Thompson v. Nass

Is there any trace of decency and common sense left in the Republican Party? We’ll find out in the coming days.

Tommy Thompson represents the pre-Trump party. Steve Nass reflects the ugly populist hot mess it has become, though in truth, Nass was a jerk before Trump ever dreamed of running for president.

Here’s the quick background. Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) co-chairs the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. Most of the time, JCRAR is a backwater of state government. Its job is to review the details of how agencies will administer state laws to make sure those details are consistent with the laws the Legislature passed.

A few weeks ago, Nass got the committee to vote, along party lines, to order the UW System to make rules regarding mask mandates and testing for COVID. His clearly stated intention was to suspend the rules once they were sent to the committee. It’s essentially a back door way of taking policy making away from System President Thompson. Worse, Nass wants to reverse perfectly reasonable policies that protect public health to play to a nut job Republican base that sees these public health measures as somehow impinging on their “freedom.” In addition, Nass has always been an unhinged, irresponsible and barely coherent critic of the UW.

Is it still Tommy Thompson’s party, even just a little bit?

The UW has been mum on Nass’ demand for rule-making, but yesterday Thompson said he wouldn’t comply. (I suggested this approach in a blog a few weeks ago, though the chances that Thompson or anyone in power at the UW read it are, let’s just say to be kind to ourselves, slim.)

Nass’ response was predictable. He huffed. He puffed. And he said he’d run to leadership to get permission to go to court to get Thompson to knuckle under.

But the response has been interesting. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LaMehieu made themselves unavailable for comment. And Rep. Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee), who co-chairs the rules committee with Nass, referred to Thompson as his “political role model,” made no mention of suing the System and indicated he would talk with other lawmakers to decide how to move forward, according to a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Now, we’ve seen this movie before. Vos has balked at doing things that the Trumpsters want, only to cave under pressure. For example, he knows that the November election was free, fair and accurate. He’s resisted a full blown “forensic audit”, and yet he’s inched closer to that as he gets hit from Trump and the hard-right. The same thing is likely to happen here.

But there’s at least some slim chance that it won’t, some chance that Vos will side with Thompson and the old party he stands for against Nass and the crazy populist embarrassment it has become.

Don’t hold your breath.

Welcome to the 189th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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