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Wisconsin Republicans scramble to rig the game before they lose power

If there's a compelling defense for the Wisconsin Republicans' lame-duck agenda, it's hiding well.
Protesters gather outside the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011.
Protesters gather outside the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011.

In 2016, only one incumbent Republican governor lost: North Carolina's Pat McCrory. After the race was called, the GOP-led state legislature gathered for a special session, ostensibly to work on disaster relief for hurricane victims, but instead launched a "legislative coup" to undermine the new Democratic governor's powers before he could take office.

It was banana-republic style governance. It was also, evidently, a model for other Republicans willing to exercise maximalist partisanship.

Last month, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) narrowly lost his bid for a third term, his Republican allies in the state legislature immediately started talking about stripping Gov.-elect Tony Evers (D) of some of his authority.

It was not just idle chatter. After an election in which Wisconsin voters elected a Democratic governor, re-elected a Democratic U.S. senator, re-elected a Democratic secretary of state, and elected a Democratic state attorney general, Republicans are suddenly scrambling to overhaul the state government in the GOP's favor. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:

Republican lawmakers are seeking to limit voter turnout and want to take away key powers from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general before GOP Gov. Scott Walker leaves office in January.The sweeping plan -- to be taken up Tuesday -- would remove Gov.-elect Tony Evers' power to approve major actions by Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul and give that authority to Republican lawmakers.That could mean the campaign promise made by Evers and Kaul to immediately withdraw Wisconsin from a federal lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act would likely be blocked.

That lawsuit -- which seeks to gut the Affordable Care Act and strip protections from Americans with pre-existing conditions -- was a major issue in Wisconsin elections, and voters' will appeared unmistakable in the elections' results. The GOP-led state legislature doesn't seem to care.

We've seen plenty of partisan power-grabs over the years, but they're not usually quite this ugly and brazen. What's more, the fact that Wisconsin Republicans unveiled their proposals late on a Friday afternoon was probably not accidental.

The GOP agenda, which may start to receive votes as early as tomorrow, includes:

* a measure to roll back early voting statewide;

* a plan that would prevent the newly elected governor from weakening Wisconsin's harsh voter-ID law;

* a change that would empower the state legislature to force the incoming state attorney general to support Wisconsin's anti-health care federal lawsuit;

* moving the date of the next state Supreme Court race in order to help a far-right candidate

Republican proponents of these tactics might argue at this point that Wisconsin voters must be at least somewhat comfortable with these tactics since they elected a GOP-led state Assembly. But as Mother Jones' Ari Berman recently noted, the details matter: Democratic candidates won most of the state Assembly votes this year, but thanks to Republican gerrymandering, the GOP will end up with most of the power.

There is no justification for tactics like these. Wisconsin Republicans appear eager to do it anyway.