The Democratic Party was given a clear mandate in the past two election cycles, but they completely blew it last week.
The Senate has more than a three-fifths majority, the House is just shy of a veto-proof majority. The governor, who was installed by the Democratic legislature after it ousted his unpopular and obstructionist predecessor by force of law, is a Democrat. The former governor’s sidekick Senate president is gone. They had no excuses this time.
Yet, here we are, once again without a viable budget and in overtime session. The third in a row under Democratic leadership.
And what did the Democrats do? They blamed Republicans for not bailing them out by putting votes on the tax hike plan. The House Democrats, who control 70 seats in that chamber, came up short on a tax hike in the House, yet they tried to claim it was the Republicans’ fault. The Dems demanded the GOPs go along even after House Speaker Michael Madigan spent the past five months jamming the House Republicans every chance he could get.
Yes, the Republicans could have and should have put their state’s interests ahead of their desire to pay back Madigan for all the ill treatment he’s dished out. There are several House Republicans who were willing to make a deal on a tax hike but who were not willing to cross House GOP leader Tom Cross. And the Republicans may eventually end up wearing the jacket for this debacle if the government disintegrates and they show no willingness to do something. But this has been a Democratic show from the beginning of the session and Sunday’s end was a complete and utter Democratic failure. Instead of finding solutions on their own, and on time, they have put the Republicans in a position of control.
You cannot tell me with a straight face that Speaker Madigan did any serious heavy lifting this session. When real leadership was required, he sat back and let the train of government go completely off the tracks. The state is billions of dollars in the hole and all the General Assembly could do last weekend was pass a budget that funds programs for six months, at best.
Madigan brought the tax hike bill he had negotiated with Quinn to the House floor Sunday and it got just 42 votes. There’s no way on God’s green earth that with a fully engaged Madigan only 42 House Democrats would be willing to vote for a tax hike in order to keep the government from crashing into oblivion. Yes, it’s common knowledge that there’s no way to underestimate the cowardice of the House Democratic caucus. which has been forever shielded from tough votes by its God King. But 42 votes? Impossible. And I don’t care what the poll numbers show or how volatile the situation is these days.
Gov. Pat Quinn has demonstrated no leadership skills to date. His budget and tax hike plans were ineptly doomed from the beginning. He chose too many advisors who knew nothing about the old bulls. And, as a consequence, he blithely allowed Madigan to push him around all year. He has become the butt of countless Statehouse jokes.
The campaign finance reform bill Quinn endorsed was a complete and utter sham. Quinn bent over backwards for Madigan’s demanded “reforms,” which mainly served to perpetuate the primacy of Madigan’s rule. Quinn assumed the position in order to enshrine his long-sought and beloved recall idea into the Constitution. But the Senate didn’t bother to vote on the proposal Sunday night, even though the chamber was in session until well after midnight and would have therefore been able to move the measure forward if it had an ounce of respect for the governor’s top priority. Quinn was seen arguing with Senate President John Cullerton after the Senate adjourned. He stormed out of the chamber in a huff.
Maybe now the governor understands that he has been a play toy all along.
Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.