Gov. Scott Walker is today a happy man. At his 5 p.m. press conference, he thanked the state Assembly, Democrats in particular, for "doing what we hope the Senate Democrats will do: showing up and having a debate."
And the governor was right -- if, by "debate," he meant a humiliating ordeal in which every single one of the nearly 100 amendments they offered was shot down after a discussion in which Republicans did not participate, except to restrict debate, before holding a surprise vote at 1 a.m. Now he wants the Senate Dems to take their lumps as well, and the prospect of seeing this sort of democracy in action pleases him greatly.
Walker spoke again, too, of the inclusive nature of his relationship with Democrats, saying he shared details of his budget bill with Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca and Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller on the day he unveiled it. "They weren't necessarily supportive of all of the pieces," he deadpanned.
He described the events of the last two weeks as a sort of flowering of true democracy. He noted again that the Legislature heard 17 hours of testimony on the bill -- which the governor never tires of saying is longer than any hearing he can recall from his days as a lawmaker. He didn't mention that, afterward, the emphatically expressed opposition of almost all of the people who testified was summarily ignored.
Walker says even more celebration of democracy is in order, given just how much debate and discussion and scrutiny his bill has gotten in the extra week created when all 14 Democratic members of the Senate fled the state to avoid being arrested and dragged back in handcuffs so a quorum can be reached and a vote held.
"I don't know how anyone can say that the Senate Democrats haven't succeeded in giving everyone in the state the time they need to understand this bill," Walker said, waxing nostalgic for the early days of his administration, when "many of the things we've done [were] done in a bipartisan way."
He's right about that, too. Several of the dozen or so bills that have passed did receive Democratic support. That Democratic amendments to these bills stood about as much chance as a snowflake in hell ("I don't know that a single idea we put forth has gone anywhere," one aide to a Democratic lawmaker tells me) is no reason to be a Gloomy Gus about the process.
The fact is that Republicans in Wisconsin have proven they are willing to make common cause with Democrats -- so long as Democrats go along with everything they want in every particular.
It's that kind of bipartisan cooperation that the 14 missing Senate Democrats can expect should they come back to Wisconsin to have a debate. What are they waiting for?