When I spoke to State Senator Ed Murray (D-43) by phone this morning, he didn't sound like he was in any hurry to cave to the "extremist" budget demands that Republicans—plus three "Democratic" collaborators—are trying to impose now that they've staged their budget coup.
“It was an obvious abuse of power, what happened on Friday," Murray told me. "No transparency, no opportunity for us to even caucus so we could go over the budget. And I believe they did that because if there had been time to go over it, some of their own members might not have even voted for it.
A different source in Olympia told me this morning that Rob McKenna's campaign manager was seen watching from the wings during Friday's coup, and Murray offered his sense that this is "the first Rob McKenna budget that we’ve seen.”
What about the three Democratic turncoats—Rodney Tom, Tim Sheldon, and Jim Kastama—who enabled this budget?
“As far as the swing members," Murray replied, "there are two things I can say. One is they told me they would work with me on the proposal I put forward, and obviously they did not keep their word. Two, obviously, they are not philosophically Democrats on fiscal issues. But obviously, on issues like marriage equality they are Democrats, because without their votes we would not have gotten marriage equality.”
So what's the mood like in Olympia now?
“I think the idea of bipartisanship is pretty dead," Murray said. "I think the trust level is gone and it makes it very difficult to work across party lines." He described himself as "extremely angry" at how the three Democrats who sided with the Republicans "dealt with us," and said “it will have ramifications for years to come in this institution.”
But, he added: "We’re all professionals."
So what's the next step? Murray pointed out that the senate Republican leadership would need to find 50 swing votes in the house to get their budget approved—which is not going to happen—while Murray only needs to peel off one vote to pass his preferred budget.
"Either they have to be willing to compromise some—which they were not willing to do before—or we’re going to be here a very long time," Murray said. “I will not agree to a budget that eliminates the Basic Health plan, that eliminates the Disability Lifeline, that eliminates food assistance to immigrants—those are just non-negotiable items.”
This is the language of a guy who sees time as being on his side.
And it does seem that time, at this point in the budget war, is with the Democrats. Without control of the house or the governor's mansion, Republican coup leaders in the senate have no realistic way of getting their preferred budget approved, and a protracted stalemate probably doesn't strengthen their hand. According to a source in Olympia, the cost of the special session that these Republicans are about to force is $20,000 a day—a significant cost to our cash-strapped state that these Republicans will surely be blamed for creating.