A new normal at the Capitol

Print Article

Governor's picks likely to face dismissal for policy differences.

MOST PEOPLE can remember, somewhere along the way of growing up, when mom or dad admonished them to keep in mind that "what goes around comes around."

Wisconsin Senate Republicans may need a refresher course on the topic. And it's a safe bet, sooner or later, they'll get one.

On a straight party-line vote last week the Republican Senate majority fired Gov. Tony Evers' agriculture secretary, Brad Pfaff. The issue, according to Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, involved Pfaff's role with the Evers' administration approach to livestock manure handling rules for farmers.

And Fitzgerald made another point clear: Republicans may oust more members of Evers' team. "Some are going to go through, and I don't know if the rest of them are going to make it," Fitzgerald said on the Senate floor.

IN THE PAST, general practice has been that incoming governors name their Cabinet picks upon taking office in January, or near that date. The legislative confirmation practice isn't always rapid, but it tends to roll out relatively smoothly toward eventual approval of a governor's choices.

Not this time. It's November and several of Evers' team continue to operate as "secretary-designate" because the confirmation process has been, to be kind, slow-walked.

Meanwhile, what happened to Pfaff is virtually unheard of, with Capitol observers unable to recall the Senate firing a Cabinet-level operative for decades, if ever.

IS IT LEGAL? Absolutely. The U.S. Constitution gives the President the power to appoint with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. Mirroring the federal Constitution, Wisconsin also gives governors the power to appoint with oversight from the Senate.

Customarily, though, it's mostly a formality. A Cabinet-level appointee would have to surface some grave flaw in order to draw a rejection. Both parties in the past exercised considerable deference in confirming governor's picks, on the premise that the people made an electoral choice and the new leader deserved a team to his liking.

The Senate vote on Pfaff is something else, basically firing a Cabinet-level appointee over policy differences with the administration. That takes the process to a dangerous place.

AND, YES, WHAT goes around does come around. Some day, perhaps soon, perhaps not, there will be a Republican governor and a Democrat-controlled Senate. It's happened before, it will happen again.

The new precedent has been set. That Democrat-controlled Senate will feel liberated to slow-walk the Republican governor's Cabinet picks, and fire them at will over policy differences. Count on it.

This is the price of excessive, uncompromising, unreasoning partisanship. No matter which side does that, it poorly serves the people. In fact, its very intent is to thwart the will of the people who dared elect a rival from the other party. Down that road lies more divisiveness and more civil strife.

Print Article

Read More Editorials

Better options for legal costs?

December 02, 2019 at 10:30 am | School district's trendline for legal fees is alarming. A QUICK LOOK on the Google machine finds multiple sources providing figures for how much lawyers in Wisconsin get paid annually. Undoubtedly...


Read More

At least both sides like trips

December 02, 2019 at 10:29 am | No doubt, citizens will benefit immensely from political tourism. WHO SAYS ELECTED members of the Wisconsin legislature can't get anything done? And who says they can't do anything in a bipartisa...


Read More

The proper forum is at the Capitol

November 25, 2019 at 9:19 am | WHAT IS KNOWN as "conversion therapy" is a highly controversial practice supposedly intended to change an individual's orientation, for example, changing someone from homosexual to heterosexual. Pro...


Read More

Avoid problems, embrace the law

November 25, 2019 at 9:20 am | SOMETIMES THIS SORT of thing is called an unforced error, or even a self-inflicted wound. We refer to mistakes made by the School District of Beloit for not observing - let alone failing to welcome ...


Read More

Contact Us

(608) 365-8811
149 State Street
Beloit, WI 53511

©2019 Beloit Daily News Terms of Use Privacy Policy