The day after seven Republican state senators were identified in a news story as potential problems for Gov. Scott Walker's bill to bust the state's public employee unions, GOP leaders say they have the votes to pass it.

Don't take that bold claim as gospel.  There's a lot of politics to play out before the State Senate votes on Thursday.

It is hard to believe, for starters, that the bill will pass intact, without at least some changes to satisfy some of the handful of reasonable Republicans in the caucus.  Some simply think that what Walker's doing is wrong.  Others fear the possible political consequences in their districts.

UPDATE: Break in GOP ranks?

Until the final vote is taken, Wisconsin workers and their allies need to keep the pressure on.  This would not be the first time a bold claim of victory proved to be wrong.

Case in point:  Remember the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which was supposedly sweeping the country like a prairie fire in 2004? 

It was a conservative, Draconian anti-spending proposal which originated in Colorado and proposed in a number of other states in the mid-1980s. Attractively packaged with an appealing name, it was proposed in Wisconsin as a constitutional amendment that would limit revenues for state and local governments, holding taxes to the previous year’s budget plus inflation. TABOR proved to be devastating in Colorado, and threatened funding for Wisconsin public schools and in public services like police and fire protection. The Greater Wisconsin Committee website recounts the struggle.

Republicans controlled both houses of the Wisconsin legislatrure, and TABOR had a huge head of steam.  Talk radio hosts, their heads also filled with steam, loved it, too, and talked about in incessantly.  TABOR appeared a cinch to be passed and put to the voters as a constitutional amendment, which did not need Gov. Jim Doyle's agreement.

But a broad coalition of TABOR opponents formed and killed it in two consecutive sessions of the legislature.

In 2004, the Assembly passed a (TABOR) constitutional amendment. When the state Senate took the issue up on 48 hours notice.  But after a statwide radio campaign and targeted phone campaign in selected districts of undecided GOP senators,  the State Senate refused to take up TABOR because it didn’t have the votes needed to pass.

In 2006, the conservative majority in the state legislature revived their efforts to enact TABOR, this time renaming the legislation the “Taxpayer Protection Amendment.” Working in close coordination,  dozens of organizations opposed to TABOR ran a targeted campaign aimed at five key GOP senators who had expressed doubts about TABOR. 

Republicans had a 19-14 majority, so three of the targeted GOP members needed to vote against passage. 

All five of the targeted GOP senators voted against the bill and ultimately it failed to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, where it died.

It is entirely possible that Walker's union-busting "budget review" bill is wired and certain to pass.  But it is also entirely possible that it could be defeated or at least modified.  There are 19 GOP senators again; three need to be persuaded to oppose the bill for it to fail. 

It is certainly worth continuing the fight to the bitter end. 

Stranger things have happened.

Submitted by xoff on