Wisconsin police hunt down Democratic senators over union-busting bill [UPDATES]
Republican Gov. Scott Walker wants to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights, and he's threatened to call out the Wisconsin National Guard on public employee union members if they go on strike.
And now, the Republican President of the Wisconsin Senate has ordered state troopers to hunt down Democratic state senators so that he can force a vote on his union-busting bill.
The lawmakers have refused to take part in the vote, stymying Walker and the majority GOP. More than 10,000 demonstrators flooded the Wisconsin Assembly yesterday to oppose the measure.
It's hard to believe that all this is happening in the birthplace of the first national union to represent public employees.
But Wisconsin faces a $2.9 billion budget deficit for 2012 and 2013, and Walker says he needs to play hardball. Part of the way he's doing that is by trying to neuter the public employee unions -- with the exception of poise and firefighters -- so he can wring more concessions from them.
"I'm just trying to balance my budget," Walker told The New York Times. "To those who say why didn't I negotiate on this? I don't have anything to negotiate with. We don't have anything to give. Like practically every other state in the country, we're broke. And it's time to pay up."
They've been doing that already. State employee unions made $100 million in concessions in December to ease the budgetary strain, Reuters reported.
The stink over Walker's tactics have percolated all the way to the White House. President Barack Obama was asked what he thought today about the battle in Madison.
"I would say, as a general proposition, that everybody's gotta make some adjustments to new fiscal realities," he said. But:
Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin -- where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally -- seems like more of an assault on unions.
The measure was supposed to be up for a vote this morning, with the Capitol wrapped in its fourth day of protests. When it became clear that Senate Democrats had lit out for the territories, Republican Senate President Mike Ellis announced a "call of the house" to send police after them.
UPDATE: One of the missing senators says that he and his colleagues have left the state:
"The plan is to try and slow this down because it's an extreme piece of legislation that's tearing this state apart," Sen. Jon Erpenbach said in a telephone interview. He refused to say where he was.
UPDATE: Walker takes to the Twitterverse:
Senate Democrats should show up to work - like other WI taxpayers did today.
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