This is a remarkable day in Wisconsin politics. In the midst of a debate in the Legislature over what steps are appropriate to help close a gaping budget deficit, 14 members of the 33-member Wisconsin Senate — all the Democrats — left the state in order to defeat the 60% quorum requirement for a vote on one of the main measures under consideration. See early news coverage here, here, and here.
Late in the day it was reported (e.g., here and here) that all 14 senators had left on a bus and were safely ensconced in the Best Western Clock Tower Resort in Rockford, Illinois (here), outside the reach of Wisconsin law enforcement officials who had been searching for them under legal provisions authorizing legislators to be forcibly brought to the Legislature while in session, if they are unwilling voluntarily to attend (see summary by Marquette law professor Rick Esenberg, here).
[Update: apparently at the resort the senators (at least the 11 men) are enjoying the services of Alex and other lovely staff members of the “Tilted Kilt,” a Hooters-style establishment with a Scottish theme. See here — and see this photo of Alex!:]
[Further update: according to a late evening report by the Los Angeles Times, the resort took on a “circus-like atmosphere” when the senators arrived, just as staff members “were prepping for the night’s main event, the Chocoholic Frolic” — but “the politicians never checked in and left around midafternoon,” so possibly they never made it to the “Tilted Kilt.” Further tidbit: “When a TV reporter asked the bartender if she had talked to any of the legislators, she told him to ask the leprechaun, and the reporter swiftly chased down the costumed character.” Also, one local resident opined: “I think they’re traitors.” (No disagreement here).]
In an interview with WisPolitics.com this afternoon (here), one of the 14, Sen. Jon Erpenbach of Middleton, explained that this mass departure from the state was a tactical move calculated to, in effect, hold the normal legislative process hostage — to slow down the legislative process and force compromises on pending matters in a way that would not be possible if the rules were followed. “The question is when are the Republicans going to sit down seriously with the other side on this issue and try to work something out,” Sen. Erpenbach said. “The plan is to try and slow this down because it’s an extreme piece of legislation that’s tearing this state apart,” he remarked in an interview with the Associated Press (here). [Update: the Daily Caller quotes even more explicit demands made by Sen. Mark Miller in a CNN interview, here.]
These senators — call them the “Badger 14,” in recognition of their outlaw status — apparently are confident that the remaining 19 senators will enter into negotiations with those who have taken the legislative process hostage. If they’re incorrect, given that the “Badger 14” have vacated their seats, the question now presented is how those seats are to be filled with new senators who are committed to carrying out the legislative process,win or lose, according to the rules. This blog is devoted to addressing the case for removing the “Badger 14” from office, and the mechanics for doing so in the near future (through the impeachment process and/or the recall process).
In alphabetical order, the “Badger 14” are:
1. Tim Carpenter, 3rd District (Milwaukee)
2. Spencer Coggs, 6th District (Milwaukee)
3. Timothy Cullen, 15th District (Janesville)
4. Jon Erpenbach, 27th District (Middleton)
5. David Hansen, 30th District (Green Bay)
6. Jim Holperin, 12th District (Conover)
7. Bob Jauch, 25th District (Poplar)
8. Chris Larson, 7th District (Milwaukee)
9. Julie Lassa, 24th District (Stevens Point)
10. Mark Miller, 16th District (Monona)
11. Fred Risser, 26th District (Madison)
12. Lena Taylor, 4th District (Milwaukee)
13. Kathleen Vinehout, 31st District (Alma)
14. Robert Wirch, 22nd District (Kenosha)