UPDATE: Greg Sargent reports both Reuters and a member of the “Wisconsin 14″ are disputing a Wall Street Journal story Sunday (and a quote in a piece in the New York Times) that said the group of Democrats fighting Gov. Scott Walker’s union busting bill will return to the captiol.
From the Plumline:
Treat these reports with extreme caution. First of all, the key quote in the Times piece is inconclusive. What’s more, Dem state senator Chris Larson told me in an interview yesterday that Dems have not changed their bottom line for returning, that they think public opinion in Wisconsin has solidified on their side, and that “the wind is at our backs.” And other Dems have issued statements knocking down rumors of their imminent return.
* Reuters debunks Wall Street Journal claim: Dems also tell Reuters reports of their imminent return are very much exaggerated.
Sargent also cites a new poll from a free market think tank (seriously) that shows Walker’s numbers cratering, and two-thirds of Wisconsinites wanting him to compromise with Democrats, including 68 percent of independents. Will that shake loose at least three Republicans from his bill? Time will tell. Meanwhile, the recall march continues.
And this link (to a piece in Forbes) via Sargent is well worth reading today.
You began to sense it last week when MSNBC’s Ed Schultz began asking guests whether the “Wisconsin 14″ — the 14 Democratic state Senators who left the state rather than allow a bill stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights to pass — had already won a moral and political victory, even if they were to give up and return to Wisconsin. Now, it seems the end of the standoff may be near.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Playing a game of political chicken, Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin to stymie restrictions on public-employee unions said Sunday they planned to come back from exile soon, betting that even though their return will allow the bill to pass, the curbs are so unpopular they’ll taint the state’s Republican governor and legislators.
The Wisconsin standoff, which drew thousands of demonstrators to occupy the capitol in Madison for days at a time, has come to highlight efforts in other states to address budget problems in part by limiting the powers and benefits accorded public-sector unions.
Sen. Mark Miller said he and his fellow Democrats intend to let the full Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair” bill, which includes the proposed limits on public unions’ collective-bargaining rights. The bill, which had been blocked because the missing Democrats were needed for the Senate to have enough members present to vote on the bill, is expected to pass the Republican-controlled chamber.
He said he thinks recent polls showing voter discontent with Mr. Walker over limits on bargaining rights have been “disastrous” for the governor and Republicans and give Democrats more leverage to seek changes in a broader two-year budget bill Mr. Walker proposed Tuesday.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Sunday night that the “budget repair” bill can’t be amended at this point. But it’s possible that over the next few weeks adjustments could be made to Mr. Walker’s broader budget plan, he said. “This bill will pass. The collective-bargaining piece has to pass. If it doesn’t the governor’s budget doesn’t work,” he said.
Mr. Miller declined to say how soon the Democratic senators, who left for Illinois on Feb. 17, would return. He said the group needed to address several issues first—including the resolution Senate Republicans passed last week that holds the Democrats in contempt and orders police to detain them when they return to Wisconsin.
“We are now looking at returning to the state capitol and requiring the senators to take a vote and have them declare who they’re with—the workers or the governor,” Mr. Miller said. …
Meanwhile, recall efforts against several members of the Wisconsin Senate on both sides of the aisle continue, along with the ramp-up to an expected recall try against Walker, which could legally begin in November.
Whatever happens, the Wisconsn 14 have emerged as heroes of a growing, energized workers rights movement. Let’s see where this thing goes from here. The bad news, of course, is that Wisconsin public employees are about to lose most of their rights, and the unions there face an existential threat to their continued existence. In the short term, it looks like the bad guys are going to win. But longer term, in Wisconsin, but also in states like Ohio, Indiana and with any luck, Florida, the good guys are wide awake, and will go into 2012 much more energized than they were in 2010.