MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin state troopers were dispatched yesterday to the doorsteps of some of the 14 AWOL Democratic senators in hopes of finding at least one who would come back to allow a vote on a measure to curb the power of public-employee unions.
The stepped-up tactic ordered by the Republican head of the Senate came amid reports that some of the missing senators were returning home at night to pick up clothes, food and other necessities before rejoining their colleagues across the state line in Illinois.
Troopers went to several homes but left after finding no one home, said Sergeant at Arms Ted Blazel.
Wisconsin law does not allow police to arrest them, but Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he hoped the show of authority would pressure them to return.
Meanwhile, the State Assembly appeared close to voting on the bill after more than two days of filibustering.
Democrats agreed before dawn yesterday to limit the remaining number of amendments they offer and the time they devote to each one.
Nearly 12 hours after the agreement was announced, they were still debating the measure that Gov. Scott Walker insists is necessary to ease the state's budget woes and avoid mass layoffs.
Democrats urged Republicans to accept a compromise that would keep collective bargaining intact.
"We all know there is an impasse. There is one person who can end this impasse and that is Governor Walker," said Democratic Assembly Leader Peter Barca as debate reached its 53rd hour. "This state has never been more divided in the last 25 years . . . It's the governor's job to unify the state."
But Republicans quickly rejected every Democratic amendment in the marathon session, which unfolded as grand political theater as the night dragged on into the next day.
Around midnight, Rep. Dean Kaufert, a Republican from Neenah, accused Democrats of putting on a show for the protesters. Democrats leaped up and started shouting.
"I'm sorry if democracy is a little inconvenient, and you had to stay up two nights in a row," Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison said. "Is this inconvenient? . . . yeah, it's inconvenient! But we're going to be heard!"