UPDATE: John Amato:
Update: 4:30 p.m.: The Senate has passed the bill by a vote of 18 to 1, with Sen. Dale Schultz casting the lone "No" vote.
This just rolled in:
In a surprise move late Wednesday, Senate Republicans voted to move forward with the governor's controversial budget repair bill, sending the measure into a conference committee scheduled for later in the day.
Republican leaders would only say the Senate bill differed from the Assembly bill and indicated it was possible lawmakers could strip fiscal elements from the proposal and pass only the measures dealing with collective bargaining.
Such a move would allow Republicans to pass the governor's bill without the 20 Senate members needed to vote on fiscal matters. Currently 14 Democratic senators remain in Illinois, hiding out in an effort to deny the quorum and stall the vote.
If the Republicans move forward with their plans, it would be a major reversal for Gov. Scott Walker and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau. Both have contended that the bill is fiscal in nature and thus the collective bargaining could not be stripped from the measure.
Democratic Senators on Wednesday immediately criticized the move, saying it proves Republican attempts to end collective bargaining for public employees are not about balancing the budget.
"They have been saying all along that this is a fiscal item, we've been saying it is not," said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, from Illinois. "They have been lying. Their goal is to bust up the unions."
Actually, Dems are furious.
Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, called the maneuver undemocratic and "almost barbaric."
"There's going to be a public hanging of public employee unions at the Capitol tomorrow if it comes out as I expect," he said, referring to the provisions meant to strip most collective bargaining rights from public employee unions.