Wisconsin Dems Flee, Union Discord Grows
By Daniel C. Vock, Staff Writer
By leaving the state, Wisconsin Senate Democrats blocked the passage Thursday of hugely controversial legislation, backed by Republican Governor Scott Walker, to roll back collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. The showdown prompted tens of thousands of protesters to swarm the Wisconsin Capitol, touched off similar-but much smaller-demonstrations in Ohio and even drew in President Obama.
The Democrats stopped Republicans from advancing the measure in the Wisconsin Senate by depriving the chamber of a quorum. The Democratic caucus' 14 members left the state to avoid being brought back to Madison by Wisconsin state troopers. The Republicans need only one more senator to reach a quorum.
Instead, Democrats slipped over the border, initially, at least, to a hotel on the outskirts of Rockford, Illinois. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that senators of both parties have been talking to each other to try to reach a compromise, but one Democrat said the caucus was prepared to stay away "as long as it takes."
The controversy quickly took on outsized proportions. TheWashington Post notes that the White House uncharacteristically invited a Milwaukee television reporter for an interview on the matter. Obama told the station that the legislation "seems like more of an assault on unions."
Roughly 3,800 protesters came to Columbus to object to legislation there that also would curb the power of public employee unions. In scenes reminiscent of Madison, Ohio union members packed the Ohio Capitol chanting "Kill the bill," reports Bloomberg.