How Wisconsin is ruled by a shadow governor

Source: Politico | September 14, 2021 | Daniel C. Vock

Robin Vos has used his GOP majority to block, thwart or resist nearly every significant move made by Wisconsin’s governor.

BURLINGTON, Wis. — Robin Vos isn’t the governor of Wisconsin. But he certainly acts like he is.

For nearly three years, the state Assembly speaker has used his Republican majority — and the support of the Republicans who control the state Senate — to block, thwart or resist almost every significant move made by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Before Evers even took office in 2019, Vos led the charge to strip power from the incoming governor. When the pandemic hit, Vos helped curb Evers’ authority to declare public health emergencies. This spring, Vos tried to commandeer federal rescue money that the governor had the authority to dole out.

And when it comes to the governor’s legislative priorities, Vos has killed every one. He threw out Evers’ budget proposals and had Republicans write their own. When the governor called a special legislative session to force lawmakers to discuss gun control, Vos dismissed the idea out of hand. Both chambers adjourned almost immediately. Lawmakers did the same when the governor called further special sessions on school funding (twice), police reforms, expanding Medicaid and moving the date of the April 2020 primary election because of Covid-19.

In January, Evers delivered his annual State of the State speech to lawmakers via video message. After it was over, Vos gave his own speech from the same spot in the Assembly chamber where Evers would have normally stood during his address. Vos tore into the governor, attacking him on everything from vaccine distribution to tax policy to unemployment benefits. “Gov. Evers,” Vos said, “do your job.”

Vos’ brazen moves to box in Evers — and his success in doing so — make him a rare specimen among state lawmakers. Governors asserted unprecedented powers in the early days of the pandemic, and lawmakers in many states chafed at the broad executive reach. But few have done more to constrain gubernatorial power than Vos, the president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

His approach is simple and offers a model for Republican legislators serving with Democratic governors in other swing states: Deny Democrats any big policy wins, thus depriving them of any major accomplishments to promote when seeking reelection. Evers, like most governors, is up again next year.


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