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Indiana Democrats' Wisconsin-style walkout ends after flurry of compromise

Compromises on several Republican-backed initiatives led the 39 Indiana Democrats to return home Monday, and the state's House met in session for the first time in five weeks.

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Unlike the three-week walkout of 14 Senate Democrats in Wisconsin, the Indiana walkout was hinged on several issues, which likely kept it from continuing indefinitely, says Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center on Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.

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“The fact that there was not one or two issues that drove all the Democrats to Illinois may have actually made it more difficult to hold that coalition together. Eventually it was going to break up,” Mr. Downs says.

Despite having to vote on bills they see as compromised, however, some see the ordeal as benefiting House Democrats, the theory being the incident will energize their base, the momentum of which could last once it is time for reelection.

“They’re apparently hoping for some kind of anti-Republican sentiment,” which will help galvanize supporters and reach out to voters who may have benefited from having the bills cut back, says Brian Vargus, who teaches political science at Indiana University-Purdue University.

“There’s no way [Democrats] can call it a victory because they’re in the minority, but it’s certainly a gain. It also gives them some campaign issues with organized labor,” says Mr. Vargus.

In a statement released Monday, Indiana House Democratic leader Patrick Bauer characterized the walkout as a “timeout forced by Democrats” to give “Hoosiers an opportunity to examine the radical agenda being attempted in Indiana and to speak out.”

The Democrats announced their return early Monday afternoon. A session was immediately called at 5 p.m. Legislators of both parties are expected to work late Monday; late nights are likewise expected the rest of the week.

Because the compromises over the controversial bills were worked on during closed room negotiations, their passage should go swiftly. That should leave legislators enough time to pass a two-year state budget by April 29, the last day in session.

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