"Shame, Shame!": Dems Protest As GOP Rams Through Vote on Walker's Bill
Most Democrats didn't even know the vote on the despised bill--utterly eliminating Unions' right to collective bargaining--had taken place. Using what is essentially trickery, the Republican members of the Wisconsin State Asssembly broke the momentum of a Democratic filibuster by forcing a sudden, unexpected vote and passing the bill.
Debate had gone on for 60 hours and 15 Democrats were still waiting to speak when the vote started around 1 a.m. Friday.
Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer opened the roll and closed it within seconds. Democrats looked around, bewildered. Only 13 of the 38 Democratic members managed to vote in time. Republicans immediately marched out of the chamber in single file. The Democrats rushed at them, pumping their fists and shouting "Shame!" and "Cowards!" The Republicans walked past them without responding. Democrats left the chamber stunned.
The standoff in the state senate continues, with Democratic senators remaining "on the lam." Still, this move by the Republicans has increased the already-brewing animosity between opposing sides and increased the pressure on pro-union legislators in Wisconsin.
Watch a video of the Democrats reacting in horror, and then shouting "shame" at their Republican colleagues once they've realized what's transpired:
In an interview with Democracy Now! John Nichols, a leading figure in the protest movement, says that 100,000 protesters are expected at the capital. Here's a piece of the interview about the frustration with the Republicans and the massive action expected this weekend:
AMY GOODMAN: ..I’m joined right now by John Nichols. He is the correspondent for The Nation magazine, a seventh-generation Wisconsinite. A lot of people are sleeping all around us. Some people are just waking up now. But they certainly were up last night at 1:00 and 2:00 in the morning when the vote took place, a surprise to many.
Explain what’s happening here, John.
JOHN NICHOLS: Absolutely. As regards what’s happening in the legislature, well, what happened last night was that they had been in a 60-some-hour session. It’s the longest session in the history of the state of Wisconsin. It’s also the longest debate in the history of the state of Wisconsin. So, quite remarkable. And there had been a sort of behind-the-scenes agreement between Democrats and Republicans that they would debate for many more hours. And then, at the darkest point of the night, the Republican leadership suddenly popped out from behind the Speaker’s chair and announced that they were having the vote right then.
The Democrats were furious. Everybody was running wildly around the chamber, after having been quite exhausted. And they did do the vote. It was a party-line vote. This was expected. Remember, what happened in the Assembly is not a shock. And no one here, not a single person in this building, was expecting the Assembly to vote against the bill. But the rapid final vote was very, very frustrating. Clearly, they did it at night because they didn’t want the literally tens of thousands of people who will be here today to be present while they were voting.
AMY GOODMAN: So now let’s go to this bigger issue of what this bill is, why so many people have taken up vigil here, why 100,000 people are expected tomorrow here in this capital, Madison, and all over Wisconsin. Give us the bigger context of what’s taking place.
JOHN NICHOLS: Two weeks ago today, Governor Scott Walker, newly elected Republican governor, took office in January, announced that he would do a budget repair bill. Budget repair bills are very minor, often pass within a few hours by the legislature, of little concern. It’s just basically adjusting where the money is. But he announced that in addition to budget repair, he would add in what he said were minor items.
Those minor items included a total restructuring of how the state operates as regards its cabinet-level government. The Governor would take over, essentially, most agencies and appoint dozens of new officials who are completely responsible only to the Governor, effectively ending our cabinet-level government system. That would give him the power over Medicaid, Medicare and all sorts of other programs in his office, rather than putting it through the traditional legislative and regulatory process. In addition, the Governor announced that he wanted to have the power to barter off state properties, including power plants and public lands, again, without any negotiation, without any bids, to whatever company he wanted in the private sector. And finally, he said that he wanted to totally restructure the state’s collective bargaining agreements, not just at the state level, but at the county and municipal level, meaning effectively that the governor would, almost by fiat, set most of the pay and benefit standards. And the most critical thing was that the Governor wanted to end most collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin.
About 11 days ago, people started to rally en masse. I want to say, actually, it was 13 days ago, the very—within hours, the Teaching Assistants’ Association, which is students who teach at the University of Wisconsin and other schools around the state, were already out. But by last Monday, you started to see thousands. By Tuesday, the better part of 20,000 people were out at different times during the day. By the end of the week, we had crowds numbering 50,000. Last Saturday, 70-80,000 people were out. And this has really turned into something that you know, Amy, and I know to be one of the most remarkable popular uprisings that I’ve ever seen in 20 years of reporting.