By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
Not long after Republican members of the Wisconsin State Senate used creative parliamentary tactics to push through a bill that would strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees, Democratic legislators, unions and progressive groups were already vowing revenge.
“In thirty minutes, 18 State Senators undid fifty years of civil rights in Wisconsin,” Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller said in a statement. “Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten. Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people. Tomorrow we will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government.”
Miller was one of 14 Democratic legislators who had been hiding out in Illinois during the weeks-long stalemate between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his opponents — a coalition of Democrats and organized labor. Overnight thousands of protesters stormed the Wisconsin state capitol, as ABC’s Chris Bury reported on “Good Morning America,” and more demonstrations are planned across the state later today. http://abcn.ws/hmiuRd
Last night, by an 18-1 vote, Senate Republicans managed to find a way around the need for a quorum of 20 senators and passed the bill Walker had sought by stripping the collective bargaining provisions from the governor's "budget-repair bill." (The state is facing a $137 million budget shortfall.)
What do we know? The bill “removes fiscal elements of the proposal” but also “increases employee payments in pension and health benefits. The changes would amount to an approximate 8 percent pay cut for public workers,” according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. http://bit.ly/i0bzoM
It's not clear if this is actually legal but the State Assembly meets this morning to vote on it. If they pass it, it moves to the governor’s desk.
For his part, Walker chastised Democrats for refusing to come back to the state to “debate this bill.”
"In order to move the state forward, I applaud the Legislature’s action today to stand up to the status quo and take a step in the right direction to balance the budget and reform government,” he said in a statement last night.
Some of the repercussions are already clear. Liberals, unions and Democrats are fired up. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is targeting Senators for recall with television ads. “They are bending the rules in order to break Wisconsin unions, and they need to be punished for this undemocratic action,” said a message from the PCCC last night.
MoveOn.org also circulated a fundraising pitch in their effort to raise $500,000 for the recall campaign: “We have to recall the Republican state senators who did this,” the message said. “It's shameful, unprecedented, and probably illegal. We can't let them get away with this.
ActBlue has raised upwards of $700,000 so far for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and this battle could rage long after protesters leave the Capitol building. (More on “Recall Fever” in Wisconsin from Chris Bury: http://abcn.ws/e1ElyI).
And, in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington today, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka plans to say: “Thank you, Scott Walker. We should have invited him here today to receive the Mobilizer of the Year award! This wasn’t one union calling on members to turn out. It wasn’t the AFL-CIO making the call. It wasn’t the Democratic Party, or the Obama organization. This is a bottom-up, grassroots movement with its own momentum — a true spontaneous outcry against our disastrous winner-take-all political culture. … And now they’re seeing what backlash really looks like.”
Meanwhile, polls have shown a public divided on how to rein in the state budget, but hungry for compromise. The latest poll from Wisconsin conducted for Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, by University of Wisconsin Professor Ken Goldstein and released over the weekend found just 33 percent wanted Gov. Walker to “stand strong for the plan he has proposed no matter how long the protests go on” versus a whopping 65 percent who want to see the governor “negotiate with Democrats and public employees' unions in order to find a compromise solution.”
Chris Bury's "Good Morning America" report from Madison, Wisc.:
ON THE HILL: DEADLINE FOR GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN — 8 DAYS AND COUNTING. Meanwhile, in Washington, after the Senate yesterday shot down both parties’ spending proposals, lawmakers are getting back to the business of hashing out a long-term funding deal, ABC’s Matthew Jaffe notes. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., one of the 11 Democrats who broke with the party to vote against their spending plan, said her colleagues on the left had “not gone far enough” in their proposed cuts and were “in denial.” The GOP won the vote battle 44 to 42 yesterday despite the Democrats’ majority in the Senate, so it’s safe to say Wednesday’s developments did not help Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his colleagues. What happens next? One option, of course, is another short-term continuing resolution to buy a few more weeks.
NOTABLE: FRAGILE BALANCE. A new Bloomberg poll shows that 49 percent of Americans believe the recovery is fragile and could fall back into recession, 37 percent think the country is still in a recession while just 14 percent think the recovery is underway. Even more ominous for President Obama: almost half (49 percent) say they are "worse off" than they were 2 years ago. http://bloom.bg/enymdP
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl are your hosts for a ride on the Capitol subway with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah (preview below). Also on the program, Bob Cusack, Managing Editor of The Hill, who will weigh in on the latest developments with the spending standoff in Washington. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
THE SUBWAY SERIES: SEN. ORRIN HATCH. “Orrin Hatch has kept his Senate career aloft through 34 years and six elections. He's not about to let Tea Party activists crash it now,” writes ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf. “So even though he famously worked across the aisle with his friend Ted Kennedy, and voted for the Wall Street bailout in 2008, Hatch, the Utah Republican, has a simple message he wants to send to the Tea Party. ‘I tell them to just look at those people who were on Captain Sullenberger's plane and landed in the Hudson,’ Hatch told ABC's Jonathan Karl in a Subway Series interview. ‘They survived because of experience. And that's what I have. I have experience that by any measure is conservative and staunchly conservative.’” Watch the full interview with Senator Hatch: http://abcn.ws/gmDfrD
TOP LINE REPLAY: BUDDY ROEMER. Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, one of only two Republicans to have formed a presidential exploratory committee for 2012, is espousing a policy position that may not go over so well with conservative voters: He wants every state to decide for itself whether to allow gay marriage. ”I'm a traditionalist. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman,” Roemer told us on ABC’s “Top Line” yesterday. “I don't think it's the right thing to do. But there's an even bigger issue guys — it's how is the debate conducted: state by state.” More from Roemer’s “Top Line” interview: http://abcn.ws/hLWqfU
LIBYA UPDATE. “President Obama’s top national security officials gathered at the White House Wednesday to discuss what to next in Libya, with senior administration officials telling ABC News that the White House remains skeptical that a no-fly zone would be effective, given that most of the attacks on Libyans by Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces are ground-based,” ABC’s Jake Tapper reports. “There is a new focus on Libyan opposition leaders, currently in Europe meeting pursuing support and diplomatic recognition. Following a meeting between Libyan National Council officials with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the French government announced that it considers the Libyan opposition to be “legitimate representatives" of the Libyan people. U.S. officials are not there yet. Senior administration officials say the U.S. is still trying to fully understand all the players and what they specifically want in terms of international aid. ‘It would be premature to provide them with arms until we figure out who they are,’ one official said.” More from Tapper’s “Good Morning America” report: http://abcn.ws/dSqxyI
WHITE HOUSE WATCH. This morning the President, the First Lady, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services will host a bullying prevention conference at the White House, ABC’s Sunlen Miller reports. The conference will bring together communities from across the nation who have been affected by bullying as well as those who are taking action to address it. The President and the First Lady will meet with a small group of students and parents from the Conference on Bullying Prevention in the Oval Office, speak in the East Room, and then the group will breakout into smaller discussions throughout the day. In the afternoon, the President will meet with a bicameral, bipartisan group of legislators to discuss the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind. Later, Obama meets with Secretary of the Treasury Geithner. http://abcn.ws/eP8S8N
MCCASKILL’S PAY BACK. “Sen. Claire McCaskill has been aggressive in promoting oversight and transparency for congressional travel, introducing a reform bill that cracks down on overseas travel for lawmakers. But when it comes to her own domestic flights, the Missouri Democrat has enjoyed friendly skies: She’s spent nearly $76,000 in public funds since 2007 to fly on a charter plane she co-owns with her husband and other investors, a POLITICO analysis of public records show,” writes Politico’s Scott Wong and John Bresnahan. “As a senator, McCaskill has flown at least 89 flights chartered by Sunset Cove Associates LLC — a company incorporated in 2002 by her husband, St. Louis businessman Joe Shepard, according to records kept by the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office. All of those flights were paid for from McCaskill’s Senate office budget, raising questions about whether the first-term senator and her husband are using public dollars to partially subsidize their aircraft. After POLITICO contacted McCaskill’s office Tuesday about this issue, a McCaskill aide said Wednesday that the senator — while stating that the all the flights were legal, in accordance with Senate ethics rules and actually cheaper than other travel options — will send a check worth more than $88,000 to the Treasury Department to cover all costs associated with the flights.” http://politi.co/dHqeF6
THE TRUMP CARD. “Donald Trump has what every presidential wannabe craves: very deep pockets, universal name recognition and a ready-made campaign slogan. Imagine Trump telling President Obama, ‘You're Fired!’ In recent weeks the brash businessman has made all the moves of someone mulling a White House run, from granting interviews to the political press to giving a red-meat speech in Washington,” ABC’s Joel Siegel notes. “On Monday, Trump even dispatched an aide to huddle with the state Republican chairman in the presidential proving ground of Iowa. So, will the leader of the Trump Empire really try to become the leader of the Free World? ‘He's one of the great hucksters, and I say that admiringly. He's using this idea of running, milking it, for all it's worth — and it's worth a lot,’ said former New York City mayor Ed Koch.” http://abcn.ws/fAshNx
THE CHRISTIE FILES. “New Jersey’s public-sector unions routinely pressure the State Legislature to give them what they fail to win in contract talks. Most government workers pay nothing for health insurance. Concessions by school employees would have prevented any cuts in school programs last year,” The New York Times’ Richard Perez-Pena reports. “Statements like those are at the core of Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign to cut state spending by getting tougher on unions. They are not, however, accurate. In fact, on the occasions when the Legislature granted the unions new benefits, it was for pensions, which were not subject to collective bargaining — and it has not happened in eight years. In reality, state employees have paid 1.5 percent of their salaries toward health insurance since 2007, in addition to co-payments and deductibles, and since last spring, many local government workers, including teachers, do as well. The few dozen school districts where employees agreed to concessions last year still saw layoffs and cuts in academic programs.” http://nyti.ms/gobIU2
HALEY’S HIRING. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's political action committee today announced the hire of online communications expert James Richardson who will focus “on the expanded role of online journalists and opinion writers” as Barbour considers a presidential run. Richardson was online communications manager for the Republican National Committee during 2008 presidential campaign and, more recently, he ran the online communications effort for Indiana Sen. Dan Coats and the National Republican Senatorial Committee."Haley is very pleased that James Richardson has joined his team to help manage the national interest of bloggers and other online journalists in the Governor's political activity,” Henry Barbour, the chairman of his uncle’s leadership PAC, said in a statement. “Haley understands the significant role bloggers play in today’s political world and wants to maximize that dynamic medium.”
ROMNEY’S WRITING CHECKS. Mitt Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC distributed contributions today to 45 Republicans in Congress, totaling $93,000 in donations. Recipients include Reps. Denny Rehberg, Sean Duffy, Paul Gosar, Robert Hurt, Adam Kinzinger, Raul Labrador, James Lankford, Bobby Schilling, Allen West, and Steve Womack, among others. According to a statement announcing the donations, “These contributions come on top of the $208,000 that Romney’s PAC has delivered to 90 U.S. Senate and House Republicans since the start of 2011, bringing year-to-date donations to federal candidates to more than $300,000.”
REMEMBERING DAVID BRODER: “David S. Broder, 81, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post and one of the most respected writers on national politics for four decades, died Wednesday at Capital Hospice in Arlington of complications from diabetes,” reads the opening lines of Adam Bernstein’s Washington Post obituary of the journalist who has come to be regarded as the “dean” of the Washington press corps. (Full obit: http://wapo.st/hUEmjN) Here are a sampling of the hundreds of remembrances and tributes to him:
“David Broder was the best political reporter of his or any other generation. He defined the beat as it had not been defined before. He spent a lifetime instructing succeeding generations of reporters – never by dictate but always by example. … He could be tough on politicians when they deserved it, but he was extraordinarily generous to his colleagues, particularly those new to the beat. He created a climate of collegiality that allowed everyone else to flourish, even while demonstrating from one campaign to the next the keenest insights and shrewdest judgments. His secret was no secret at all. He was a tireless reporter,” –The Washington Post’s Dan Balz. http://wapo.st/f51TvU
“David filed his first story from our nation’s capital before starting as a junior political writer on the 1960 presidential election. In the decades that followed, he built a well-deserved reputation as the most respected and incisive political commentator of his generation — winning a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Watergate and earning the affectionate title of Dean of the Washington press corps. Through all his success, David remained an eminently kind and gracious person, and someone we will dearly miss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this difficult time,” – President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
“Noting how Broder encouraged all reporters to spend more time speaking with voters than campaign consultants, I felt inspired to ask Broder if I could come to Washington, work for him, and learn at the knee of the master. ‘If you ever need a researcher or cohort to assist in the preparation of your column and articles, I hope you would consider me for that position,’ I wrote. I sent the letter off, not really expecting a reply, battle-hardened from the challenge of breaking into the industry just five years earlier. Yet several weeks later, a wide postcard arrived in the mail. … He thanked me for my note, resume, and sample newsclippings, and promptly said there were no researcher openings at the Post. But then, he went further. ‘Your work reads to me as if you are past that point,’ Broder wrote. ‘You show a lot of skill and confidence in your reporting and I hope you'll let it carry you to the goals you seek, not step back into a researcher role,’” –The Boston Globe’s Glen Johnson. http://bo.st/e9FNV4
“Done the right way — the Broder way — political reporting demands humility, the ability to listen and the capacity to be surprised by the voters. These are not skills acquired in TV green rooms or by believing that eternal truths can be divined from regression analyses of polls. In his 1987 book, ‘Beyond the Front Page,’ Broder explained, ‘One of the best ways to report a campaign is to park yourself in a particular community long enough to find out who is for whom – and why.’ None of this is flashy. None of this will win you the kind of ephemeral scoops that will dominate the web between 1:12 and 1:28 on a slow Wednesday afternoon in March. But this kind of Broderesque reporting (along with stalking the halls at political science conventions and attending regional meetings of the National Governors Association) is an ideal way to understand not only who will win — but also why and what that result says about America,” --Politics Daily’s Walter Shapiro. http://aol.it/grEDMu
“Broder was back in Massachusetts … for a [2002 gubernatorial] general election debate. (He was tracking maybe a dozen state level campaigns like this one for the Post, and this race featured an up-and-coming Republican named Mitt Romney.) I said hello, and he was courteous as ever. He asked to meet a state senator who was working the room before the debate, and I was glad to oblige. But of course, Broder needed no introduction. The state senator gushed about meeting Broder, recalling his work in the US Senate decades earlier, and an old boss who just ‘adores’ Broder. This time, Broder blushed. Then he went back to work. He had a debate to cover,” --ABC’s Rick Klein. http://abcn.ws/hJcXhb
@DonGonyea: Hoping for a boring day at the office.
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