Let’s suppose members of a parliament are divided into two parties, we’ll call them the Zebras and the Paisleys.
The Paisleys have a majority. They decide to write a major bill but will only talk to other Paisleys about it. No Zebra input allowed, thank you very much.
This makes the Zebras mad. It also upsets a few individual Paisleys, who think most of the Paisleys are being dumb.
Time for the vote, and a few Paisleys side with the Zebras. It’s enough to create a majority and get a Paisley/Zebra bill passed.
The Paisleys whose bill lost accuse the Paisleys who sided with the Zebras of being too partisan. After all, the Paisleys who only talked to other Paisleys said they had come up with a great bipartisan deal!
Wait . . . What???
This really just happened in the Washington State Senate in Olympia, Washington. I got the story from Erik Smith’s March 2 2012 article in Washington State Wire. The article is “Backfire! – Senate Democrats’ Effort to Pass a Partisan Budget Results in Takeover From the Middle” (I originally found the link from Ace of Spades.)
“Despite their slim 27-22 majority in the Senate, Senate Democratic leaders chose this year to write a budget without Republican input, ignoring critics, unlike their bipartisan effort last year that brought both sides to the table.
. . .
The move came during a routine session on the Senate floor Friday afternoon and appeared to take the majority Democrats by surprise. State Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, moved for the “9th Order of Business,” a procedural motion which allows a majority of members to vote to advance bills from a committee to the Senate floor. Republicans plucked an early version of the budget that had been submitted late last year by Gov. Christine Gregoire, as well as three Republican measures necessary to implement the budget that had been stalled in committee.
As the roll call was sounded and the three Democrats announced their votes, it was obvious the battle was over.
. . .
During heated arguments on the floor, Democratic leaders made the curious argument that the tactic destroyed any sense of bipartisanship in the Senate – though they had acknowledged last week that a majority of their members had such strong differences with the Republicans that bipartisanship was impossible.
“This is not a way to write a budget,” said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle. “This is breaking the faith with the bipartisan efforts that we worked on for the last year.” “
Although it’s not mentioned in the quote above, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire is a member of the Democratic party. So, Republican members of the Washington Senate ally with Democratic members to pass a budget introduced by a Democratic state governor. And for that they are all accused of playing partisan politics.
A group of Democrats, who had come up with a version that was intentionally written with no Republican input, are unhappy that their “bipartisan” budget wasn’t passed.
Here’s some more incredibly partisan quotes from the article. Both Kastama & Sheldon are Democratic Senators who voted with Republicans on the budget:
But Kastama, who is running for secretary of state this year, said he didn’t care whether he would face political repercussions.
“I’m not thinking about that right now,” he said during a break in the action. “I really am not. I think this is the best move for our state, which is to put forward a budget that is balanced, that doesn’t kick the can down the road.”
. . .
“I am not lending my vote to any party,” said state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Hoodsport. “I am representing the people of my district, and I believe they want a fiscally responsible budget, one that balances revenues with expenditures.”
This isn’t the first time I’ve run across screwy logic like this.
In Montana, there was an uproar last April, when Travis Kavulla, a newly elected member of the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC for short), and fellow PSC members Gail Gutsche and John Vincent voted to remove Bill Gallagher from the chairmanship. Vice-chairman Brad Molnar resigned from his post, ahead of a vote by Kavulla, Gutsche & Vincent to remove him as well.
(You can read more about it at “Kavulla Ousts PSC Chairman in Coup” (April 16, 2011) on John S. Adams’ blog The Lowdown, or you can read Travis Kavulla’s explanation at “Lessons in When to Draw the Line: PSC Edition” (April 15, 2011) on Gregg Smith’s blog Electric City Weblog.)
Would you care to guess party allegiances? Former Chairman Gallagher, former Vice-Chairman Molnar & current Chairman Kavulla are Republicans. Gutsche and Vincent are Democrats.
The cause of all this? According to Gallagher, it’s obviously “partisanship”. Adams’ article in The Lowdown quotes Gallagher as saying “that is your partisan politics, your joining with two (Democratic) members of the commission and playing party politics from the get go.”
And no, I don’t think compromise or bipartisanship are the highest standard a politician or legislator can aspire to. There are times when compromise is necessary and even good, and there are times when you have to stand your ground.
But I do get irritated with politicians who toss around terms like “partisan” and “bipartisan” with no clue what the terms actually mean.