AWOL over? Wisconsin Dems reportedly ask to meet with Gov. Walker

The 14 Democratic state senators who fled Wisconsin to prevent a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget-repair bill are requesting to meet with the governor, MSNBC reports.

The shift in strategy comes amid conflicting accounts of the Democrats' plans. Sen. Chris Larson released a statement Monday morning denying a Wall Street Journal report that the group will return to the capitol soon. The comments "are taken out of context in the Wall Street Journal article just released," he said. "Dems will return when collective bargaining is off the table."

Returning to the state would allow the Republican-controlled chamber to pass the bill, despite tens of thousands of union protesters who have shown up to protest the restriction of public-employee benefits.

"I think we have to realize that there's only so much we can do as a group to make a stand," state Sen. Bob Jauch told WSJ. Jauch is one of several Democrats to have met with Walker to discuss budget negotiations.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said that though the bill will pass without amendment-including a provision that would strip state workers' collective-bargaining rights-there remains a possibility that Democrats will be able to strike a deal on Walker's broader budget plan. Democratic Sen. Mark Miller said the ongoing kerfuffle has been "disastrous" for the GOP image, which he expects will help his Party gain leverage both in Wisconsin and in several other states where union battles are brewing.

The possible return of the runaway senators comes after a string of escalating efforts from both sides. Dems are actively seeking a recall of GOP senators to overtake the chamber majority, while Republicans last week ordered the missing Democrats be taken into custody. Miller said their outstanding warrant will need to be resolved before they return to the state.

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