Here’s what Wisconsin Republicans accomplished tonight: In a situation where they had repeated opportunities to resolve this standoff and plausibly declare victory for themselves, they have now ensured that this battle is only going to escalate.

This evening, Wisconsin Repubicans took the drastic step of breaking up the budget repair bill and passing only a measure rolling back the collective bargaining rights of public employees. A committee removed some parts of the bill, allowing Republicans to pass it by a simple majority, without missing Dems, and it’s expected to pass the Assembly tomorrow.

A lawyer told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the move appeared to violate the state’s open meetings law. One assumes this is headed for court, but let’s just presume for the moment that the move will stand.

There’s no quibbling with the fact that if it does stand, Walker and Republicans will have gotten their way in the short term fight. But let’s recall an important fact: Republicans control the governorship and state legislature. The fact that they were forced to resort to this trick is itself a concession that they had lost the battle as they themselves had previously defined it. And in so doing, they were forced to pull a maneuver that will only lend even more energy to the drive to recall them.

This kind of conduct is exactly what recalls are for. Let’s review the record. This latest move is in direct contradiction of a recent pledge by the head of Wisconsin senate Republicans not to pass the bill without Democrats present. By treating the collective bargaining piece as a non-fiscal provision, Republicans have also revealed that Walker’s repeated claims that the anti-union push was all about the budget to be a complete falsehood.

But it goes far beyond this. Despite Walker’s repeated claims to the contrary, it has been well-documented that during his campaign he never revealed he’d pursue the radical push to roll back bargaining rights that he sprung on unsuspecting Wisconsinites. What’s more, Wisconsin unions agreed early on to the fiscal concessions Walker demanded, on the condition that he preserve their bargaining rights. He refused, on the grounds that the rollback was a fiscal issue -- which has today been revealed to be bogus. And then there’s the prank Koch call, where he repeatedly laughed along as someone he took to be a major donor talked about planting troublemakers among protestors and suggested bringing a bat to his next meeting with Dems. The record here is really striking in its misconduct.

What’s amazing about this latest turn of events is that Walker could have reached a deal with unions and very plausibly declared victory. He could have rightly argued that his tough stance on bargaining rights forced major fiscal concessions. Instead, he dug in, and now Republicans blindly following him have pulled a stunt that will only exacerbate grassroots anger in Wisconsin and leave national unions and liberal groups no alternative but to pour everything they have into recall drives. National Republicans can’t be happy about this overreach: It has galvanized the labor movement, allowed it to restate its case to the public, given Obama an easy way to mend fences with unions, and complicated GOP outreach to blue collar whites in key swing states and districts heading into 2012.

This is exactly the sort of conduct that justifies recalls. This will only escalate from here on out.