Wisconsin Senate Trying To Get Democrats To Return
UPDATED 02/24/11 7:44 a.m.
MADISON, Wis. (CBS) – Wisconsin state patrol officers are being sent to the homes of several Democratic state senators, in hopes that they will come back for a vote on the budget bill that would strip collective bargaining rights from state employees.
Many of the absent senators have been hiding out in Chicago.
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The Senate met at 7 a.m. Thursday to issue a call of the house, which allows for law enforcement to be sent to find missing members. The 14 Democrats skipped town last week to avoid voting on a bill taking away collective bargaining rights from public workers.
Police cannot arrest absent members, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he hopes one or more of them will feel compelled to come back with a police officer at their door.
“They don’t have the ability to arrest us, they have the ability to compel us, whatever that might mean,” said Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach. “I would tend to think ‘compel’ might mean hang out with us until we head down to the Capitol.”
Republicans need at least one Democrat to be present to take up the bill.
Meanwhile, lawmakers in the other house of the Legislature – the Assembly – have agreed to end a 40-hour debate over the budget bill. They hope to reach a vote perhaps by midday.
The deal announced shortly after 6 a.m. was designed to force a vote on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s bill following more than 42 hours of debate that began Tuesday morning.
“We will strongly make our points, but understand you are limiting the voice of the public as you do this,” said Democratic state Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison. “You can’t dictate democracy. You are limiting the people’s voice with this agreement this morning.”
Tens of thousands of people have protested the bill for nine straight days, with hundreds spending the night in sleeping bags on the hard marble floor of the Capitol as the debate was broadcast on monitors in the rotunda. Many of them were still sleeping when the deal to only debate 38 more amendments, for no more than 10 minutes each, was announced. The timing of the agreement means the vote could come as soon as noon Thursday.
Democrats, who are in the minority, don’t have the votes to stop the bill once the vote occurs.
In another development, the debate over the bill has taken a bizarre turn, as a liberal blogger spoke at length with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, posing as a billionaire conservative ally.
CBS News reports Ian Murphy, a blogger for the left-leaning Web site “Buffalo Beast,” posed as Koch Industry billionaire David Koch. Together with his brother Charles, the Koch brothers fund fund the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, which has launched an ad across Wisconsin as part of a “Stand with Walker” campaign.
In a 20-minute conversation, Walker openly discussed plans to issue layoff notices if his budget bill is not passed soon, and talked about ideas to punish the absent Senate Democrats, whom Murphy-as-Koch referred to as “Democrat bastards.”
Among the suggestions Walker mentioned was physically putting the senators’ paychecks on the floor of the state Senate.
Walker also said if the unions are paying to put up the senators out of state, it could constitute “felony misconduct in office.”
Murphy-as-Koch also suggested “planting some troublemakers” among the protesters. Walker said, “we thought about that,” but suggested that it might not be a good idea.
”My only fear would be is if there was a ruckus caused, it is that that would scare the public into thinking that maybe the governor has got to settle to avoid all these problems,” he said on the call.
Walker later downplayed the significance of the prank call.
“The bottom line is the things I’ve said are the things I’ve said publicly all along,” he said at a later news conference.
Also, CBS News’ Dean Reynolds reports, an Indiana deputy attorney general got in trouble Wednesday for suggesting in a tweet that “live ammunition” should be used against protesters in Madison.
The deputy attorney general, Jeffrey Cox, said he was being satirical, but he was fired over the incident.
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