Republicans in Wisconsin's state senate have pushed through the most severe sssault on trade union rights for a generation, taking opponents by surprise and rushing a measure that sharply curtails collective bargaining for public sector workers in barely 30 minutes.
The procedural ruse by the Republicans hands victory to the new right-wing governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, in his three week stand-off with the state's Democratic senators. All 14 Democratic members of the chamber had fled to Illinois where they have been in virtual hiding in order to frustrate the governor's plans by preventing a vote on the proposed measure.
Under the state senate's rules, any bill that was budgetary in nature has to have a quorum of at least 20 senators. That meant the 19 Republican senators needed at least one Democrat present to move to a vote.
But in a shock move, the Republicans unhooked the overtly financial clauses from the bill, and pushed the rest through in record time, arguing that because it was no longer related to the budget it required no quorum.