What Happens Next in Wisconsin?S

Wisconsin's 14 Democratic senators appear to be returning home from Illinois, where they've spent the last three weeks in exile to deny Gov. Scott Walker a vote on his union-busting "budget repair bill" — which passed last night using non-budget rules and under questionable legality.

State Sen. Jim Holperin drove back to his Wisconsin home this morning and "said he expected other Dems to follow suit after the Assembly votes later today." Some Democratic senators are holding out until that Assembly vote because they don't think Walker actually wants it passed through both chambers, and last night's Senate vote was just another ruse to get them back. The bill is pretty inflammatory, after all! But the Assembly will be voting shortly.

Here's some other Wisconsin news:

  • Democrat Peter Barca, the Assembly minority leader, has filed a complaint with the state attorney general over whether the Republicans' lightning-speed vote on an altered bill that no one had seen violated the legislature's open meetings laws.
  • Hundreds, perhaps even a thousand, of Madison's middle and high school students are walking out to join the protests around the Capitol.
  • There was talk about a general strike last night, and some lingering discussions still today, but that doesn't seem possible. A statewide general strike would be extremely difficult. They're illegal, basically, unless they arise organically and in crippling numbers from a broad swath of the working population.
  • Union leaders and liberal groups raised tons of cash overnight and should be well prepared to finance their recall campaigns of eight Republican state senators this year. Gov. Walker becomes eligible for recall early next year.
  • Washington lobbyists are throwing a big money party for Wisconsin's Republican senators, which may have been the final push they needed to squeeze this bill through.

The Democratic base hasn't been so fired up over anything since the 2008 election — and this is over an actual ground-level workers' rights issue, not a vague marketing campaign peppered with inspirational slogans. We'll see if this energy (and now, rage) can be harnessed into a potent, well organized force across the country. Although organizers should take at least a week off to catch up on all the Charlie Sheen crap they missed. It has grave national security implications.

[Image via AP]