MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin state troopers were dispatched Thursday to try to find at least one of the 14 Senate Democrats who have been on the run for eight days to delay a vote on Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to strip collective bargaining rights from nearly all public employees.
Meanwhile, the state Assembly appeared close to voting on the union rights bill after two days of filibustering the measure with a blizzard of amendments. Democrats reached an early morning deal after 43 hours of debate to limit the number of remaining amendments and time spent on each.
Troopers went to multiple homes Thursday morning hoping to find at least one of the 14 Democrats, some of whom were rumored to have made short trips home to pick up clothes and other necessities before again fleeing the state. But they came up empty handed, Senate Sergeant at Arms Ted Blazel said.
"Every night we hear about some that are coming back home," said Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who hoped sending the move to send the troopers would pressure Democrats to return.
But Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who was in the Chicago area, said all 14 senators remained outside of Wisconsin and would not return until Walker was willing to compromise.
"It's not so much the Democrats holding things up, it's really a matter of Gov. Walker holding things up," Erpenbach said.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie issued a statement praising the Assembly for nearing a vote and renewing his call for Senate Democrats to come back.
Thousands of people have protested the bill for nine straight days, with hundreds spending the night on the Capitol's hard marble floor as the debate was broadcast on monitors in the rotunda. Many still were sleeping when the deal to only debate 38 more amendments, for no more than 10 minutes each, was announced shortly after 6 a.m. The timing of the agreement means the vote could come as soon as noon Thursday.