Last night Wisconsin Republicans plunged right through that line!

Fourteen self-exiled Democratic representatives, riots in the streets (and also inside Wisconsin’s beautiful capitol), and threats of recall did not stop Badger State solons from passing a historic bill that ends collective bargaining by public unions in that state. The bill also takes the state out of the business of collecting dues for the union. Now, you decide if you want to belong to a union and, if so, write the check yourself. This is how National Review’s Robert Costa sums up last night’s surprise development:  

 Until Wednesday, the Democrats’ absence had denied Republicans a quorum on Walker’s plan, which also includes reforms of pension and health-care contributions for state workers. But after negotiations between senate leaders stalled, Walker, according to sources, urged senate Republicans to move forward Wednesday during a closed-door meeting. With little debate, Republicans agreed to repackage the bill into a non-appropriation measure, setting off a series of legislative procedures that pushed the revamped bill to the floor within hours.

State senator Alberta Darling, the Republican chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, tells National Review Online that she and her colleagues held their ground even as the roars under the rotunda grew louder by the hour. “Governor Walker told us that he had tried to negotiate, but Democrats refused. We had to get the job done.” By moving the collective-bargaining section of his budget bill “off of the table,” Darling says, Walker hoped to bring the Democrats home, as soon as possible, to address other pressing fiscal matters.

With his colleagues’ backing, senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican, brought the bill into conference committee, where legislators pruned the plan’s fiscal elements during the late afternoon. Republicans kept the collective-bargaining provision as the bill’s keystone, but gutted language related to debt refinancing, for instance, therefore bypassing the state constitution’s quorum requirements for fiscal legislation.

In a bit of political theater, Rep. Peter Barca, the Democratic leader in the assembly, shouted at Fitzgerald as he initiated the mark-up, calling it a violation of the state’s open-meetings law. But the bill, to Barca’s vocal dismay, was stamped with the committee’s approval and hustled to the chamber. What remained, though similar to Walker’s original outline, required a simple majority. It easily passed at around 6 p.m., with one only one member of the 19-strong GOP caucus, moderate senator Dale Schultz, objecting.

Union money will fuel the recall effort in Wisconsin, and if you think things have already been nasty in Wisconsin, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Noemie Emery wrote a wonderful column for the Examiner yesterday. It explains what the public should know about the contemporary union-namely that today’s unions aren’t the unions of lore, battling for the little guy.

If you see unions thattaway, you’re still living in 1911:

In the battle going on now in Wisconsin and elsewhere, the liberals and the conservatives are operating not only on opposite principles, but in two different times. The Democrats seem caught in 1911, in an age of sweat shops, exploitation, and of child labor, when endangered and underpaid workers valiantly struggled to wrest living wages out of “The Man.”

One would never know from their speech this is 2011, that these union workers are well-off clerks and teachers; that The Man has been replaced by a less-well-off public, and that their early and well-funded retirements are driving state governments into a ditch.