MADISON, Wis. — After a rancorous, sleepless night of debate, Republican lawmakers early Wednesday pushed through a sweeping set of bills that will limit the power of Wisconsin’s newly elected Democrats, including the incoming governor and attorney general.
The legislation, which Democrats vehemently opposed and protesters chanted their anger over, passed through the Republican-held state Legislature after hours of closed-door meetings and some amendments. The votes fell largely along party lines; no Democrats supported the measures.
“That’s what this is about: power-hungry politicians using their grubby hands in their last-ditch effort to desperately cling to power,” said state Rep. Katrina Shankland, a Democrat, before the vote Wednesday morning. “All we’ve seen demonstrated today and over the past few days is a contempt for the public.”
The fight over power in Madison came after Republicans, who have controlled the state for the last eight years, lost the offices of governor and attorney general during the midterm elections. Tony Evers, a Democrat, defeated Scott Walker, a two-term governor who drew national attention with a brief run for president.
Republicans explained the moves to limit the authority of the governor as part of a long-needed change in the balance of power, which they said had become tilted in favor of the executive branch. Robin Vos, the speaker of the Assembly, accused Democrats of fanning hysteria and overstating the effects of the bills.
“You are so grossly exaggerating the words of this bill it makes me sick,” Vos said.
Democrats scoffed at that explanation, noting that Republicans had seemed perfectly satisfied with the balance of power when Walker held the role.
Evers, the governor-elect, issued a statement on Wednesday expressing outrage and accusing the Republicans of grabbing power against the wishes of the voters.
The package of bills, which now awaits Walker’s signature, would limit early voting and, for the coming months, give lawmakers, not the governor, the majority of appointments on an economic development board. They also prevent Evers from banning guns in the Wisconsin Capitol without permission from legislators.