In video shot yesterday by a Rockford, Illinois, tea party activist, Sen. Jim Holperin said he’d fled Wisconsin because his job was “to delay a vote” and claimed, “I’m leaving right now to do my job in Wisconsin.” Watch on YouTube here and on BigGovernment.com here (h/t Riehl World View). Contrast Holperin’s evasiveness and defensiveness with yesterday’s comments by Gov. Scott Walker calling on all senators to fulfill their constitutional duty, as set out on HotAir.com here. (7:47 p.m. update: a newspaper article published in Holperin’s senate district makes clear that the second person in the video is Sen. Bob Jauch. See also here.) (2/19, 2:40 p.m. update: according to this Newsmax article by Hiram Reisner, the Rockford, Illinois, Tea Party coordinator who shot the video and questioned the senators on camera was David Hale — great work, David!) (2/21, 10:20 a.m. update: the 2/20 Capitol Times has an article by Sha2n Doherty providing further details on the video, entitled “Tea party activists trap state senator with recall effort and YouTube video,” here.) This post will be updated throughout the day as events warrent.
Update (7:04 a.m.): Humorously, but with deadly accuracy, TheBlogProf appraises the courage of the “Badger 14” by referencing the “killer bunny” scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (here).
Update (7:33 a.m.): The Wisconsin Rapids Tribune reports in today’s edition a lack of candor by Sen. Julie Lassa in an interview yesterday: “When asked Thursday afternoon whether she was in Madison, Wisconsin or when she planned to show up at the Capitol, she didn’t answer directly, simply saying she was standing with Wisconsin workers.” Here. A short version of the article which appeared yesterday has already attracted 67 comments, many negative (here). There are 80 comments on a similar article in yesterday’s Stevens Point Journal (here), and 63 comments on a similar article in yesterday’s Wausau Daily Herald (here).
Update (8:39 a.m.): She’s unwilling to fulfill her duty to attend the legislative session, but Sen. Lena Taylor is happy to spend time, while drawing a public salary, tweeting (here), and updating her Facebook account (here) (see also here and here). For example, last night at 9:52 p.m. she tweeted: “It Matters What We’re Doing, Not Where We Are.” Earlier, she was evasive about her whereabouts, tweeting: “I’m not in the senate chamber! I’m working for the people. Power to the PEOPLE.” Sen. Chris Larson was similarly evasive, tweeting: “For those looking for us, we are right here, standing with the people of Wisconsin.” (H/t, BizTimes.com.)
Update (8:48 a.m. : At least one constituent of Sen. Robert Wirch is unimpressed with his actions, commenting yesterday: “I live in Kenosha county and my State Senator, Bob Wirch (D), is abandoning his job by fleeing the state.” Here.
Update (8:58 a.m.): Last night Eau Claire’s WQOW reported on an interview with Sen. Kathleen Vinehout in which she admitted that she and the other “Badger 14” senators had made a conscious decision to flee the state as a tactic to “slow things down.” She made clear they “will not budge” until the Republicans recognize their nonattendance as a legitimate bargaining chip, enter into negotiations, and compromise on the pending legislative proposals — and that they will stall the legislative process “as long as it takes.” Audio of interview here. Clearly any effort to negotiate with these senators who have taken the legislative process hostage will set a dangerous precedent and make a mockery of the constitutional oath all Wisconsin officials take upon entering into an office. All available means of removing them from office should be pursued immediately.
Update (9:03 a.m.): An Arizona blogger and active Democrat has extended an invitation to the “Badger 14” senators to escape to Arizona and attend a March 26 chili cook-off if they are still on the lam at that juncture. He adds: “If you are still people without a home, or even a state, at the end of March, the Democrats of South Scottsdale and Tempe will welcome you with open arms and even feed you.” Also, he has assembled a nice collection of photos of the “Badger 14.” All here.
Update (9:19 a.m.): Last night a local Fox affilliate broadcast audio clips of an interview with Sen. Bob Jauch in which he characterized what he and the other “Badger 14” senators had done as “a little side trip” to “slow this process down,” and in which Douglas County Republican Party Chairman Daro Crandall expressed his opposition to the tactic. Here. Other reports on interviews with Jauch have been filed by KUWS radio (here) and WDIO television (here). Katrina Trinko of the “The Corner” blog on the National Review website points out the hypocrisy of Jauch’s current statements given his statements decrying political gamesmanship back in 2007. Here.
Update (9:26 a.m.): Yesterday political blogger “ThunderPig ” put together some entertaining “WANTED” posters, customized for each of the “Badger 14” senators. Here.
Update (9:32 a.m. ): Just posted on the American Spectator website is an excellent essay by Ross Kaminsky on the meaning of the “Badger 14” episode. Here. He notes the “intentional twisting of words and reality . . . made by Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, who said that the Democrats had left the State Senate because they were ‘trying to allow opportunity for democracy to work.'”
Update (9:44 a.m.): Yesterday’s Bayview Compass quoted Sen. Chris Larson, interviewed “by phone from somewhere in Illinois,” as follows: “We are stepping away right now so Walker has an opportunity to step up and hear the voices of teachers, students, and workers [who are protesting]. Until he’s willing to do that, we are not willing to come back.” Here.
Update (9:51 a.m.): In an interview with ABC, Sen. Jon Erpenbach admitted that he and the other senators absented themselves not just from the capitol, but from the state, in a conscious choice to evade their legal obligation under Wisconsin law to attend the legislative session: “The state police jurisdiction stops at the state border so that’s why we had to leave the state.” Here. Audio of a WSJ.com interview with Sen. Erpenbach also admitting this point is available online here.
Update (10:53 a.m.): According to an article posted a short time ago by the Duluth News Tribune, Sen. Bob Jauch claims that Gov. Walker is negotiating with him and the other senators who have taken the legislative process hostage, and he predicts that Gov. Walker will capitulate and give in to at least some of their demands by the weekend. Here.
Update (11:47 a.m.): According to the Arizona Daily Star, Dan Baltes, “[t]he Utah man leading the recall effort against Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik announced Thursday he’s also working on a recall campaign against Wisconsin Democratic legislators.” Here. Baltes is an internet radio talkshow host and exective director of Americans Against Immigration Amnesty.
Update (12:08 p.m.): In an open letter posted on the Chicago Boyz blog, one of the constituents of Sen. Jon Erpenbach notes Erpenbach’s fundamental betrayal of the democrat process and echoes a point made on this blog: it is important that Erpenbach and the other senators be removed from office at the first available opportunity regardless of whether they sooner or later abandon their current effort to hold the legislative process hostage. See here. He writes: “I am now essentially disenfranchised. My elected representative is not present at the capitol building to vote on proposed legislation. . . . You did it because you didn’t like the legislation. . . . I will do everything in my power from here on to help your primary opponents, and general election opponents. I will volunteer for your opponents and donate money to their campaigns. You cannot apologize to make it right. You cannot undo this. You have crossed the line.”
Update (1:35 p.m.): Video of today’s interview of Sen. Mark Miller, the Senate minority leader, on Good Morning America is available here. Like Sen. Jon Erpenbach (see above), Sen. Miller admitted that he and the other “Badger 14” senators fled the state in a conscious choice to evade their legal obligation under Wisconsin law to attend the legislative session: “We left the state so we were out of the reach of the Wisconsin State Patrol, which has the authority to be able to round us up and bring us back into the Legislature.” When asked what he would do about the $137 million budget shortfall this fiscal year, and the $3.6 billion shortfall over the next two years, and whether he had a plan to close the deficit as an alternative to the Governor’s plan, Sen. Miller was short on specifics, suggesting that everyone “sit down and negotiate.” Sen. Miller suggested that he and the other senators would not back down until the Governor stopped refusing to “treat people like human beings,” capitulated, and sat down and negotiated with the public employee unions.
Update (1:50 p.m.): Univ. of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse authored an important post this morning on the budget crisis, which has now attracted more than 200 comments. See here. She comes to the matter from an interesting perspective: she voted for Gov. Walker and she supports “many of the things the Republicans are trying to do, but this budget plan . . . will cost me more than $10,000 a year.” A main point in favor of the reforms, she opines, is that the current benefits for public employees in Wisconsin are extremely generous compared to those in many other states, and that if the reforms are implemented the reforms will still be quite generous, relatively speaking. (Related post on BigGovernment. com, here.)
Update (1:56 p.m.): New phrase: “legislative exile.” Late this morning Professor Althouse reported: “I spoke some people who work for a Democratic senator, and they didn’t know how long the legislative exile would persist. The idea is to slow things down, at least to express outrage about the way the Republicans rammed things down our throat.”‘” Here.
Update (2:11 p.m.) This afternoon Professor Althouse passed along a suggestion by one of her readers: “By Roberts rules couldn’t the President of the Senate . . . just gavel the session to order, take a voice vote, declare the measure passed and slam the gavel? With no Dem I the room to ask for a quorum call and no Aye and Nays there is nothing but the chairs opinion to pass this. Dirty pool, but as I remember my rules of order, completely within the rules of order. The reason for the quorum requirement is to insure for minority participation . . . When one group purposely decides not to take part, I have no real problem with using parliamentary process to get things done.” Here. Apparently, at least according to various commentators who seem well informed, this is not a viable option, although the commentators suggest other options that might be explored.
Hopefully more attention will be given the possibility of the Assembly impeaching the “Badger 14” for violating their oath of office (as suggested yesterday on this blog), followed by a trial in the Senate — a trial which will require only the regular quorum of 17 senators, not the quorum of 20 senators required on the currently pending fiscal proposal. Oddly, it seems, the 19 senators who have stayed on the job are not able to proceed on that proposal, but they are able to remove their self-outlawed colleagues if the Assembly impeaches them. Wouldn’t quickly bringing impeachment proceedings to a head force the senators to choose between returning to the capitol to face the impeachment charges (at which point they can be forced to attend the legislative session) or else remaining in “legislative exile” and offering no testimony in opposition to impeachment and removal?
Update (2:55 p.m.): WQOW last night quoted Sen. Tim Cullen admitting that he and the other senators left the state to evade their responsibility to attend the legislative session: “To avoid the state police rounding us up and bringing us to the capitol, we left the state,” he said. Here.
Update (3:09 p.m.): Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond of the Associated Press report this afternoon that the “Badger 14” have “threatened to stay in hiding for weeks, potentiallyparalyzing a state government they no longer control.” Here. In particular: “Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who was among those who fled, said Friday that the group was prepared to be away for weeks, although he would like the standoff to end as soon as possible. ‘That really, truly is up to the governor,’ he told The Associated Press in an interview Friday at a downtown Chicago hotel. “All 14 lawmakers planned to meet somewhere near Chicago to discuss their options, said Erpenbach, who said he had not spoken to any Republican lawmakers since leaving.”
Update (3:15 p.m.): The Washington Post reports that the police nearly apprehended one of the “Badger 14” senators this morning, who had returned home “to get some sleep.” Here. (Perhaps it was because, as a Milwaukee travel blog noted, the senators had arranged to stay in “a crappy hotel.” Here.) In a related post, to avoid similar situations in the future Jim Newell of Gawker discusses suggestions that the senators contact their spouses to arrange conjugal visits. Here. (7:13 p.m.: Eric Kleefeld of Talking Points Media has further coverage of the “measured risk” the fugitive senator took coming home for the night, here.)
Update (3:24 p.m.): The Wisconsin State Journal has posted video taken this morning of state law enforcement officials visiting the home of Sen. Mark Miller, the Senate Minority Leader; their attempt to locate him proved unsuccessful. Here.
Update (3:29 p.m.): The Appleton Fox affiliate, WLUK, published an article today quoting Lawrence University government professor Arnold Shober expressing the view — contrary to that taken on this blog — that the “Badger 14” senators face few if any consequences on account of having placed themselves in legislative exile. Here.
Update (7:24 p.m.): This afternoon Sen. Jon Erpenbach was interviewed from his place of exile, Chicago, on Fox’s Studio B With Shep Smith. Consistent with his previous statements, when asked whether it could be days, or even weeks, before the senators return, Erpenbach said it “is up to the Governor,” who needs to sit down and negotiate, rather than call for an immediate vote on the pending bill. Summary and video available here.
Update (7:42 p.m.): In lieu of placing photos on the sides of milk cartons, CityPages.com has created a webpage, under a “Weird Wisconsin” heading, with photographs of all of the “Badger 14” senators, here.
Update (7:52 p.m.). Sen. Jim Holperin is facing criticism in his senate district. The Republican Party of Lincoln County has put out a statement (here) calling on “Holperin to fulfill his obligations as an elected official and attend the current session.” And Kim Simac and other Tea Party activists plan to meet on February 20 to discuss a recall petition against Holperin to remove him from office. Here. The same article notes that Dan Hunt may launch an effort to recall Sen. Robert Wirch, even if Wirch returns from exile in the near future.
Update (9:07 p.m.). WisPolitics.com reports tonight (here) that Kim Simac and other Tea Party activists expected to file to recall Sen. Jim Holperin by close of business today (here), and Dan Hunt and others expect to file paperwork to recall Sen. Robert Wirch by February 21 (here).
Update (9:13 p.m.) AllahPundit on HotAir.com sets forth Wisconsin statutory provisons called to his attention by a reader which suggest that the “Badger 14” senators may have committed,or may eventually commit (if they remain at large) a Class I felony given the circumstances surrounding their failure to carry out their duty to participate in the legislative process. Here (h/t Instapundit).