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Wisconsin Democratic Senators Hang Tough: "Until We Throw This Bill Out, We Can't Come Back:"

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales interview Democratic State Senator Chris Larson, who pledges to stay in Illinois until Walker's union-busting bill is killed.
 
 
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Wisconsin senate Democrats have stalled the anti-union bill by fleeing the state, thereby denying Republicans quorum for a vote. On Thursday, Wisconsin police were deployed to retrieve the absent Senate Democrats at their homes without success. We speak to Democratic State Senator Chris Larson, who has fled to Illinois.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, this is Democracy Now!, and we’re broadcasting from the State Capitol in Wisconsin. Juan Gonzalez is in New York. And on the line with us is a man who would usually be right here in this building. He is Wisconsin State Senator Chris Larson. But he’s not; he’s in Illinois, along with the 13 other Democrats who make up the State Senate, the Democratic senators in the Wisconsin State Senate.

Senator Larson, explain why you’re still in Illinois. And your reaction to this surprise overnight vote that was taken in the Assembly in favor of Governor Walker’s budget bill?

SEN. CHRIS LARSON: Well, Amy, thank you very much for having me on.

The main reason—those things kind of join together. The reason why we’re still here in Illinois is because of what happened early this morning, which is, this was—this bill, this backward budget bill that serves as a Trojan horse to destroy workers’ rights, to cripple Medicaid, Medicare and BadgerCare, as well as create political appointments and do no-bid contracting, because that was rammed through, with very little response—

AMY GOODMAN: I think we just lost the state senator, Chris Larson. So we’re going to turn right away now to our next guest [ ...]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go back right now to the Wisconsin state senator, Chris Larson. I think we are going to try to keep him on the line. He is in Illinois, not here in the Capitol, where he usually would be.

State Senator Larson, why don’t you continue with what you were saying about what you are demanding happen and your reaction to the vote taking place in the Assembly, why you were saying that that’s precisely why you’re not coming back with the other 13 Democrats to the State Senate?

SEN. CHRIS LARSON: Right, thank you. Yeah, this bill is something that was put together not by lawmakers in Wisconsin, but by corporate influencers who wanted to do a fast push to take away a lot of power in Wisconsin and give it to a governor who is answering calls for billionaires instead of the regular people and hearing the calls of tens of thousands of people who have been speaking out at the Capitol, you know, out in the Rotunda, out on the streets, as well as over a hundred hours of public testimony about how this bill will affect their lives.

It was introduced under the guise of a budget repair bill, but there’s parts of it that actually increase the deficit and will cost us federal funds. It was pushed by Club for Growth, with ads, well before any lawmaker, anybody in the public, had ever even seen it. So this bill does a lot to reverse the Wisconsin tradition of having workers’ rights, of the things that we have founded here, and it tries to set us back.

So that’s why we’re standing where we are. When we saw how fast this was moving and how it was being pushed as if a foregone conclusion, we had to step away, as it’s been put, as a filibuster with feet, in order to slow this process down and grind it to a halt. And in that time, in this last eight days, the public has had an opportunity to read it and see what’s actually in this bill. And I know I mentioned some of those things: the no-bid contracts, the giveaway of Medicaid, Medicare and SeniorCare, and obviously the loss of worker rights that have been fought and died for for the last 50 years. So this is really probably the worst bill to come in Wisconsin, based off the public testimony, based off of the influence that it’s had behind it, and it’s got to be stopped. And that’s why we stand where we are.

 
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