"The majority party is not allowing us to speak. We were told we will go nuclear and stop your ability to speak. If that happened, this would be a very disruptive room. We still have a lot to talk about in this very bad 144 page bill," said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison).
The debate continues as protestors, who have remained peaceful, outside the halls set up food stands, massage stations, and other creature comforts as they dig in.
Outside the capitol building, state troopers on the behest of Governor Walker, fanned out unsuccessfully to find at least one of the 14 missing Wisconsin Senate democrats who have been on the run for more than a week. Their absence has ground debate in the Wisconsin Senate to a halt, and made it impossible for the bill to be passed into law.
Troopers knocked on the doors of several lawmakers homes who have left the state, in a response to rumors that some of them were sneaking back across the border to pick up essentials. The gang of 14 said they would not return until Gov. Walker was willing to compromise on the collective bargaining proposals.
By compromise, Democrats mean strip it from the proposal. The Governor and Republican leadership contend if that's done the savings promised under the bill will vanish.
In an editorial entitled "Democracy Requires Participation" sent out late Thursday, Governor Walker complimented the Democratic Assembly lawmakers for at least debating the bill. He blasted the Senate lawmakers who fled the state and said, "I laid out to make the tough decisions needed to balance Wisconsin's budget."
Walker says the budget repair bill will allow the state to save $300 million this year and $1.44 billion in the next state budget. Democrats say the $3.6 billion deficit for the next budget which begins in July is in large measure a result of the "Great Recession" and such plans to restrict union bargaining power is unnecessary especially when they have already agreed to a pay cut.
Even if the Assembly gets through all of the amendments later this evening as expected, Assembly Democrats will have unlimited time to debate the actual bill. They have given no indication about how long they may debate that.
Passage of the bill in the Assembly would be a major victory for Republicans.