Wisconsin State Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) has gotten some attention for his impassioned speech in the Assembly on Friday evening. Ostensibly, he was alarmed by Speaker Fitzgerald and his GOP colleagues holding a vote on Governor Walker's budget repair bill before the 5:00 time that Fitzgerald had previously indicated. The vote was taken without any Democrats in the Assembly chamber. Hintz's outrage, and that expressed by Representative Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), seems forced on at least two counts.
Hintz claims that he was surprised because the first place he heard of the budget repair bill was on a radio ad while in his car. The ad was run by an outside group supporting the bill. If Hintz really was surprised by the introduction of a budget repair bill, then he is simply not paying attention to anything going on in Madison. I don't really think that is the case. The alternative is that this claim was nothing more than a way to make the bill seem sinister. The people of Wisconsin should be alert for such rhetorical tricks and be wary of anyone who employs them.
After the initial GOP vote passed, Speaker Fitzgerald eventually relented and struck the vote from the record. Implicitly at least, agreeing with Hintz and Barca that the GOP vote took place prior to the announced time and was not done in good faith. For this the Speaker deserves some criticism. If nothing else, it was a tactical mistake. A good bit of voter sentiment still remains with Walker, the GOP, and this bill. Why diminish that by playing games with the vote? A vote he could win on the numbers alone no less. Poor leadership by the Speaker in this case created an opening for Hintz & Barca to shout that they were shocked (shocked!) to find voting going on in the Assembly chamber.
Perhaps they should be shocked to find voting taking place in the Capitol. With their Democratic colleagues in the Senate currently in hiding outside of the state, voting in that chamber has been seriously curtailed. If Hintz is going to denounce the Assembly Speaker for taking away his vote (and the voice of his constituents) why isn't he just as outraged at the actions of Senate Democrats. By fleeing, they have essentially silenced the voice of every Wisconsin voter on the issue of the budget repair bill, since a vote cannot happen with fewer than twenty Senators present.
Even if we take these two gentlemen at their word, and assume they really were upset last week, I would advise Barca and Hintz to remember there are many Wisconsin voters who feel similarly about the flight of all fourteen Democrats from the Senate.