In an interview in his Senate office Wednesday evening, Wisconsin Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald said that the Senate could vote on the collective bargaining portion of the Budget Repair Bill without the 14 Senate Democrats present. “It’s certainly possible, you know, from a procedural perspective,” Fitzgerald told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “We can pass it with a simple majority” present in the Senate chamber.
While three-fifths of senators are required for a quorum on fiscal votes, normal business only requires a simple majority be present for a quorum. Governor Scott Walker and other Republicans say that curtailing collective bargaining is necessary to help local governments handle large cuts in state aid to school districts and municipalities that will be rolled out in the upcoming biennennial budget, but a vote on collective bargaining would not fall under the category of fiscal bills that requires three-fifths of the senate to be present for a vote.
So, I asked Fitzgerald, is there any thought that Republicans will go ahead and vote on the collective bargaining provisions of the bill without Democrats present if the current impasse drags on for weeks?
“Is there a thought? Yeah. Certainly many people have thought of it," Fitzgerald replied. "It’s just, the idea is that the bill was built in a way that ultimately the savings that would be captured with a reduction in collective bargaining would match up with the cuts that the governor’s going to make in his budget on Tuesday."
It's not entirely clear why Republicans have declined to pursue this option, but earlier in the interview Fitzgerald suggested that public opinion would put pressure on Democrats and convince them to return to work. “Quite honeslty, I think public opinion is on our side and has started to wane for the Democrats that are holed up in Illinois,” he said. “I just want them to come back so we can finish this up. I think that’s probably the best result.”
Tomorrow, the Senate is scheduled to convene without Senate Democrats present and vote on a voter-ID bill that the Democrats oppose.