WASHINGTON -- The extent to which Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) has, for Democrats, become emblematic of conservative overreach was evident on Tuesday as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) invoked Walker in an effort to tarnish the bargaining posture of congressional Republicans engaged in negotiations over the federal budget.
During a Tuesday conference call with reporters, Schumer labeled members of the House GOP “Scott Walker Republicans” for demanding that policies unrelated to the budget -- embedded within dozens of "riders" -- remain in a bill ostensibly meant to keep the government funded.
“[T]oo many Republicans want more than spending cuts,” said the New York Democrat. “They also want to impose their entire social agenda. Now, we have seen this type of overreach recently, in the recent battle in Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker went to war with his public sector unions. Governor Walker started out seeking concessions from unions on their benefits in order to reduce the Wisconsin budget shortfall. In the spirit of cooperation, unions agreed to reduce their benefits. But Walker didn’t take 'yes' for an answer, he went further and insisted on ending collective bargaining entirely. The budget fight going on here is not really about budget cuts, either.”
The riders built into the federal continuing resolution passed by the House in February, which subsequently failed a test vote in the Senate, limit or prohibit funding for Planned Parenthood, the implementation of President Barack Obama's signature health care law, and power plant regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency, among others. Democrats have insisted that including such measures in a budget bill is a non-starter.
House GOP aides have insisted they won’t drop all of them from the legislative language -- "If the White House believes that all of the riders will come out, they are living in la-la land," one top aide told The Huffington Post -- leading to speculation that riders, rather than the size of spending cuts, could become the impasse that spurs a shutdown.
On Tuesday, prominent Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) said he would oppose a short-term continuing resolution because it didn’t include a measure defunding Planned Parenthood. Several other Republican lawmakers said the same. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) responded to those positions by noting a recent statement from another Indiana Republican, Gov. Mitch Daniels, who said that issues brought up in riders should be resolved in separate legislation.
"This past election had nothing to do with riders -- it had to do with jobs and fiscal responsibility," said Hoyer. "My view is that riders have no place not be in this bill, and this ought not be an issue about riders but about level of spending."
For all the intricacies of the rider debate, however, what stands out most about Schumer’s conference call was the notion that Walker could be used as a weight to be placed around the GOP’s neck. The Wisconsin governor certainly suffered in the realm of public opinion for attaching anti-collective bargaining measures to his state’s budget proposal. But for all the indignation he brought upon himself, Walker remains a relatively unknown figure -- and, by extension, perhaps not the best bogeyman for Democrats to deploy. A Pew poll conducted from March 3-6 showed that 46 percent of respondents said they were either not following the budget disputes in Wisconsin closely or weren’t following them at all.