All 14 Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate staged an exodus from their state Thursday to protest Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill, which strips the collective bargaining rights of public employees.
Part of the purpose was to ensure that Republicans fail to garner the requisite support for the proposal. There are 19 Republicans in the Senate, and passage would require 20 votes because the bill has a fiscal impact.
But one of the missing Democrats, Sen. Jon Erpenbach, told The Associated Press on Monday he’s worried that Republicans may attach the provision curtailing unions’ bargaining rights to an unrelated, non-budgetary bill on Tuesday.
His fears were expressed after GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Republicans may call a session Tuesday to consider other legislation.
Walker said Monday he won’t back down against critics, as thousands of demonstrators — including Wisconsin teachers and police — have in recent days gathered in the capital city of Madison to protest his budget plan.
The 14 Wisconsin Democrats are reportedly residing in Illinois, and have vowed not to return until the provision is removed from the budget.
Democrats need the votes of just three Republican senators to block the measure.
Analysts speculate that Walker’s proposal, which seeks to cut spending and trim the state’s deficit, is also a dagger aimed at the heart of the Democratic Party, which enjoys strong support from unions.
The outcome of the Wisconsin battle, which has garnered enormous national attention, could have implications on other states considering ways to balance their budgets.