Let’s play hardball.

“The protesters have every right to have their voices heard, but I’m not going to be intimidated into thinking I should ignore the voices of the five-and-a-half million taxpayers,” said Republican Gov. Scott Walker…

With no end to the standoff in sight, Gov. Walker said that if the Democratic senators do not return, he’d consider cutting the funding that pays for their staff.

“If they’re not here, it begs the question whether or not they need to have staff,” he said. “They’re not performing their functions.”

Someone e-mailed me the Wisconsin statute governing “misconduct in public office” earlier this afternoon. Hmmmmm:

946.12 Misconduct in public office. Any public officer or public employee who does any of the following is guilty of a Class I felony:

946.12(1)
(1) Intentionally fails or refuses to perform a known mandatory, nondiscretionary, ministerial duty of the officer’s or employee’s office or employment within the time or in the manner required by law; or

946.12(3)
(3) Whether by act of commission or omission, in the officer’s or employee’s capacity as such officer or employee exercises a discretionary power in a manner inconsistent with the duties of the officer’s or employee’s office or employment or the rights of others and with intent to obtain a dishonest advantage for the officer or employee or another;

The “dishonest advantage” in the last part refers, I assume, to lawmakers using information they’ve gleaned from government briefings for, say, insider trading. Section (1) is more promising, but it would raise the issue of what qualifies as a “mandatory” duty of a state legislator and whether there’s any time required by law. If you skip a legislative session because you’re on the trail fundraising or, say, because you’re attending some function for one of your kids elsewhere in the state, technically you might be in violation yet no one would regard that as misconduct. The state AG, in prosecuting them, would have to articulate an “obstruction” argument and hope that the courts are amenable. And even then, putting them on trial would be dicey politically.

Speaking of hardball, here’s what (almost) happened tonight in the lower chamber:

In the Assembly, Republican leaders had called lawmakers to the floor at 5 p.m. to take up Walker’s bill to repeal union bargaining rights for public workers. But they quickly began business just before that hour, when Democrats were not yet on the floor.

Democrats charged into the chamber and shouted to stop the action as Republican staff urged leaders to “keep going, keep going.” Republicans took the voice vote, putting the bill in a stage that prevented it from being amended in that house. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) called the move an “illegal vote” and demanded that Republicans rescind it.

“Unbelievable!” Barca screamed. “Unprecedented! Un-American! Not in keeping with the values of the state! You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

Yes, it’s true, there really was a Wisconsin Democrat accusing Republicans of behaving in a shameful, unbelievable, unprecedented manner. The vote was later canceled, the GOP majority leader insisting that he thought Democrats had planned to walk out of this one too. Quote: “Democracy isn’t pretty all the time.”

Two minutes below from Walker talking about democracy tonight. He’s the new BMOC inside the GOP, as you might expect.

Update: The “what if conservatives did it?” line of attack can get old, but really — imagine the reaction if a tea party protest got so raucous that it forced a state legislature to shut down over security concerns. A surreal moment in modern U.S. political history:

Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said he decided to adjourn the Assembly this evening because Gov. Scott Walker called minutes before lawmakers took the floor to tell him to get his caucus members and staff out of the building because their safety could no longer be assured

The GOP Assembly leadership — Speaker Fitzgerald, Majority Leader Scott Suder and JFC Co-chair Robin Vos — have issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to pass the bill next week.

“The leadership of the Assembly has decided to recess due to security concerns. We will reconvene on Tuesday morning and are confident that the security concerns will no longer exist. We are committed as ever to pass Governor Walker’s Budget Repair Bill and will do so next week,” the statement reads. “Millions of taxpayers spoke in November and we will not let them down. We have a fiscal crisis that can’t be ignored. We have the votes to pass the bill; it is only a matter of time.”

Meanwhile, recall petitions are being launched against some of the fugitive Democrats. Thanks to Steve E. for both links.