Wis. Recalls May Boost Moderate GOP Clout

Thursday, 11 Aug 2011 10:39 AM

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Although Republican victories in Wisconsin Senate recall elections preserved the GOP power in that body with a 17-16 edge, the results still could usher in a shift in power — to moderate Republicans, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Republican incumbents held on to their seats in four of six recalls Tuesday, and even recall elections for two Democrats Aug. 16 won’t be able to erase the GOP advantage. In fact, if one or both Republicans pulled off an upset, the Republican control would solidify.

But crunching the razor-thin Senate numbers when it comes to passing legislation indicates that proposals from Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans won’t necessarily sail on through, the Journal reported.

“That’s because moderate Republicans — essentially pushed aside the past six months — could now be the most powerful and important people in the Legislature,” according to the State Journal.

Since Walker became governor in January, his proposals generally have emerged unscathed from the Senate and the Republican-controlled Assembly. Granted, some, such as his budget-repair bill that sparked protests and the recall movements, were steeped in controversy.

But they passed, with Republicans often being able to ignore Democratic amendments: Only one of 164 Democratic amendments passed in the Senate, and only one out of a staggering 376 Democratic amendments got the nod in the Assembly.

“For a long time the Republicans did not have to pay much attention to the minority party, but that is about to change,” University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political scientist Joe Heim told the State Journal. “When you have to worry about someone jumping ship, you tend to start making more deals.”

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told the State Journal that he has attempted to work with all members and didn’t try to pass bills that were intentionally “right wing.”

But many political observers agree that the new numbers could give several moderate Republicans more influence.

Sen. Luther Olsen of Ripon, one of the Republican victors in Tuesday’s voting, said the new tally means that any one Republican could block legislation.

“But the goal is usually to fix it, not kill it,” Olsen told the State Journal. “I think this could ultimately lead to better legislation.”

For his part, the freshman governor hopes so. Walker called for unity after the recall votes. “We want to see solid votes, not just 17-to-16 votes,” he said.

The senators will be casting votes on several high-profile issues soon, including plans to expand mining, provide tax breaks for companies that invest in the Badger State, and establish new standards for schools.

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