In Madison, a Long Sleepover

by Robert Costa

The occupation of the Wisconsin state capitol continues, as does the two-week impasse over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill. Police were scheduled to remove protesters at 4 p.m. Sunday, but Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs decided to let the folks stay. No one was arrested and cleaning crews were forced to work around the lingering activists.

“I think this is the best way of dealing with this issue,” Tubbs explained to reporters. “There is no plan to become confrontational,” added Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We haven’t seen that in over 40 years.”

Walker, for his part, continues to not blink. He is pushing for the 14 Democratic state senators who remain on the lam in Illinois to return to Madison and vote by Tuesday in order to restructure the state’s bonds this fiscal year.

“I do believe that this is our moment in Wisconsin’s history,” Walker said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “It’s one of those where, for year after year after year, not just the last governor, but governors before, legislatures before, have kicked the can. They’ve taken one-time fixes to push the budget problems off into the future. We can’t do that. We’re broke. Like nearly every other state across the country, we’re broke. And it’s about time somebody stood up and told the truth in this state and said, ‘Here’s our problem. Here’s the solution,’ and acted on it.”

Walker plans to deliver his two-year budget tomorrow. If his budget-repair bill does not pass by the time he unveils it, he says that he will have to lay off 1,500 state workers. And if it never passes, he warns that 5,000 state workers could lose their jobs.

Still, Walker hinted on local television Sunday that he would avoid issuing “pink slips” for as long as possible, so the timetable remains relatively fluid. Democrats, however, show no sign of relenting. State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, the vocal leader of the escaped Democrats, reiterated Sunday that he and his colleagues will roost in northern Illinois until Walker gives in.

Meanwhile, celebrities such as Bradley Whitford of West Wing fame and Sixties icon Peter Yarrow from Peter, Paul & Mary came to Madison over the weekend to cheer on the protesters.

The Corner

The one and only.