Report: Wisconsin's Democratic senators located at hotel in Illinois; Update: We're not coming back until GOP caves on bargaining rights, says Dem

The Party of Ideas™:

Wisconsin state Democrats who refused to show up for a vote on Governor Walker’s budget repair bill have been located.

The lawmakers are in Rockford, Illinois at the Best Western Clock Tower Resort.

Law enforcement officials have been looking for at least one Democratic senator to bring in for a quorum required for a fiscal measure, but Democratic Senator Jon Erpenbach confirmed to Newsradio 620 WTMJ that he and all of his Democratic colleagues boarded a bus and left the state…

According to the Twitter account of Democrat State Senator Chris Larson from Bay View, “For those looking for us, we are right here, standing with the people of Wisconsin.”

Paul Ryan said this morning that Madison is starting to look like Cairo, but as Larry Kudlow notes, at least the demonstrators in Tahrir Square were pro-democracy. These morons were actually phoning the media from their formerly undisclosed location to insist that they “were left with no choice” but to skip town, as staying would have meant … losing on a fair-and-square vote. I confess, I’m mystified by how this tactic is supposedly strengthening their hand. The idea, presumably, is to give the protesters time to pressure the Republican majority, but it’s unthinkable that the GOP would cave now. The Democrats look too petty and gutless to be allowed to win and there are too many people around the country watching for this to end in a humiliating Republican crumble. This is, I take it, just kabuki by the Democrats aimed at showing the left how committed they are to unions before they eventually slink back into town and take their medicine during the vote.

Governor Scott Walker issued a statement a little while ago telling them to get back to work and I hear that he’ll be holding a presser shortly, which is the smart play given the opportunity to leverage the Democrats’ petulance in public opinion. In the meantime, are there any end-arounds available here to force the vote in their absence? Ace suggested looking into state rules about declaring a seat effectively vacated, but I assume the absence would have to be much longer than this. A clever reader e-mailed to suggest that one of the Republicans in the senate could switch parties, which would provide the one Democrat needed to form a quorum. Another possibility if this really escalates is having the GOP minority in some other state legislature walk out in protest of the Wisconsin Democrats’ stunt, although that’d be politically risky insofar as it might alienate voters at home. All ideas welcome!

Update: Our Greenroom contributor, MadisonConservative, comments below that Wisconsin Republicans aren’t known for having spines of steel. There’s at least a chance that they’ll cave here. Duly noted, but the eyes of the conservative world are now upon them. They’ll face left-wing fury if they stand firm and right-wing fury if they cave. Best to at least retain the support of their own side by staying put.

Update: One of the Democrats tells WaPo’s Greg Sargent that they’ll stay away for as long as it takes. All in:

“Each of us is in a secure location,” he told me, confirming that they were not all together but were monitoring events on the Web and on Twitter. Larson refused to say whether he and his fellow Dems had left the state, as some have speculated.

“We’re going to be staying away until we hear that they are taking the right to organize seriously,” Larson continued, referring to Republicans. “They’re going after 50 years of history in one week. Until they take that off the table, it’s a non-starter.”

Meanwhile, reader Ben D. e-mails with a correction and to propose a nuclear option for Walker:

There are 33 legislators and 20 are needed for a quorum so switching parties wouldn’t do it. 17 Repubs around I think if my memory is correct.

Anyhow, Walker has said he’s doing this to avoid laying off 8000 people. Start the process of laying off 8000 people and begin notifying agencies to pick the people losing their job if the Dem’s don’t show up and vote for this solution. Protesters would howl but Walker has a long history of standing firm in the face of the squeaky wheels at protests. I personally think it’d provide some pressure for them to show up.

We need to fix our budget hole by July so it’s the 8000 or the vote, tell Dems to pick.

That’d be extremely risky insofar as it’d make martyrs of the people dumped to force the Dems’ return. He’d have to water it down somehow.

Update: Piggish liberal hero/former congressman David Obey salutes the Age of Civility:

“All I know is that last week, when people were asking where Mubarak was — whether he had gone to Sharm el-Sheikh or Paris — I was saying he was ensconced in the governor’s mansion in Madison,” Obey said in a telephone interview with TPM.

“I think what Gov. Walker is trying to do amounts to political thuggery,” Obey continued. “It is one thing to say that these are tough times — everybody’s got to cut back and public employees are going to have to take cuts like the rest of us … but he’s using it as an excuse to gut the ability of workers to organize and bargain collectively. In my view that’s outrageous — and what is especially outrageous is his demand that the legislature pass this in a week’s time.”