Two Wisconsin senators say Democrats are standing firm with support from U.S. congressmen

Jeff Winkler | Contributor

Although they’ve stayed out of Wisconsin since last Thursday, a couple of the Democratic state senators stowed away in Illinois indicated that they will continue to resist Gov. Scott Walker’s attempts to convene a quorum.

“The ball is now currently in the governor’s court,” said Sen. Mark Miller. The Democratic leader spoke with reporters on Wednesday, along with fellow Wisconsin Sen. Chris Larson.

Fourteen Democratic state senators absconded to Illinois to prevent a vote on a budget bill that includes new restrictions on bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s public-sector employees. The press conference, hosted by Progressive Change Campaign Committee, was a response to Walker’s “fireside chat” on Tuesday, in which he warned the public of “dire consequences” if the Democrats continued their fight against the budget bill.

The runaway senators who spoke with reporters, however, sharply criticized Walker for being unwilling to compromise or debate the proposed changes to the collective bargaining rules.

“The workers have given [Walker] what he wants. We have offered to come back to deal with the fiscal issues,” said Miller. “The only thing that’s standing  in the way is his refusing to accept a compromise. And a compromise is what a democracy is all about.”

With Wisconsin facing a $3.6 billion deficit, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are upping the ante in their budget fight. Walker said the state may have to begin laying off employees. Assembly Democrats, meanwhile, have begun bogging down the bill with amendments.

As for the missing state senators, they’ve expressed the same sort of winning confidence as Walker, indicating that they will remain absent for as long as necessary to fight this battle. They’re also bringing in heavier artillery.

The U.S. House Progressive Caucus co-chairman, Rep. Keith Ellison, also spoke with reporters during the call. Considering Wisconsin’s history of labor activism, the Minnesota representative said that Walker — whom he accused of “taking on the posture of a dictator because he says he won’t negotiate”—   picked the wrong people to scuffle with.

“This is a great place to have a battle,” he said, referring to Wisconsin, not Illinois. “We absolutely must win. There is no other option.”

The CPC co-chairman, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, joined in the conference call and focused on the state of Wisconsin’s gridlock. He offered full support for the state senators who are determined to hold their ground.

“Obviously, it’s a little bit tough being on the other side of the border but we’re stand firm,” said Larson, who thanked the PCCC as well as writers from liberal publications such as AlterNet and OpEdNews.com for their support and solidarity.

Alex Brown contributed to this report

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