Seth Perlman  /  AP
A pro-union demonstrator shows a sign to passing drivers outside the Comfort Suites in Urbana, Ill., on Thursday. About 30 Democratic members of the Indiana House of Representatives are staying at the hotel after fleeing Indianapolis this week to avoid voting on labor- and education-related legislation they oppose.
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updated 2/24/2011 4:43:44 PM ET 2011-02-24T21:43:44

Indiana House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer said Thursday he's not sure whether boycotting

Democrats will return to the Statehouse on Monday because so far "nothing's changed" as House Republicans refuse to negotiate or drop contentious labor and education bills from their agenda.

Most Democrats have fled to Illinois in an effort to derail legislation they consider an assault on the working class. Republicans who control the House adjourned until Monday after Democrats said they won't be back this week.

Story: Making the puzzle fit in GOP/unions standoff
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Bauer, D-South Bend, said Democrats won't return from Urbana, Ill., where they fled Tuesday, until House Republicans are willing to negotiate their agenda. He said he would like to meet with Wisconsin Senate Democrats who also have fled to Illinois to block GOP-backed legislation that would strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights.

Bauer said such a meeting would be like a pair of crime victims meeting to talk about their attacker.

Vote: Where do you stand on Wis. impasse?

The boycott by Indiana House Democrats complicates the session's top priority — the budget. Republicans have said they won't be bullied into dropping their agenda, and plan to extend legislative deadlines to save important bills once Democrats return.

First Thoughts: Deja Vu?

Indiana Republicans are urging individual House Democrats to break ranks with their caucus and return to the Statehouse to work. But Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said Democrats remain resolute and have no immediate plan to come back. Pelath was asked Thursday what it would take to get Democrats back to the Statehouse on Monday.

"That's a caucus decision," he said. 'It's going to be a group determination."

Pelath came back from Illinois to trade positions with another Democrat who had been at the Statehouse for procedural reasons. He said the caucus would determine as a group whether members would stay in Illinois over the weekend or whether they would go home to their districts.

Story: Fleeing Wis. Dems face recall threat, pay issue

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he plans to extend legislative deadlines for bills that would otherwise die Thursday. Those bills include a contentious private school voucher bill and the new state budget.

'Abandon this Illinois vacation'
Republicans hold 60 seats in the 100-member House, where 67 members must be present for the quorum required to conduct business. One Democrat, Rep. Steve Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, decided not to participate in the boycott — leaving Republicans half a dozen members short. Republicans were privately speculating on which Democrats might be willing to return.

"We're really calling on six reasonable members to return and get their work done," Bosma said Wednesday. "Abandon this Illinois vacation."

GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels said Wednesday that if House Democratic leaders don't "have a conscience about the unconscionable things they've done, maybe individual members do."

Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Bloomington, predicted it will be difficult to keep the boycott going as political pressure mounts. Members will read their local newspaper editorials and hear from constituents angry at their decision to leave.

"There will be people in his own caucus who will start to say, 'I've got to go back,'" she said of Bauer's group. "What you have to do as a leader is remind everybody why you're there. The House Democrats who are in Illinois are there because they believe in their hearts this was the right thing to do. They'll know when it's time to come back."

While neither side of the political stalemate appeared willing to budge Thursday, many hoped the frustration and anger among leaders would subside as time went on. Daniels said he would call lawmakers in session "from now to New Year's" if needed to deal with the issues Democrats want to derail, but said he hoped that wouldn't be necessary.

"We can just get on with business, and that is what I would appeal to them to do," Daniels said. "I hope as a whole group, if not then, perhaps individuals in the caucus who have gone along — because that is what good caucus members do — may decide their conscience tells them they should do their duty instead."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Vote: Vote: Where do you stand on Wis. impasse?

Video: Wisconsin serves as template for union battle

  1. Closed captioning of: Wisconsin serves as template for union battle

    >>> we turn to wisconsin , where the state legislature took up a bill that would strip some state worker's labor unions of their collective bargaining rights and then some. the stand-off on this issue is far from over. nbc's mike taibbi reports tonight from madison .

    >> a special session of the senate. the senate will come to order.

    >> reporter: the state senate called its session to order for the first time in a week. with senate democrats hiding out of state and only participating by conference call , governor scott walker 's bill to roll back union benefits and rights would not get a vote.

    >> they're trying to shut down government. that's literally what they're trying to do.

    >> reporter: the protester's still ringing the capital building and jamming its corridors say it's the governor who's trying to shut down organized labor .

    >> i think he's trying to break the unions, he's taking rights away from other people, and he's hurting the middle class .

    >> reporter: walker's answer on msnbc's morning joe , he had no choice.

    >> just like nearly every state across the country, we are broke. i cannot negotiate for something where i don't have anything to give.

    >> reporter: in fact, the tactics used by both sides in madison are being copied elsewhere. today there were prounion protests in ohio, michigan and massachusetts. in indiana, democratic legislators left the state to avoid voting just like their wisconsin counterparts. it's logical to assume a trend has emerged. until now, 45 states, all but five southern states allow or require collective bargaining for teacher unions, today nine states are considering eliminating that right all together, wisconsin showing the way.

    >> it's come to a head, where we're not going to see benefits any more for public employees, at least not in wisconsin .

    >> reporter: governor walker says if his budget relief bill isn't voted on and passed by this friday, layoff notices for as many as 1,500 state workers could be sent out as early as next week. brian?

    >> a hot time continues in the cold of madison , wisconsin . mike taibbi on it for us tonight. mike, thanks.