Well, so much for the will of the voters.
On November 6, Washington voters gave Democrats control of the governor's mansion, both houses of the legislature, and every statewide elected office but one. On December 10, two turncoat state senators, both of them allegedly Democrats, quickly undid that mandate by crossing the aisle to give Republicans control of the state senate.
The Republicans straight-facedly touted their coup as a "bipartisan Majority Coalition Caucus," but of course there's nothing bipartisan about it. The "coalition" consists of the 23-member Republican Caucus, plus the not-really-Democratic Tim Sheldon of Potlatch and the Republican-turned- Democrat-turned-Republican-collaborator Rodney Tom of Medina. For their treachery, Tom gets the powerful "majority" leader position while Sheldon gets president pro tempore (plus several plum committee assignments).
In the service of maintaining the fiction of bipartisanship, senate Republicans offered their Democratic counterparts the privilege of chairing several minor committees. But the fact is that Republicans will control the most important committees with the most critical agendas: Health & Long-Term Care (which will deal with Obamacare Medicaid expansion and the Reproductive Parity Act), Early Learning & K–12 Education (which will address the McCleary decision), and Ways & Means (which will address the budget). These are the committees where Governor Jay Inslee's Democratic agenda will go to die.
The question is: Will Democrats be willing to play along?
"At this point, nobody has agreed to accept it," deposed majority leader Ed Murray says of his fellow Democratic senators. And if Murray has his way, none of them will. "Personally, I think our members would have more influence as a 24-member minority," says Murray, insisting that parliamentary bodies work best not when there's a fictional coalition but when it's clear to everyone that "somebody is in control."
Even if that "somebody" is Republican. At least then, voters will know exactly who's responsible for the legislative gridlock that inevitably comes from divided government, instead of spreading the blame across some bullshit "bipartisan" majority coalition.