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Absentee 'Wisconsin 14': Weren't they supposed to be back by now?

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Darren Hauck/Reuters

(Read caption) A State Assembly Democrat pumps his fist as supporters voice their opinion against the proposed bill by Republican Governor Scott Walker in Madison, Wisconsin, on Feb. 18. The proposal by Walker to curb the bargaining rights of public unions in order to make immediate budget savings has sparked outrage among union workers in the state.

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Where in the world are Wisconsin’s 14 rogue Democratic state senators? They’re not yet back at work at the Capitol in Madison, that’s for sure.

The "Wisconsin 14" have been on the lam since mid-February, blocking a vote on a budget bill that would strip most public employee unions of collective bargaining power, among other things. On Monday, their return seemed imminent, as several of them told reporters they thought they’d made their point and the end was near. But now the homecoming seems off, at least for the time being, and both sides are grumpily blaming the other for the breakdown.

What’s going on?

IN PICTURES: Wisconsin Capitol protests

The first point to be made is that the gap in trust between the two sides seems to be getting wider, not narrower. Quiet negotiations have been going on for some time, but that process broke apart completely Monday amid public bickering.

Monday’s timeline went like this: First, the Democrats’ leader, Sen. Mark Miller, sent GOP Gov. Scott Walker (R) a letter asking for a meeting. Then Governor Walker held a press conference at which he called the letter “ridiculous,” because his staff had already been meeting with several of the Democrats, as Senator Miller knew.

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