Wisconsin Senate approves use of force to arrest absent Democrats

By David Edwards
Thursday, March 3, 2011 15:31 EDT
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The Wisconsin Senate passed a resolution Thursday allowing for the arrest of 14 Democratic senators that left the state to prevent Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s union-busting bill to pass.

Republican senators approved the measure by a 19-0 vote.

The Democrats must return to the chamber by 4 pm Central Time or Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) will declare them in contempt of the Senate, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

Under the new resolution, Fitzgerald could order Senate Sergeant at Arms Ted Blazel to “take any and all necessary steps, with or without force, and with or without the assistance of law enforcement officers, by warrant or other legal process, as he may deem necessary in order to bring that senator to the Senate chambers so that the Senate may convene with a quorum of no less than 20 senators.”

The measure said that Democrats were violating a Senate rule by not taking a leave of absence before being gone for more than one day.

“We simply cannot have democracy be held hostage because the minority wants to prove a point,” Fitzgerald told the Journal Sentinel.

“This is not about a budget-repair bill or about politics,” he said. “This is much bigger than that and the minority party has forced our hand… They’re insulting the very fabric of our representative democracy.”

Sen. Chris Larson told the paper that Republicans in the Senate were overreaching.

“They’re just going around the bend on this stuff,” he said. “I just think it makes them look like bullies, look more divisive, than they have been already.”

Larson indicated the Democrats would “most likely” return, but “not today.”

If passed, Walker’s bill would require public workers to pay more for benefits. It would also strip them of some collective bargaining rights.

Photo: Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (AFP)

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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