Pressure Mounts on Absent Democrats

Pressure Mounts on Absent Democrats –

I thought the American Political System was based on participation?  Aren’t Democratic and Republican elected officials elected so that they will “be there” and represent their constituents?

If they don’t like the proposal, cannot they simply offer an amendment for everyone to be part of the union, everyone to earn union wages and benefits… and all move to Lake Wobegon …? ”


Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and Indiana ratcheted up pressure on their absent Democratic colleagues Thursday, aiming to force an end to standoffs over bills that would limit public workers’ bargaining rights.

In Wisconsin, GOP senators unanimously passed a resolution finding their 14 Democratic colleagues in contempt. They ordered the Democrats to return to the Senate in Madison by 4 p.m.—and threatened them with arrest if they failed to comply. Indiana House Republicans moved to start fining missing Democrats $250 a day, beginning Monday.

“This is not something I take lightly, and it’s not something I take any pleasure in doing,” said Wisconsin GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. “We simply cannot have democracy be held hostage because the minority wants to pout in Illinois.”

A new WSJ/NBC poll shows Americans do not approve of the government slashing Social Security and Medicaid to reduce the nation’s deficit.  ( I am waiting for an alternative….) They also have a bleak economic outlook for 2011, but feel President Obama is handling the economy well.

Wisconsin’s Democratic senators fled to Illinois two weeks ago to prevent the state Senate from voting on GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair bill.” The Senate needs at least one Democrat present to vote on the bill, which passed the Assembly last Friday. The bill would strip many collective-bargaining rights from most of Wisconsin’s 170,000 public employees.

The Senate resolution passed Thursday says the body can compel members’ attendance.It says senators who fail to show up will be held in contempt, and the sergeant-at-arms will be ordered to bring them to the Senate chambers “with or without force, and with or without the assistance of law enforcement, by warrant or other legal process.”

Wisconsin state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, one of the absent Democrats, said in a statement: “All 14 of us remain in Illinois, very strong in our convictions. Issuing arrest warrants at 4 p.m. isn’t going to solve the problem. This is a debate about protection of the middle class in Wisconsin; that is what the Republicans should be focusing on.” (what about all the other ‘classes’ in Wisconsin? Dems don’t care about them? )

By law, Wisconsin officers can’t cross state lines to retrieve the lawmakers. But the resolution could keep Democrats from going back to Wisconsin for brief trips. Prior to this, they could only be compelled to the Senate when it was in session.

The governor says his bill is necessary to eliminate a $137 million shortfall in the fiscal year ending June 30 and to begin addressing a $3.6 billion projected deficit for the following two fiscal years.

Democratic State Rep. Peter Barca, the Assembly minority leader, said he met with Gov. Walker to discuss ending the impasse. “This was the first time I thought the governor seemed open to ideas,” Mr. Barca said.

“Gov. Walker remains focused on balancing Wisconsin’s budget,” said his spokesman, Cullen Werwie, when asked about the meeting.

In Indiana, House Republicans also took tougher action against the 37 House Democrats who fled to Illinois on Feb. 22, halting action on a “right-to-work” bill that would have allowed private-sector workers to opt out of unions that represent them.

“We didn’t do this without a great deal of thought and it’s not being done flippantly,” Indiana Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said of the fines approved Thursday. He said it was one of the few means Republicans possess to compel the Democrats to return. House Republicans hold a 60-40 majority but lack a quorum to vote on bills.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker speaks about the state’s $3.6 billion dollar deficit in an address to lawmakers. Video courtesy of Fox News.

John Schorg, a spokesman for the House Democrats, called the fines “a hollow threat” that wouldn’t resolve the standoff.

Meanwhile, Ohio union officials said they would continue to oppose a bill passed by the Senate that would prohibit unions representing public-sector workers from negotiating health benefits and pensions.

The Ohio House, where Republicans have a 59-40 majority, could pass the bill as early as next week and send it to GOP Gov. John Kasich for his signature. Mr. Kasich says bargaining curbs would enable local governments to rein in labor costs and help the state bridge a pending $8 billion budget shortfall.


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