The Assembly’s Bizarre War with Walker, Senate Over Budget

After unveiling their K-12 funding package at a press event yesterday, Assembly GOP leaders are hitting the road to gin up publicity, and they hope, support for the plan. An analysis can be found here.

Their proposal is the latest source of friction between the Assembly and Governor Walker and the Senate. Walker and the Senate have largely agreed on issues from property taxes, transportation, and Walker’s generous K-12 funding proposal.

Assembly leaders rolled out the funding plan in a press conference, then declared their intention to hit to road on a PR tour. Typically the time for such road shows – or as Sen. Leah Vukmir called it, a “dog and pony show” – would have been long passed and now would be the time for voting. However, the Joint Finance Committee cancelled both of its meetings this week, and whether the committee will meet next week isn’t certain.

By choosing to roll out their initiatives – which challenge Walker’s hard line on raising taxes both on property and gasoline – in grandiose fashion and then embark on a virtually unprecedented traveling circus to promote it, the Assembly appears to be waging a bizarre PR war against the Governor and their colleagues in the Senate.

The ongoing question is…why? MacIver Institute President Brett Healy talked about this on the Vicki McKenna Show today:


A Government Big Enough…

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.

Lore and legend says Thomas Jefferson uttered these famous words. That’s in dispute; the quote is also attributed to President Ford, paraphrasing a mid-20th Century magazine that claimed to be quoting the nation’s second president.

Whoever said it, the axiom is a good reminder in our era of bipartisan government growth that at some point the well dries up and as another conservative said, you run out of other peoples’ money. The adage that big government can take away your livelihood in the blink of an eye is in the past couple days hitting home among America’s veterans.

Out of the freakshow of the bizarre-o that is Washington, a new ring has been added to the circus of federal budgeting, but it’s one about which we should all be concerned because it short changes the people who risk their lives as the rest of us wax our boats and lavish in air conditioned corporate office buildings.

Budget dealing of late cuts around $6 billion from the pensions paid to retired military. The vaunted Ryan-Murray budget compromise, of which this provision is a part, passed the House with a large bipartisan majority, but the pension cuts didn’t stir wide controversy until it came before the Senate.

According to CNN, “The deal cuts pension cost of living raises by one percentage point for military retirees who aren’t disabled and not yet 62 years old. Cost of living hikes are automatic raises intended to keep up with inflation.”

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss) introduced an amendment to restore the cuts, with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala) co-sponsoring. Sessions took the lead in rabble rousing, proposing to keep the budget’s bottom line by eliminating a child tax credit loophole that is taken advantage of by undocumented immigrants.

The Daily Caller reported “Sessions’ motion failed on a 46 to 54 party-line vote, with North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan crossing the aisle as the lone Democrat to vote with the Republicans….“Reid’s majority just voted to keep pension cut for vets instead of cutting welfare payments to illegal aliens,” a Sessions aide emailed.

But the freakshow has only just begun. As astutely noted by Slate, the ads are probably already being written attacking Democrats for the vote. But a Democratic Senate contingent likely more interested in protecting their lock on Hispanic voters – they’re obsessed with the electoral dimensions of demographics like ethnicity, gender, and skin color – than in restoring pension benefits for the military ought to have ads run against them.

Though the cuts seem on their face small, one wonders why and is angered over the fact that military pensions would be on the table at all. As Military Spouse magazine editor Babette Maxwell said, “the $7 billion in savings that this plan will generate doesn’t even cover the interest — the interest — in the additional expenses that this same bill authorizes.”

This spending isn’t an entitlement, it’s compensation promised to veterans for the dangerous work they perform or have performed. It’s part of the Constitutional duty of the federal government to protect the country from foreign enemies. On the other hand, the federal government does an awful lot that is not so explicitly outlined in the Supreme Law of the Land. Cut one of those things instead.

Back in Wisconsin, a peruser of social media will quickly feel the heat the GOP is taking from grassroots Republicans and veterans. Sen. Ron Johnson, who voted for the budget deal Wednesday, defended his vote on Fox News Wednesday, saying “I’m not going to defend cutting the military pensions. It’s outrageous that Sen. Harry Reid would not allow us to offer an amendment to take care of this.” Those amendments included the Sessions amendment and others.

“I’ll tell you why I voted for the compromise deal…it’s impossible to convey the dysfunction that is Washington and that’s in the United States Senate, and that dysfunction causes all kinds of economic harm.” Fox host Megyn Kelly praised Mr. Johnson for being the only senator with the courage to discuss the deal the night it passed the Senate.

Mr. Johnson assured Fox viewers that he’ll work to excise the pension cut, which doesn’t take effect for two years, giving politicians plenty of time to remove politically unpopular budget cuts like this one.

But it’s a cautionary tale for anyone, including the millions of people who work for government at any level or rely on payments from the government. A government big enough to give you all you need to live on is also big enough to pull the rug out from under you, to modify the uncredited quote.

In the meantime, there’ll be plenty of ads taking advantage of the situation next year, targeting Senate Democrats and maybe a handful of House Republicans.

It’s a freakshow.

How Sean Duffy Already Short-Circuited His Opponent's Campaign

Just the other day we opined about the weaknesses of Kelly Westlund’s strategy:

Ms. Westlund’s main attack on Mr. Duffy seems to be that he’s a “Tea Party Republican” extremist. But according to Wisconsin Public Radio: “While Sean Duffy doesn’t think the Affordable Care Act should be defunded, he is demanding that the individual mandate be delayed a year, and that President Barack Obama and his family join the new insurance exchanges.”

It’s clearly a flawed attack plan on a guy who is well-liked and by all measures, a sane moderate. He’s also politically savvy and in tune with the wishes of his slightly-right-of-center district. His vote on the Ryan-Murray two-year Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 is demonstrative.

Mr. Duffy voted yea.

The JS reported: “Republican Rep. Sean Duffy praised the Ryan-Murray agreement for breaking congressional gridlock and providing much-needed certainty to Wisconsin businesses and families.”

The Act’s passage is a good thing. Conservatives have bemoaned the dearth of inked budgets for years; this was their opportunity to put in place a stable, long-term budget. It also replaces the gimmicky, can-kicking sequester and other budget patchjobs – and replaces them with a longer view of things. It was a bipartisan deal in a time when nothing of the sort seems possible.

And it was the Republicans and Paul Ryan who did it. Yes, those very same Republicans about whom the Westlundesque “Tea Party Republican” Extremist taunt will be a bludgeon against them in 2014.

So much for that.

Mr. Duffy is not a  “Tea Party Republican” Extremist, as Ms. Westlund would love voters to believe. In fact, the entire Wisconsin GOP delegation voted yay, while the Dems’ Mark Pocan voted nay and the Dems who supported it did so only while griping about it.

Mr. Ryan brought the leadership that Barack Obama couldn’t muster on stopping “Washington’s lurch from crisis to crisis,” as Mr. Ryan said in a news release and which President Obama has whined about for a long time.

His colleagues, like Mr. Duffy, had his back.

And 2014 opponents like Ms. Westlund are suddenly paddling on a hill of sand.

Ms. Westlund
Ms. Westlund