Even if the 14 Democratic senators do return to Wisconsin, allowing senate votes to proceed again, there’s one more way that union advocates could halt Gov. Scott Walker’s partial ban of collective-bargaining powers: getting at least three of the 19 GOP senators to refuse to vote for the ban, ensuring that Walker won’t have the 17 votes necessary to pass the bill.
Could that happen? With polls showing that about 60 percent of Wisconsinites support leaving collective-bargaining in place, it could be politically tempting for a handful of senate Republicans to abandon Walker.
One Republican senator, Dale Schultz, proposed that the GOP compromise and only ban collective-bargaining powers until 2013. A source told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Schultz “caught holy hell” from fellow GOP senators after going public with the plan.
So far, only one other Republican senator, Van Wanggard, has publicly even considered Schultz’s plan — and Wanggard ultimately decided that he would vote for Walker’s original proposal.
One source close to the Wisconsin Republican senators reveals that Schultz has a pro-union history. “Schultz represents a very moderate district in Southwestern Wisconsin, and is very pro-union,” writes the source. “He was the original author of a bill that would have given faculty in the University of Wisconsin collective bargaining rights — something even the heavily liberal UW opposed. (He represents UW-Platteville, and the faculty there were pushing him hard to write the bill.) His bill never passed, but eventually university faculty collective bargaining became law in the last biennial budget.”
Brian Schimming, a leader in the state Republican party, doesn’t think there’s any serious danger that three Republican senators will defect.
“I think the senate’s in pretty good shape. From the folks I’ve talked to, and I know all of them, their spines are stiff. They are not appreciative of what’s going on,” Schimming says, talking about the union backlash.
But he says that the senators are aware their votes could cost them, recounting that state GOP senator Randy Hopper told a group recently that the senators were “‘under enormous, enormous pressure.’” Hopper added that he was “willing to lose over this,” said Schimming.
So right now, it looks like all Walker has to worry about is what will entice the 14 Democratic senators back to Wisconsin, not how to ensure his own party stands firm.