How low can you go?: Republicans have always been used to making compromises in order to get spending bills through, but it seems that this year, those compromises may have to go in the opposite from the direction those compromises usually go.
The overall spending increases proposed by the Republicans in their 6 separate bills is about 13% -- which is fairly hefty. The thought is that these should be able to garner enough Republican and Democrat support to pass.
Republicans have 51 votes in theory, but the problem is that some Republicans won't vote for any spending increases at all. Mike Lange tells us that if he can't get enough Democratic votes to pass these bills as written, he'll have no choice but to start cutting the spending in those bills. "If I go low enough, I can get 51 votes," Lange said.
Rather than coming to some sort of an idea of what levels of spending they can live with and making these bills work, Democrats appear to be choosing an even more hard-ball approach masquerading as a sort of Fantasy Island:
"I think (the governor's budget) is going to come back,'' (Senate President) Cooney said. ''I honestly do believe that in the end, the House is going to have to go back to House Bill 2."
"Big-wigs" coming to Butte: Those are the words of Sen. Baucus's e-mail press release -- not ours.
Missoulian: why buck the "right track?": In Steve Woodruff's piece, he points out that Montanans last spring said, when polled, that they thought Montana was on the right track. So, why should Republicans be bucking the governor's plans? His answer is that it is raw partisanship on the part of the Republicans.
We're not so sure. In his one meeting with Speaker Scott Sales towards the start of the session, Gov. Schweitzer reportedly told him about the budget, "I'm not married to any of this." And yet, there have been no indications on the part of Democrats that they were willing to make significant compromises on the governor's budget, which left Republicans having to use the political process (imagine that?) to attempt to force compromises.
What if Montanans had been told last spring that Democrats were going to increase spending by a minimum of 23% in one year -- is Woodruff confident that Montanans would have responded by saying that this was the "right track" for Montana?
City Lights: It seems that Ed Kemmick is about as taken with the legislative Democrats' response to recent events in Helena as we are:
Democrats might have been able to make a case that the Republicans weren't playing the game by the rules, or they could have swallowed their pride and complained that the Republicans were playing the game better. But when they accused Republicans of treating politics like a game, they sounded as whiny as the Republicans grousing that the governor shouldn't wear jeans and should leave his dog at home.
He also notes the fact that Mike Lange obviously enjoys the battle:
The game-like nature of politics would explain why Rep. Mike Lange, a Billings Republican and the House majority leader, seems to be having so much fun in Helena. The beefy pipefitter with the boyish grin played football for Rocky Mountain College, and you can tell that Helena politicking perfectly suits his competitive spirit....
And why not? Very few politicians who rank as great achieved that status without being expert gamesmen. If politics is a sport, LBJ was a Super Bowl quarterback. If politics is like chess, Lincoln was a Kasparov.