget.

  3. Zach,
    You’re right, the occasional repub would’ve been allowed to vote with the Dems for cover.
    To Ed’s point questioning Barca and the Dems’ spine, I think the opposite is true. I think this was a gutsy move by them. They took a gamble, knowing the first thing people would say is they weren’t doing their jobs. But their press conference was strong, they’re laying this budget completely at the feet of the GOP. We’ll see if they can get the message out statewide, the next day or so will tell. Finally, the fact that they were able to agree to a strategy and pull it off and catch the Republicans by complete surprise was hilarious to witness.

    1. Personally I like what the Assembly Democrats did, because you’re absolutely right that they laid this budget squarely at the feet of Republicans. As you wrote, I can only hope Democrats are able to effectively message what they did statewide.

  4. I also like this move. I’m tired of Dems giving the GOPs a chance for cover from their awful ideas. This move tells Wisconsin “This budget is the GOP’s baby, and they own it.”

    Because I wouldn’t want to be running on this pile of cr*p masquerading as a budget by 2014, when the deficit looms and the state is still badly lagging the rest of the nation in economic growth.

  5. This will only work if the Dems use it. If Dems don’t make the point, repeatedly, that there was no point in fighting this (and the reasons why), AND that the Republicans own this budget completely, the Republicans will continue to have it both ways.
    Of course, the Dems will have to make these points mostly outside of the mainstream media, so there’s that little hurdle too.

  6. I am proud of my caucus for the bold move we made yesterday. We made a bold deccision to take this strategy and stuck to it. We had over 100 amendments drafted ranging on issues from education to healthcare to unemployment benefits. If we had introduced these we would of been providing vulnerable republicans cover. They have enough members that they would have “let off” some of them…allowing our targets for 2014 to go back to their districts and tell voters “I didn’t support that, in fact I voted for the democratic amendment.”
    Our plan worked just as we hoped,so far, we sent the republicans into a frenzy and laid this awful budget at their feet.

    This strategy is about 2014…hopefully the rest will play out the same way.

    1. Rep. Sinicki, I can’t believe no one here has called you out for crass political calculation. You admit here that you chose not to bring your ideas forward because somehow discussing your agenda will actually improve your election chances in 2014 (which doesn’t say much about the ideas you may have in store for our state). You also admit that you were afraid of attracting bipartisan support and votes for these supposedly wonderful ideas that we have yet to see (because they were drafted in secret, as your side is prone to say). To quote you and your ilk, “SHAME!”

      1. Yeah, because Republicans in Madison are legislating without elections in mind, right?

        That must why they passed such a nonpartisan redistricting plan in 2010….oh wait, they didn’t do that.

        The fact is, your Republicans are no better than Democrats – both sides “play politics,” so don’t pretend to be offended by Rep. Sinicki when I have yet to see you express outrage over Republicans engaging in much the same behaviors.

        1. I’m sorry, most people around here fancy themselves better than Republicans and believe they are fighting for high-minded principles while they deem Republicans as nothing but political opportunists. I’m glad you have set the record straight.

          You do have to find it amusing that the best strategy they had was to NOT present their ideas publicly.

          1. Republicans are fighting for things like restricting voting, denying health care to citizens, and intruding into a woman’s vagina (funny how you’re not opposed to that “government mandate” though).

            If those are the fights Republicans want to have, then I’m glad to be on the other side of things.

  7. Most voters in Wisconsin won’t understand this as a politically sophisticated move. Most of them don’t understand what it means to not debate or offer amendments to the budget.

    And as remarkable as it sounds, a lot of them won’t want to hear only about how horrible this budget is. They’re going to want to hear what the democrats will DO.

    You can’t go wrong telling people you’ll impose greater taxes on the wealthy. It plays extremely well across a broad range of average people. I don’t care what the high paid consultants say down there in Madison. It may be, arguably, what saved Mark Dayton in 2010 over in Minnesota. And look where they are now.

  8. You should always know that my line is open to talk about things like this. I would have enjoyed the opportunity to speak before this was written. I’m actually still open to a conversation taking place, if you are.

    1. Yes, I apologize for not reaching out to you or Rep. Sinicki about what transpired in the assembly. I will make sure I do that in the future. Thanks!

  9. From the Daily Kos:

    Includes a link to Rep. Barca’s FaceBook comment (here’s the FB link: ):

    For insiders who may have asked the same question – when you hit a Republican brick wall over and over again and they tell you that you will not be allowed to have a single change pass … you have to try something new.

    That is what Assembly Democrats did — we took our fight to the people. There are Assembly Democrats all over the state today talking to people and media. People deserve to know what is in this budget — and we feel this was the most effective way to get our message out.

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