Capitol Hill Takes Note of Wisconsin’s Budget Fight

Posted February 18, 2011 at 11:19pm

Democrats and Republicans are staking out sides in Wisconsin’s battle over public employees’ collective bargaining rights.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal would strip state employees of most collective bargaining rights, which he said is necessary to contend with a budget shortfall. In protest, the state’s Democratic Senators have fled Wisconsin, keeping the chamber from reaching the necessary quorum to hold a vote on the measure.

“I would say as a general proposition that everybody’s got to make some adjustments to new fiscal realities,” President Barack Obama said during an interview with Milwaukee’s WTMJ-TV. But the bargaining provision “seems like more of an assault on unions” than a budget tool, he said.

Speaker John Boehner jumped to Walker’s defense the next day, accusing Obama of attacking the governor’s proposal.

“Rather than shouting down those in office who speak honestly about the challenges we face, the president and his advisors should lead,” the Ohio Republican said in a statement. “Until they do, they are not focusing on jobs, and they are not listening to the American people who put them in power.”

Legislators in Boehner’s home state are also considering a bill that would end collective bargaining for state employees, Talking Points Memo reported.

On Friday, the Speaker accused Organizing for America, the successor to the voter mobilizing operation from Obama’s presidential campaign, of “colluding with special-interest allies across the country to demagogue reform-minded governors who are making the tough choices that the president is avoiding.” OFA is a project of the Democratic National Committee.

Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) commended protesters in Madison on Friday, saying, “We are watching an extraordinary show of democracy in action.”

“I stand in solidarity with the Wisconsin workers fighting for their rights, especially all the students and young people leading the charge, again, for fairness and for opportunity in their community,” she said.

Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, accused Wisconsin Republicans of “launching an attack on teachers, prison guards and other public employees — the very workers who educate our children and keep all of us safe. … It’s unfair, and it must stop.”