The GOP-led Wisconsin legislature passed bills in the wee hours Wednesday that scale back the powers of Gov.-elect Tony Evers and Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul, both Democrats.
It’s now up to Gov. Scott Walker, the Republican who lost to Mr. Evers, to decide whether to sign the lame-duck measures into law.
Among other changes, the bills give Republicans more power over a state jobs agency and limit early voting in the state to no more than two weeks — a change that Democrats opposed.
They also make it harder for Mr. Evers and Mr. Kaul to fulfill health care promises they made during their winning campaigns.
One bill ensures that state officials implement a federal waiver requiring childless adults older than 50 to work as a condition of Medicaid benefits, so Mr. Evers doesn’t try to walk away from the waiver Mr. Walker secured from the Trump administration.
Any effort to withdraw from a multistate lawsuit against Obamacare would need legislative approval from committee Republicans, effectively thwarting the retreat.
Republicans have pledged to backfill protections for people with preexisting conditions that were baked into the 2010 health care law and could be eliminated by the suit.
The Assembly passed a bill to do so earlier this year, but the state Senate failed overnight to follow suit after two Republicans and every Democrat rejected it.
Republicans split over language setting up a high-risk pool and many balked over text that seemed to mirror Obamacare, while Democrats said the measure imposed lifetime caps on coverage, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The set of bills targeting the governor-elect’s powers sparked vocal protests through the night in Madison, grabbed national headlines and prompted a furious response from Mr. Evers.
“Wisconsin has never seen anything like this,” he said. “Power-hungry politicians rushed through sweeping changes to our laws to expand their own power and override the will of the people of Wisconsin who asked for change on November 6th.”
He said he hopes the GOP-led Legislature will “will rise to the occasion and work with me” on state problems in the new year.
Republican leaders have defended the measures as a way to maintain equilibrium between the branches of government, as a Democrat moves into the governor’s mansion. They also want to preserve conservative wins they secured under Mr. Walker, saying they might be undone with a “stroke of a pen.”
“There are a number of very important reforms that each one of us ran on,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told reporters ahead of votes.
Democrats said Republicans are acting like sore losers and will be judged harshly, unless Mr. Walker wields his veto.
They said the attacks on Democratic health reforms were particularly galling, since they played a key role in this past election cycle.
“The people of Wisconsin did not vote to give Republicans more power to pursue a lawsuit to repeal health care and gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin Democrat, said on Twitter.
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