State Rep. Pat Bauer, the leader of the AWOL Indiana House Democrats still camped out in Urbana, IL and effectively shutting down legislative process back home, says it’s no surprise to him that Wisconsin has dominated the headlines while Indiana’s fight has slipped off the front page.
“Their governor isn’t as clever as our governor,” Bauer told TPM in a telephone interview Friday. Bauer said Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) can “shake and bake,” offering up a legislative priority list that Bauer said was a devastating for the middle class “with a smile.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), on the other hand, is fighting his state’s Democrats “with a scowl.”
Daniels “doesn’t have the attraction of the demon that his pupil has over there [in Wisconsin],” Bauer said. “The governor or Wisconsin says that the Governor of Indiana is his mentor. So obviously Gov. Daniels is smarter and more schooled in how to be a destroyer of the middle class.”
Bauer along with most of the 40 members of the state House Democratic caucus have been on the lam since Feb. 22, when they split to shut down a bill that would have changed Indiana into a right-to-work state, weakening private employee unions there. Under pressure from Daniels, the Republicans dropped that bill after the Democrats left. But Democrats say union busting is still on the agenda, and they say that other bills on the table are worth shutting the government down for.
“Our fight is broader,” Bauer said. “In Wisconsin they’re after public employees. here they’re after public employees private employees teachers, and all of public education. So it’s a little broader, harder, meaner.”
Republicans and Daniels have been mostly gracious toward their AWOL colleagues, who can prevent any legislation — including Daniels’ controversial education reforms — from moving forward as long as they stay away. There are signs the situation is deteriorating however, with Republicans docking the Democrats’ legislative pay and fining them $250 for each day they’re gone.
Bauer and the Democrats show no sign of breaking, however (neither for that matter do the Republicans, who have promised to keep the legislature open for as long as it takes to get the Daniels agenda through).
A source told TPM to expect the Democrats to stay in Illinois for at least the next week. Bauer wouldn’t confirm that completely, but he made it clear that a homecoming isn’t imminent.
“We’re day by day, but I think it we’ll be into many days next week. It looks that way,” he said. “We”ll continue to reach out to the majority and see if they can take some of the poison out of the air.”