This column presents facts regarding the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Wisconsin State Constitution, and various other documents in reference to modern topics. Mark hopes to encourage interest in those works so that others can consider whether our government is practicing within its constitutional limits. In the last category, he may indicate his opinion. Mark is a resident of New Berlin. Readers are encouraged to visit the following sites for more information on the United States Constitution and Thomas Jefferson's views on politics and government.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; March 3, 2011
Madison — Pressure ratcheted up on absent Senate Democrats on Thursday, as they were found in contempt by GOP senators and Gov. Scott Walker said he will start sending layoff notices to state workers Friday if the standoff over his budget-repair bill isn't resolved.
Along with the finding of contempt came an order that law enforcement detain Democrats and bring them to the Senate chambers - an order that critics said was prohibited under the state constitution.
"We simply cannot have democracy be held hostage because the minority wants to prove a point," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).
The Senate voted in the morning that absent Democrats would be in contempt of a Senate rule requiring attendance if they did not return by 4 p.m. When they didn't return, the Senate reconvened and Fitzgerald signed for each missing senator an "order to detain (in the nature of a warrant to arrest and deliver)."
Fitzgerald said that Republicans were initially "nervous" about taking such a step, but that Democrats have created a "constitutional crisis."
"This is not about a budget-repair bill or about politics," Fitzgerald said. "This is much bigger than that, and the minority party has forced our hand … They're insulting the very fabric of our representative democracy."
Fitzgerald said the contempt resolution was in part a response to a judge's decision Wednesday not to immediately order Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover) to attend the Senate.
Oconto County Circuit Judge Jay N. Conley ruled Wednesday that Holperin appears to be violating a rule that requires senators to attend sessions. But he wrote that it is the Senate - not the courts - that enforce those rules.
"The Senate must enforce Senate rules, if it chooses to do so. It can, also, ignore its own rules, if it chooses to do so," Conley wrote.
State Senators vs. Our Democratic Republic.
Article IV, Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.
According to the New American:
The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, "A republic, if you can keep it."
Wisconsin Constitution: Article IV; SECTION 28.
Members of the legislature, and all officers, executive and judicial, except such inferior officers as may be by law exempted, shall before they enter upon the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe an oath or affirmation to support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Wisconsin, and faithfully to discharge the duties of their respective offices to the best of their ability.
We the People:
Senator Fitzgerald’s comments are moving and profound. A constitutional democratic republic cannot sustain if the elected representatives boycott their posts and violate their oaths of office.
According to Citizens for a Constitutional Republic website:
“A Constitutional Republic is similar to democracy in that it uses democratic processes to elect representatives and pass new laws, etc. The critical difference lies in the fact that a Constitutional Republic has a Constitution that limits the powers of the government. It also spells out how the government is structured, creating checks on its power and balancing power between different branches. The idea was to hold the entire government in check by utilizing the jealousies of the people in each branch over their own areas. “
If we care about this extraordinary government we inherited, we must not accept desertion in order to deny a quorum. This must never become a precedent. If we, the people, tolerate lawmakers from any political party who inflict their personal power in this manner over our democratic republic, we will not keep it. Please call the offices of the fourteen missing senators. Tell them that preserving our republic is more important than union bargaining on benefits. Ask them to come home to Wisconsin to vote.