Any politician who votes against the party line deserves credit. Even if we don’t agree with their actual vote, we should least appreciate that by defying their own party they’ve taken a political risk, usually because their principles manage to survive their selfish interests.
Former Rhode Island Republican US Senator Lincoln Chafee’s opposition to the Iraq War comes to mind as one of the best examples of this in recent years.
Now, so too does Wisconsin State Sen. Dale Schultz’s lone dissenting vote the other night when his fellow-Republican colleagues successfully carried out a sneak attack on the middle class.
“Ultimately, I voted my conscience which I feel reflects the core beliefs of the majority of voters who sent me here to represent them,” Schultz said.
Protesters gathered in the state capitol in Madison chanting “Shame, shame, shame” after Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate used a procedural loophole–and, some argue, broke the open meetings law–to pass a standalone bill restricting collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions.
The fourteen Democrats in the state’s Senate were absent, having fled Wisconsin three weeks ago to prevent a vote on legislation proposed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. On its surface, Walker claimed the legislation was aimed at addressing the state’s $137 million budget deficit. Even though it also contained provisions restricting collective bargaining, which many of the Governor’s critics saw as a direct attack on labor, Walker swore publicly that the impetus behind the legislation was budgetary. As a budgetary matter, it required a quorum which Democrats blocked by leaving the state.
But, all the budgetary justifications turned out to be just a front after all. The new version of the bill that the Republicans passed on Wednesday night separated the union provisions from any measures that spend money, thus eliminating the need for a quorum while achieving the legislation’s true intent—to punish Democrat-backing unions.
The legislation quickly moved out of committee and onto the floor of the Senate, where Republicans voted 18-1 to approve it, with only Schultz daring to push back against it on behalf of the working people of Wisconsin.
Mark Miller, the Democrats’ leader, said:
“In 30 minutes, 18 state Senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.. Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people.”
Another Democrat, State Sen. Chris Larson, added:
“This is on the Republicans’ heads right now. If they decide to kill the middle class, it’s on them… This is a travesty is what it is…. I can’t sit by and let them kill the middle class.”