Republicans who control the Wisconsin state Senate are not taking up a pair of anti-abortion bills next week after a Democratic senator promised "all out hell" if they did, meaning the soonest they could pass is next year.
The tentative agenda released Friday for Tuesday's Senate session, the last of 2013, does not include the bills. On Thursday they cleared the Senate Health Committee on a party-line vote, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats against.
The expectation was they would be up for a passage vote Tuesday, which would have sent them to Gov. Scott Walker for his consideration.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said Republicans were foolish to force the proposals, one of which would prohibit public workers' health insurance plans from covering abortions. The other would ban abortions based on whether the fetus is male or female, also known as sex selection. Erpenbach promised "all out hell" during Senate debate if they were scheduled.
"We'd like to end on a noncontroversial note," said Dan Romportl, spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald on why the bills were not scheduled for a vote. They could come up next year, he said.
The Senate will use its final working day of the year focused on proposals aimed at creating jobs and improving the economy, Romportl said.
His message echoes that of Walker, who on Thursday distanced himself from the abortion bills, which he previously has said he supports and that already have passed the Assembly.
"To me, it's not on my radar if it's not about jobs, balancing the budget or lowering taxes," Walker said.
The news caught the sponsor of one of the bills off-guard. Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, sponsored the measure banning public employees' health insurance coverage for abortions. He said he did not know the bills would not get a vote next week, then declined to comment.
The sponsor of the sex-selection bill, Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
Julaine Appling, president of anti-abortion group Wisconsin Family Action, which lobbied for both bills, said she was "very disappointed" there would be no vote this year.
"I fully expect to see them on an agenda early next year," she said.
Appling said she did not know why they were delayed but did not think Erpenbach's threat had anything to do with it.
"The sooner we get this done, the better," she said.
Erpenbach said Friday that Walker and Republicans realized it would be a bad idea to bring up the bills.
"If there weren't concerns in the Republican caucus, then our state has huge problems," he said. "It's too bad that it took this kind of attention for them to see they've done enough damage to women."