25 February 2011

Beautiful Loser--Not!

After 61 hours of debating amendments intended to stall the inevitable, the Wisconsin Assembly (lower chamber) passed Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) budget repair bill during the early hours of Friday morning.

There was considerable controversy attached to the voting.  Democrats were dismayed that they still had fifteen speaker queued up when final passage was considered.  But the majority limited debate to one amendment per legislator with 10 minutes debate per amendment. These ignored speakers may not have been following the floor rules. There were also complaints that the Speaker of the Assembly did not give the traditional motion and roll call procedure.  But how could this be discerned as Democrats brayed their boos during the Voice Vote.   During a quick electronic roll call vote, the legislation passed by a margin of  51 to 17,  with 4 Republicans, 25 Democrats and 1 Independent were not on the record.

While the parliamentary procedure may not have been pretty, it at least was lawful.  The ex Speaker Pelosi (D-CA 8th) run House of Representatives used a procedural emergency war spending vote to attach a document with a non-existent $1.1 Trillion Budget that was “Deemed As Passed.” And ex Speaker Pelosi seriously considered using the “self-executing rule” (a.k.a. Deemed as Passed) on Obamacare.   How about the 400 page Chairman’s mark that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA 30th)  dropped 18 hours before the Cap and Trade Vote that was specially crafted just to win a close vote  in 2009?   Oh, but that’s not the Wisconsin tradition.  How about 14 Democrat Wisconsin state Senators fleeing the state rather than deliberating and voting on legislation that they would likely lose?

This was contentious legislation as it included the right to work provisions that so many teachers protested by squatting in the Capitol Rotunda.  Many of the Democrats who showed up on the Assembly floor to do their jobs were arrayed in an orange raiment that showed solidarity with their union brethren.

Beautiful loser Read it on the wall And realize You just can’t have it all You just can’t have it all                 -Bob Seger 

But instead of acting like the honorable title that is attached to their names, the losing Democrats acted like street thugs.  According to Mother Jones Magazine, the livid losing lawmakers shouted “Shame” at their colleagues as the Republicans left the chamber single file.  Other Democrats threw paper up in the air.  One hooligan lawmaker even threw a drink.

Is this rowdy floor etiquette a harbinger of the future?  Unfortunately, the boorish behavior on display by Wisconsin Democrats is not like the quaint Question Time raucousness in the British Parliament.  The uncivilized actions on display by Democrats in Madison seem like precursors for chaotic comportment of politicians in fledgling democracies in South Korea, Taiwan and Ukraine, where scuffles, smoke bombs and kung fu occur.

This should be lots of grist for the mill at the National Institute of Civil Discourse, if the faculty can take their blinders off. I wonder if Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) would salute the minority making its point as a legitimate part of the process or if a Potomac Fever politician would cause him to later condemn the the actions as outrageous and unacceptable.

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