One of the reasons Wisconsin Republican senators voted to place warrants on what are now called the fugitive Democratic senators is that at least some of those Democrats -- the same ones who vowed to stay out of state until they prevail in the controversy over Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal -- have in fact been returning to Wisconsin for personal visits.
"We know that certain senators have been coming back on the weekends and spending time with their families or coming back at night," Republican Sen. Randy Hopper told me Thursday night. In an interview with Fox News' Greta van Susteren, Majority Leader Sen. Scott Fitzgerald said much the same thing. "There's no doubt that the Democratic senators have been sneaking back and forth," Fitzgerald told Fox, "and some being as bold as to stay overnight in their own homes."
After Thursday's action in the Senate, coming back to Wisconsin will be considerably riskier for the 14 Democratic fugitives. "They will now have warrants on them that if they come back into the state at all, law enforcement will have the authority to detain them," says Hopper. "Before, law enforcement could just say, 'You need to get back to the Capitol.' If the Democrats say, 'We're going to stay away until we get what they want,' then this will tell them, you better stay away." Hopper says state police will "not be actively searching" for the fugitive Democrats but will have the authority to detain them if they are spotted in Wisconsin.
Why take such a move? The Democratic escape from Wisconsin is now entering its third week, and the Republican majority leadership came to believe that the effects of the standoff have reached beyond the immediate controversy over the governor's proposal. "This isn't about any bills," says Hopper. "It's about a minority being able to hold the government hostage if they don't like the way things are going. This is a serious threat to the Constitution, because if a minority can do that, we don't have a representative government."