A State Held Hostage

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When Wisconsin Democratic state legislators fled their state to try and derail a bill they didn’t like, they received national attention. While that battle is effectively over, except for the inevitable follow-on skirmishes in court, another Democratic walkout is entering its fifth week in the state of Indiana. In some ways, the ongoing situation in the Hoosier State is more troubling than the recently concluded battle in Wisconsin, largely because of the national implications.

Both parties have used walkouts in the past when they found themselves in the minority in order to try and force the majority party back to the bargaining table. However, legislators have traditionally used the tactic on the rarest of occasions and have only targeted a single, specific issue that was deemed to be of vital importance to them. The Wisconsin walkout arguably followed this pattern. Democrats fled to Illinois solely to avoid a vote on public union collective bargaining and, when the issue was ultimately resolved in their absence, they returned to do their jobs.

The situation in Indiana is a bit different, for a couple of reasons. In Wisconsin, the lack of a quorum only meant that the legislature could not pass financial bills. They could, and eventually did, pass the bill that effectively ended public union collective bargaining without a quorum. This is not the case in Indiana. A quorum is necessary to pass any kind of bill in the Hoosier State. Thirty-nine of forty House Democrats have been holed up in a hotel in Urbana, Illinois for over a month now, meaning that that Indiana House cannot find a quorum, leaving the sixty-strong Republican contingent in the House powerless to do anything.

The other difference in Indiana is that the minority party hasn’t run away in order to protest a single, targeted issue. Instead, Indiana Democrats are effectively trying to derail vast swaths of the majority party’s entire legislative agenda. This is something new and, potentially, something dangerous. When the nuclear option of shutting down a legislature is limited to the occasional, high-profile issue, it’s an annoying and childish event, but we can probably live with such isolated incidents. If the walkout strategy somehow starts to be viewed as a legitimate legislative tactic that can be used to undermine the majority party’s efforts to implement their basic agenda, then what’s the point of having an election at all?

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  • waterwillows

    You have hit the nail on the head. Indeed, why have elections at all? Too often the democrates have felt they get in the way of their personal agenda.
    Time for the people to wake up.

  • Chezwick_Mac

    If the voters of Indiana have an ounce of sense – and I think they DO – they will punish the Dems in the next election for dereliction of duty. The Republicans should NOT blink. They should opt for stalemate, start recall efforts against the absent legislators, and then run in the next election on the position that – given Democratic recalcitrance to show up for the job they were elected to do – only a SUPER majority will get Indiana functional again.

  • DogWithoutSlippers

    A crumbling effect – our Government is under attack from within. Politics and parties will hasten the demise of The Republic. The Tea Party People are sick of this decay and they want to do something about it. Hopefully, it is not too late!

  • davarino

    I agree with the democrats, I think they should quit their jobs and go home. Who needs them anyway, they are mentally deranged.

  • conservative4ever

    The minority leader, Pat Bauer, is to thank for this mess. He was Speaker of the house until January. Governor Daniels was lukewarm on the right to work issue because he wanted them to focus on the important stuff: a two year budget and redistricting. Then, if there's time, take up the other issues.
    There has been much written about Daniels calling for a "truce" on social issues. Again he said that because he wanted them to focus on getting a budget and redistricting worked out. But nobody gives you the context of why he said it.
    For example, there are some here that may blow a gasket unless we get a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. I say so what? It's already against the law for Pete's sake! It is this sort of thing our Governor called for a "truce" on.
    The legislative session is supposed to end April 29. Thanks to these game-playing Democrats there will probably have to be special session called, which will cost us taxpayers more money. Gov. Daniels has already told the legislature not to make plans for summer vacations.
    Pat Bauer and your minions – thanks for nothing.

  • Marty in MD

    I hope this could work in Maryland – we are being financially strangled by the size of government and but can hide it under the employment of all the DC Federal and MD state jobs – who then pay MD state income tax – the penalty for living in the corridor and having a job!

  • Johnny Reb

    The Governor should shut down all state operations except police until the legislators return to work. The people of Indiana will tire of that REAL FAST and demand the whiners get back to work.

    Johnny Reb

    • intrcptr2

      You are right, it would piss off the electorate, at the Republicans. Intellectually, I am afraid most Americans identify with positions to the left without realizing it. Curiously, the Left holds all the emotional appeal cards.

      I am not convinced, even now, that such a move would redound to gov. Daniel's benefit. Gov/ Walker was able to steal the union thunder in WI, so the media no longer has a circus to watch, or a crowd to whip up. You can be sure that the media would dearly love to stop covering difficult subjects like the disaster in Japan, or the battles in Libya and Afghanistan, or the continuing troubles in the Indian Ocean and Israel, in favor of a nice simple, rich v. poor story in the Mid-West.

  • vlparker

    If anyone else abandons their job they get fired. This should hold true for elected officials also. We need a Constitutional amendment that compels them to attend legislative sessions or else they will be heavily fined and recalled.

    • intrcptr2

      Two things;
      The Constitution, Art 4, Sec 4, states that the Federal gov't will "guarantee" a republican government to each of the several states. This has most recently come into play in the 60s, when the Nat'l Guard got called in to quell the riots in '68.
      The opening clause has never been activated, so exactly what it means is likely open to debate (Like the right of secession, I suspect this would be decided by fiat, rather than jurisprudence). Of course, our current President would certainly NOT invoke it in the current situation to ensure that elected officials act like elected officials, which is ultimately the definition of republican gov't.

      The other point is that we have gone full circle. When the new government (Our current one) was being argued and then instituted, the greatest concern was that the Federal gov't would not function because the elected members of Congress would simply stay home and not conduct the business of government. Art 1, Sec.s 4 & 5 address this. Clearly requiring a simple quorum, with no enforcement mechanism, only works when our politicians are men of honor and duty.

      And since the issue has already been joined, we cannot do anything this time around but ride out the storm.

  • http://victoriaontheright.blogspot.com/ Barry from Victoria

    I suppose somebody must have already thought of this, but wouldn't it be possible for a Republican from each house to cross the floor and become a Democrat for a day, thus making a legal quorum?

  • slinkiecat

    That doesn't quite work. Crossing over to the other party does not increase the number of legislators at all, so there is still a shortage. It's like taking money out of one pocket and putting it in the other to increase your wealth.

  • Tom

    If the Government cant act why couldnt the citizens start their own recall ?

  • Tennisman

    If this were Republicans walking out of congress and hiding out in order to block Obama’s healthcare package, the national media would be beating the drums to criticize ‘their undemocratic actions’!

    Their is no stopping the movement to reign in public sector unions. The states are going broke and these unions are the major cause of the financial disaster.

  • Amused

    They can and they have already , in Florida . Democrats AND Republicans take note . The people are getting smarter and less accepoting of political lieing . Democrats with wild spending and Republicans with phony tax cuts and breaks for the corporations and the upper class while placing the burden on the lwest income groups . Such was the case of the RECALL of a REPUBLICAN in Florida .