MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin state troopers were dispatched Thursday to the doorsteps of some of the AWOL Democratic senators in hopes of finding at least one who would come back to allow a vote on a measure to curb the power of public-employee unions.
The stepped-up tactic ordered by the Republican head of the Senate came amid reports that at least a few of the missing senators were returning home at night to pick up clothes, food and other necessities, before rejoining their colleagues in Illinois.
Meanwhile, the state Assembly appeared close to voting on the bill after more than two days of filibustering.
Democrats agreed before dawn Thursday to limit the remaining number of amendments they offer and the time they devote to each one. More than 12 hours after the agreement was announced, Republicans voted to cut off discussion on all amendments. Democrats then spent hours delaying a vote on the measure that Gov. Scott Walker insists is necessary to ease the state’s budget woes and avoid mass layoffs.
Democrats urged Republicans to accept a compromise that would keep collective bargaining intact.
But Republicans summarily rejected every Democratic amendment in the marathon session.
Democrats, who are in the minority, don’t have the votes to stop the bill once the vote occurs.
But even after the bill passes the Assembly, it cannot become law until it also passes the Senate, where action has been stymied by the Democrats’ absence. At least one of them needs to be there in order for Republicans to take up the bill since the GOP is one seat short of having a quorum.
The Senate convened at 7 a.m. Thursday just long enough to take a roll call, which allows for the sergeant at arms’ staff to go to missing lawmakers’ homes with police.
Troopers went to multiple homes but left after finding no one home, said Sergeant at Arms Ted Blazel.
Wisconsin law does not allow police to arrest the lawmakers, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he hoped the show of authority would pressure them to return.