MADISON, Wis. —Wisconsin state troopers were dispatched Thursday to the doorsteps of some of the 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 at least a few of the missing senators were returning home at night to pick up clothes, food and other necessities, before rejoining colleagues in Illinois.
Meanwhile, the state Assembly appeared close to voting on the bill after more than two days of filibustering.
Democrats agreed before dawn Thursday to limit the remaining number of amendments they offer and the time they devote to each one. More than 12 hours after the agreement was announced, they still were 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 Gov. Walker," said Democratic Assembly Leader Peter Barca as debate reached its 53rd hour.
But Republicans rejected every Democratic amendment in the marathon session, which unfolded as grand political theater. Exhausted lawmakers limped around the chamber, rubbing their eyes and yawning as Wednesday dragged into Thursday.
Around midnight, Rep. Dean Kaufert, a Republican, 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," said Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison, a Democrat. "Is this inconvenient? Hell, yeah, it's inconvenient! But we're going to be heard!"