Wisconsin's Senate has been paralyzed on dealing with its budget because it requires a 20-vote quorum to address budget issues. And tied into the governor's budget bill was the provision that caused all of the Democrats in the Senate to flee the state — a provision limiting collective bargaining rights for state workers to wages only, leaving benefits and work rules for most state employees to be determined by the legislative process instead.
But Wisconsin's Senate does not require 20 members to be present to pass non-budget legislation, and some people have asked why the Republicans haven't simply passed the union provision separately. Well, tonight, they did just that.
So Gov. Scott Walker, R, has won the First Battle of Wisconsin — but will he win the war? It remains to be seen what the next battle will be. There will be attempts to force recall elections — first of several senators, then next year possibly of Walker himself — but there is still potential for a government shutdown showdown this spring if the fleeing senators stay on the lam.
Walker probably calculated, and I think correctly, that he's already crossed the Rubicon, and he was going to take his lumps either way. But he's going to have to be ready for what comes next. He's just provoked the anger of America's biggest-spending political special interest. There is a bull's eye on his forehead (no, I'm not going to stop using that metaphor), and it's not going away any time soon.