A bit more on the fast-moving story in the Capitol Building in Madison, Wisconsin:
• Clearly Scott Walker and the Capitol police are trying to deprive protesters of having access to the building. Both Defending Wisconsin and a coalition of labor unions have filed lawsuits and other enforcement actions. Defending Wisconsin went to US District Court to try to pry open the Capitol. Labor is separately filing for a temporary restraining order (TRO).
• Meanwhile, Capitol Police staff are welding the windows shut. The lack of access to the Capitol means that food and supplies cannot be sent in to those who remain. People inside can leave the Capitol building but not return, at least for the moment. So people had been passing food and other supplies through the windows. So according to multiple witnesses, the windows are being welded shut to break down the supply line. UPDATE on this: I’m hearing that a window latch simply needed repair, and that a women’s room latch was always screwed shut. So this may not be quite so nefarious.
UPDATE to the UPDATE: Not being there right now, I don’t know what to believe. But you should check out Eric Ming’s pics. There does appear to be some bolting of windows, but it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Attorneys for labor unions are collecting affidavits on this, as well as the illegal denial of access into a public building, which under the Wisconsin state constitution is prohibited. The victory of last night is turning into a very bitter one indeed.
• These are the type of things going on out there:
A cancer patient needing a colostomy bag change — a medical emergency — was denied access to the Capitol building holding the patient’s medication due to a surprise lockdown that has lasted for hours past the scheduled and well-publicized 8:00 AM doors-open time Monday morning.
This patient was kept outside for 80 minutes in the cold while Walker flexed his political muscle and ordered DOA to close the Capitol during normally-open daytime business hours in order to gradually muffle the overwhelming dissent of his proposed legislation, which denies health care to many of our most vulnerable citizens, including many children, and strips unionized workers of collective bargaining rights for which people have fought and died for decades.
• Meanwhile, the Senate Republicans have stepped up their pressure to try to get the Democrats to return. Now the Senate Majority Leader is basically holding their staff hostage:
Madison — Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is clamping down on absent Democrats by seeking to take control of whether or not their staffers get paid.
Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) would have to review and approve timesheets for Democratic staffers, under a proposal put before a legislative committee Monday morning. Previously, Democratic lawmakers had signed off on their staff’s hours.
I’ve heard also that Fitzgerald may just fire the staffers after getting control of their pay.
Senate Republicans are also alarmed by their colleague Dale Schultz’ private indications that he would vote against the bill. Greg Sargent reports that Schultz could be drummed out of the GOP caucus as a result:
I’m told that some Republicans in the state senate were so angry at fellow Republican senator Dale Schultz for proposing a modest compromise with unions and senate Dems that they actually threatened at a private meeting to kick him out of the state senate GOP caucus.
This comes to me by way of a source close to the situation. While the idea didn’t go anywhere, and it didn’t appear to have the support of Wisconsin GOP leaders, it shows how high tensions are running among Wisconsin Republicans who are under heavy pressure from unions, Dems and mass demonstrations to break with Walker.
What’s going on in Wisconsin right now by the state Republicans is pretty unconscionable, when you add it all up. They’re using some serious strong-arm tactics to break the protesters and the Senate Dems.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama managed to make an oblique, measured reference to the situation in Wisconsin, once again:
“Those of you in this room are on the front lines of this budget challenge. As the Recovery Act funds that saw you through the last two years are phasing out – and it’s undeniable that the Recovery Act helped every single state represented in this room manage through the recession – you face some very tough choices on everything from schools to prisons to pensions. I also know many of you are making decisions regarding your public workforce, and I know how difficult that can be. Freezing the salaries of federal employees for two years isn’t something I wanted to do, but I did it because of the very tough fiscal situation we’re in. Everyone should be prepared to give up something in order to solve our budget challenges, and I think most public servants agree with that. In fact, many public employees have already agreed to cuts in several of your states.
“But let me also say this: it does no one any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon. We need to attract the best and the brightest to public service. These are times that demand it. We’re not going to attract the best teachers for our kids, for example, if they only make a fraction of what other professionals make. We’re not going to convince the bravest Americans to put their lives on the line as police officers or firefighters if we don’t properly reward that bravery. So yes, we need a conversation about pensions and Medicare and Medicaid and other promises we’ve made as a nation. But as we make decisions about our budgets going forward, I believe everyone should be at the table, and the concept of shared sacrifice should prevail. If all the pain is borne by one group – whether it’s workers, or seniors, or the poor – while the wealthiest among us keep getting tax cuts, we’re not doing the right thing. I think that’s something Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree on.”
I don’t know that I disagree with Rich Trumka that the national leaders should just stay out of this. It’s a grassroots fight. They’re much better than the national Dems at this point.
UPDATE: Defend Wisconsin reports that there are now metal detectors (that’s brand new) for access into the building, and bags are being searched. People are being let in via one entrance with three lines: one for constituents with appointments, one for protesters, and one for public hearings. Some Assembly Democrats are making appointments with people to help them obtain access.