After weeks of Wisconsin Senate Democrats hiding out of state, Wisconsin Republican Senators acted late Wednesday without them. They passed the Governor Scott Walker endorsed measure,18-1 to strip collective bargaining rights from public sector employees. As they voted, people in the gallery shouted, “cowards!”
Reaction to the vote from labor and their supporters has been extreme in tone. Twitter is on fire with threats of a “general strike” and the threat to shut the city down with a human wall of people.
Unhinged lefty threat (h/t Erick Brockway):
This evening, protesters charged the capitol building and for a time overwhelmed capitol police, who seemed not so vigorous in their attempts to protect the capitol (h/t laborUnionReport) :
You probably noticed in the video that many of the protesters were young. I would venture a guess that the dorms at the University of Wisconsin were thinly populated this evening.
Democrat Senators expressed outrage over the vote, claiming the bill was rammed down their throats. If they had been in town instead of in hiding, they could have voted themselves.
State Senate Democratic Minority Leader Mark Miller issued a statement saying, “Tomorrow we will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government.”
Miller is apparently referring to the effort to recall Wisconsin Republicans including Governor Walker. It sounds like this is headed to a dramatic showdown.
The Governor appears to have the will and the courage to make a stand similar to the one made by President Reagan 30 years ago in the air traffic controller strike. He will need all the courage he can muster. If Walker prevails in the same way Reagan did, a new Republican star will emerge on the national scene.
What began as budget battle over a 3.6 billion dollar state deficit has exploded into something much larger than just one state trying to rein in public employee benefits. States all over the country are facing the same budget issues and may well take the Walker approach, depending on the actual outcome. This is a “line in the sand” moment.
UPDATE: WI State Senator Leah Vukmir (R) appeared on the Bill Bennett radio show early this morning. She said that it was amazing how fast the protesters descended on the Capitol building. She claimed that Democrat legislators opened windows to allow the protesters to enter the building without going through metal detectors. She made an appeal for contributions to offset what she said was big money flowing into the state to support the unions.
The Senator also appealed to the “silent majority” in Wisconsin to stand up for the the Republican Senators who she said were courageous in the face of the threat of recall elections. A recall election requires organizers to collect signatures equalling 25% of the 2010 vote total in the district of the legislator being recalled. Vukmir said it would be wrong to recall Republicans who were doing their job while the Democrats were in hiding, refusing to do their job.