In a move reminiscent of a “trick play” in sports, Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly held a quick open-and-closed vote early Friday morning to pass the controversial measure that has caused over a week of protests at the State Capitol—all before most of the Assembly Democrats even realized what was going on.
After more than 60 hours of debates, Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha) suddenly opened the vote at around 1 am and, within seconds, closed it. Most of the Assembly Democrats didn’t know what hit them—at the time 15 of them were still in line waiting to speak—and only 13 of the 38 members were able to get their votes in before the roll closed.
When it was all over, the stunned Democrats could only look on as the Republicans celebrated the passing of Governor Scott Walker’s measure that will severely hurt the unions in the state—as it will make most public workers pay more towards their health insurance and pensions will take away virtually all of their collective bargaining rights when it comes to their work conditions and benefits.
The measure had led to massive protests involving tens-of-thousands of people in the Capitol rotunda over the past week—many of whom even slept in the building throughout—while union leaders and Democrats worked together to try to get Walker to compromise on at least letting them keep their bargaining rights, which he continuously refused to do.
Walker insists that the bill is essential in cutting down on the state’s budget and deficit. He issued a statement on Friday praising the Assembly’s passing of the bill, which will now be sent to the Senate, where minority Democrats have actually fled the state in order to prevent a vote. They have said they will not return to Wisconsin until Walker agrees to make necessary changes to the measure to give the workers back their rights.