The end of the legislative session should have been a triumph for Senate President Jim Peterson and Speaker of the House Mike Milburn — a celebration of the Republican agenda that the Republican incumbent Congressman Denny Rehberg could tout in his U.S. Senate race. But if you read the latest series of news reports, topped of with Milburn and Peterson’s latest complaining in guest editorial form one finds only whinging, finger-pointing, and dejection.
“This is extremely disappointing,” said House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, summing it up in in the Ravalli Republic.
In news reports about the GOP’s breach of budget deal, GOP leadership is coming across as increasingly desperate it their attempts to place the blame on the other party, rather than where it really lies –with themselves.
Here’s how the blame game went down.
At first, Peterson tried to claim to the press that he couldn’t understand how he had reneged on the deal.
“We did everything that he asked us to do,” added Senate President Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo. “I don’t see there is any reason for him to break the deal, other than he just wants to.”
Then, when the public got wise to the fact that the GOP hadn’t delivered the bills their leaders promised, Peterson and Milburn put out an awkward spin on the deal, saying they hadn’t really promised to deliver anything on their end, only to try to make an attempt.
Milburn said the deal was to have a vote on not only SB94, but also on a pay increase for state employees and a $100 million bonding bill for state construction projects — but that he didn’t promise that any of them would pass. All three bills were killed by the House last Thursday.
“I can only do what I can do,” said Milburn, who voted for SB94 but voted against the other two measures. “I don’t have total control over everyone.”
Which is just a pathetic way of saying that their caucus hadn’t granted them the authority to act on its behalf. If this is true, they shouldn’t have written checks that their caucus wouldn’t cash, making commitments and promises that their own colleagues were unwilling to uphold (whether through incompetence an lack of leadership ability or the GOP takeover by the far right fringe it is unknown).
There’s a problem with this claim that Milburn “could only do what he can do.” It simply isn’t true. The GOP leadership could have gone to their caucus at any time during the negotiations to ask them if they had they would vote to pass the measures that were part of the deal. Their caucus could have done so and then Peterson and Milburn could have let the Governor know — and moved forward with the negotiations on other fronts. Failure to make this happen shows that the budget battle was between Republicans and Republicans, rather than between the parties. As it was, that they had come to the table on false pretenses.
Fast forward to today. Schweitzer is using the breach of trust as an opportunity to fix a slate of GOP bills with line-item vetoes. He nixed a GOP tax on businesses and a bill to gut voter passed initiatives–actions that benefit the people of Montana.
Meanwhile, the GOP leadership is playing the blame game, while at the same time still making the ludicrous claim that the session was a smashing success because – get this - that they had spent less time trying to make a budget that any legislature in previous history (as if this slamming through of the peoples business with less than diligent oversight is a good thing.) No wonder it needs a few last minute line-item fixes.