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Montana Politics

Supreme Leader Essman and the Rules Committee

I’ll probably tackle a more thoughtful post about the Jeff Essman created debacle at the Montana Legislature today, but a couple of quick notes about the Senate’s “leadership” seem warranted this morning.

The next step in the controversy over whether or not Senator Essman can run roughshod over the rules of the Senate will come today at a Rules Committee meeting. Unfortunately, the Rules Committee is chaired by Senator Art Wittch (R-Dark Money) who has seemingly already decided that Essman was justified:

Republicans leaders decided to go forward with the session and began holding votes that caused the outburst by the democrats (sic).

“What you saw today was not order but was disorder and so we are completely within the rules to do what we did,” says Montana Senator Art Wittich, a Republican from Bozeman.

There is clearly a great deal more to be said about what happened on Friday , but the short version is quite clear: Democrats attempted to follow the existing rules of the Senate to prevent the Republicans from ramming a set of legislative referenda through the body and the Republican leadership responded with strong-arm tactics reminiscent of a banana republic. Media focus on Democratic Senators yelling to get the attention of the speaker might have made for good video and great copy, but it failed to highlight the most important element of what happened Friday, the deliberate violation of Senate rules and democratic procedure. 

When the Constitution of Montana and the rules of democratic governance are being violated by a government official, a bit of yelling seems more than warranted, something I thought the TEA Party inspired members of the Republican delegation believed in.

The only way democratic institutions remain democratic is when the rights of the minority are recognized; Essman’s laughable rationale cannot change that.The Republicans on the Rules Committee will no doubt validate the actions they conspired to perpetrate on Friday, but that will not legitimize them.

And never forget, all of this was avoidable. If Republicans had simply scheduled these bills with time for discussion, debate, and public input, the Democratic strategy would have been viable.

While you’re waiting for the sham Rules committee today, take a break with a few of the delightful Twitter accounts that have emerged to highlight the absurdity of Senator Essman’s delusions of grandeur.

Note to conservative blogs: these are not really Jeff Essman. I think.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Dont know if this should go to court or not, but the Republicans did sign on on the first day of this senates legislature to follow the rules…. and Esseman flat Ignored them. This same crap has been happening in Michigan for some time. I think that is it does go to court the Referendums might just become null and void to a judge….

    Heres hoping!

    • careful what you hope for Norma. court will have costs, and not just the taxpayer money it will take to determine the legality of what happened on Friday. there will be political costs as well. there are big issues that need to be dealt with.

      but hey, at least we’ll be able to eat roadkill, right?

  • Even if the referendums had been heard and scheduled earlier, what was to prevent the democrats from moving for a “call of the senate” for multiple days? Thus burning multiple days instead of just one. The strategy was a joke….and has zero credibility.

  • ‘fatso’…the federal GOP senate has been doing far WORSE, with hundreds of filibusters – filed in secret so we didn’t which ONE GOP senator blocked the wheels of legislation – that have cripplied, stifled and damaged the federal government’s ability to function effectively. The GOP in the US Senate behavior has been far, far more villainous and damaging.

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