They did it. They really did it.
Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate approved sweeping curbs on collective bargaining by public employees on Wednesday in an abrupt and accelerated vote that caught many Democrats by surprise.
By stripping out the sections of Walker's bill that involved appropriating funds, the Senate Republicans were able to work around the legislative roadblock their 14 Democratic colleagues threw up three weeks ago when they fled the state to deny the Republicans a quorum.
In an 18-to-1 vote, the Senate approved the curbs on collective bargaining by public employees.
I guess this is Gov. Scott Walker's idea of "compromising" with the 14 Democratic state Senators who fled the state to deny the necessary quorum on the original bill, the one with the financial provisions. And speaking of the governor, what did he have to say after this cute maneuver?
"The Senate Democrats have had three weeks to debate this bill and were offered repeated opportunities to come home, which they refused," Walker said in a statement.
Classy, governor. That's tea party grace of the first order.
Or maybe it's something else.
"The vote does nothing to create jobs, does nothing to strengthen our state, and shows finally and utterly that this was never about anything but raw political power," said Mike Tate, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
Yep, that's what I was thinking, too. And this particular power play was conducted over the direct objections of a majority of Wisconsinites.
The governor's approach appears not to be playing well with Wisconsin voters, who elected him with 52 percent of the vote last fall.
A Rasmussen poll last week found that 57 percent of likely voters in the state disapprove of the job Walker is doing, while 43 percent approve.
As some onlookers shouted "Shame, shame," the committee passed the streamlined bill over the protests of state House Minority Leader Peter Barca (D). "This is clearly a violation of the Open Meetings Law," he said of the meeting.
Protesters flooded the capitol after the vote to make their feelings about this circumvention of the democratic process known to their legislators, despite police trying to enforce the closure of the building. I have found no reports of violence on either side.
Below is a video showing the protesters chanting "Shame! Shame! Shame!" at the Republican Senators and talking about their resolve to continue the fight with protests and possibly even strikes. An interview with a woman protester was particularly interesting to me.
PROTESTER: This means, uh, if this bill passes, this means to me that my freedom is being taken away. The freedom for all the people, whether they work for unions, whether they're private sector workers, business people, this is just the beginning of corporate takeover of the United States, which means devastation to me.
INTERVIEWER: And what are you willing to do about it?
PROTESTER: I'm willing to put my life on the line for it, actually.
INTERVIEWER: Would you spend the night here?
PROTESTER: Yes, I will. I ran out of my house tonight, um. I didn't bring my ID, I didn't bring anything metal, I didn't bring money. Didn't even bring a hat and gloves. I just ran out when I saw the news flash without thinking, and I will stay here for as long as it takes.
And she's not alone, as you can see. More than ever before, I believe we are witnessing the resurgence of the labor movement in Madison, Wisconsin.
And it's about damn time.