If there was any doubt about the anti-Democratic nature of the power grab that's going on in Wisconsin's Capitol building, it was laid to rest at 1:30 this morning, when Republicans scheduled a sudden, surprise vote on the historically divisive budget "repair" bill that has paralyzed state government here and packed the Capitol with protesters.
Watch as stunned Democrats, many of whom didn't realize what was happening fast enough to even cast a vote, shout "Shame!" as Republicans quickly adjourn and file out of the room on youtube.
As union members and supporters curled up in sleeping bags throughout the building, keeping a vigil on their elected representatives, the Republicans decided to bring up the vote -- cutting off the debate Assembly Democrats had kept alive by bringing up amendments for the last 60 hours. In a coordinated, surprise effort, Republicans rammed the bill through and then swiftly exited the room. Democrats were outraged.
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, immediately issued an ironic statement to his stunned Democratic colleagues: "I applaud the Democrats in the Assembly for earnestly debating this bill and urge their counterparts in the state Senate to return to work and do the same."
Meanwhile, the Republicans are scrambling to figure out how to make a similar end run around Senate Democrats who have delayed the bill by fleeing across the border to Illinois.
Yesterday, they sent state troopers to the homes of some of the missing Senators. Although it would be illegal to make an actual arrest, they hoped the uniformed officers could intimidate missing members into returning to the floor. The Governor has also worked to try to cut off direct-deposit of their paychecks to make them show up in person to collect them. As he explained to a prank caller from the Buffalo Beast their mere physical presence would trigger a quorum and allow the bill to pass the Senate as well.
As the protesters chant "This is what Democracy looks like," inside the Capitol building, Republican lawmakers and their leader, Scott Walker, are busy showing the world the exact opposite.
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Walker Tells Wisconsinites: Nobody Should Get Decent Benefits."
Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter.