After hours of debate and secret negotiations that dragged on into the early hours of the morning amid a backdrop of mass protests, Wisconsin's Senate on Wednesday approved a Republican plan to strip power from Democratic governor-elect Tony Evers and transfer major authority over the state's legal affairs from the incoming Democratic attorney general to the GOP-dominated legislature.
"Democracy dies in darkness... or perhaps in the early morning light," wrote The Nation's John Nichols, a Wisconsin native, after the measure passed the state Senate and headed toward an Assembly vote, the final hurdle before the legislation reaches outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker's desk. The plan is expected to easily sail through the Assembly as early as Wednesday morning, and Walker has said he will sign it.
Update: The Republican plan has passed the state Assembly.
It's official. The power-grab bill cleared the Wisconsin State Senate before sunrise. Just now, it passed the State Assembly. The only step left is Scott Walker's signature, which—if he signs it—will seal his legacy as an enemy as democracy and a friend only to his own power. https://t.co/SbLzjy6WI4
— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) December 5, 2018
Described by Mother Jones journalist Ari Berman as a "lame duck legislative coup," the sweeping measure would dramatically curtail Evers' power to implement new rules and require the Republican legislature—rather than the incoming Democratic attorney general—to approve any attempt to withdraw from federal lawsuits.
"This is outrageous abuse of power and should be huge national scandal."
—Ari Berman, Mother Jones
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The measure also attacks voting rights by restricting early voting to no more than two weeks before an election. A similar measure passed by Wisconsin Republicans in 2016 was ruled unconstitutional on the grounds that it disproportionately harmed minority voters.
"This is outrageous abuse of power and should be huge national scandal," Berman declared.
Though Wisconsin Republicans and Walker attempted to downplay the scope and significance of their legislation, Wisconsinites saw through the GOP's rhetoric and turned out to the state capitol in force, flooding hearing rooms and rallying outside the capitol building in the freezing weather to denounce the legislation as an attempt to "undo democracy itself."
"Scott Walker may be on the way out of office for the first time in a quarter century," said One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross, "but his corrosive brand of politics lives on in his fellow Republicans."