State Senator Joseph Zarelli (R-18), formerly a legislature-halting badass, now just negotiating with himself.
  • State Senator Joseph Zarelli (R-18), formerly a legislature-halting badass, now just negotiating with himself.
Today's press conference with Senate Republican budget coup leaders was progress. And, as I wrote with Goldy over a week ago, it was the inevitable outcome of Democrats (who, don't forget, still control the legislature and the governor's mansion) simply biding their time and forcing Republicans to negotiate with themselves as public backlash builds:

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The longer [the Republican coup leaders'] "secret" budget proposal hangs out there, the less secret it becomes. And a budget that cuts education funding and state support for poor children (among many other things) isn't likely to age well with the public.

Today we learn that Republicans, after continuing criticism from Jay Inslee and many, many others, now want to restore the $74 million they were proposing to cut from higher education and K-12. “This is a fabulous budget for higher ed," Republican coup backer Rodney Tom, D-48, said at the press conference, raising the obvious question: Why, just two weeks ago, did you enable passage by just one senate vote of an implicitly un-fabulous budget?

Tom's new leaders, Senator Joseph Zarelli (R-18) and Senator Mike Hewitt (R-16), kept complaining for the cameras that Democrats haven't been negotiating with them since the coup went down. “Here we sit on day 14 and have had no constructive conversation," Zarelli whined. "We have been waiting... I don’t know how much longer the public and the press would expect us to sit here and not start making ground.” But they know full well that making them wait—and sit there holding the un-passable, unpalatable budget they were proposing—is the entire point. (And it's working.)

"Big senate Democrat victory!!!" e-mailed Senator Ed Murray (D-43), in response to today's news. "First the house and now senate Republicans have agreed to my position. No cuts to higher education or K12!"

Rondey Tom: What was once un-fabulous is now just fabulous! (Even though I supported it both ways.)
  • Rondey Tom: What was once un-fabulous is now just fabulous! (Even though I supported it both ways.)
The modified Republican proposal still hasn't been laid out in full, just described orally at today's press conference. Democratic senators haven't seen the details, and apparently even Governor Gregoire, whom Hewitt was meeting with this morning, wasn't told about the new plan or the upcoming announcement. But it's clear from Zarelli's description that the budget-by-coup still cuts Disability Lifeline, which Murray told me is "an unacceptable cut."

Republican leaders weren't saying today's offer was their final offer. But, clearly sensing they were running out of leverage—while racking up $20,000-per-day in special session costs—they did make one threat: To move to the 9th Order of Business again and pass another senate budget that they alone like (and that won't be passed by the house or signed by the governor). “If we have to, we’ll do it just like we did two weeks ago," Hewitt said.

It's not much of a threat. (And, as Murray put it to me, "Threats is not the way to negotiate a compromise.") But aside from continuing to negotiate with themselves, it's all the Republican coup leaders have left.

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In response to all of this, Murray and Senator Majority Leader Lisa Brown are smartly continuing with their tough posture and calling on Republicans to move even further to the left in order to deal with the "clearly resolvable" budget differences that remain.

"It’s an important step in the right direction," Murray and Brown said of the new Republican budget plan, in a statement released just now. "It signals a willingness to move toward a solution to Washington’s budget challenges." But, they added: “We are disappointed Republicans still insist on eliminating food assistance and Disability Lifeline, and cutting services to families and children. The budget they rolled out today—which was again drafted in secret, not at the negotiating table—also fails to fund the bipartisan jobs package that could help more than 20,000 Washington’s get to work."

Democrats playing hardball back: It works.