— Democrats were still meeting behind closed doors at a hotel in Illinois late Wednesday as Gov. Mitch Daniels threatened to call special sessions “from now until New Year’s” to force an end to their boycott and make sure his agenda items receive votes.

It was the second day of a high-stakes standoff. Indiana House Democrats want Republicans to stop pushing what they call a “radical agenda.” Republicans, including Daniels and House Speaker Brian Bosma, say they won’t be bullied into negotiating.

There were signals that the immediate conflict could end next week as Democrats identified Monday as when they will likely return to Indianapolis. But longer-term reconciliation looked less likely as both sides adamantly refused to give in.

“It is non-negotiable. We will not be bullied or blackmailed out of an agenda that we ran on and responsibly laid out before the public and the General Assembly,” Daniels said.

Protesting a list of bills that Daniels and some legislative Republicans are pushing this year, most minority House Democrats fled the Statehouse on Tuesday to block those measures from moving forward. They left the state so that Indiana State Police could not force them back.

Three Democrats stayed in Indianapolis. A few others first drove to Kentucky and later returned home. Most of the rest are still holed up in a Comfort Suites hotel in Urbana, Ill., where they have turned the breakfast lounge into a conference room.

They spent most of the day Wednesday discussing amendments they plan to propose to the two-year, $28 billion budget that House Republicans have advanced. With staffers shuttling to and from Indianapolis, Democrats said they filed 62 amendments Tuesday and at least that many again Wednesday.

The Democrats say they are angry about a host of bills, including right-to-work legislation that Republicans are now declaring dead, as well as several of Daniels’ education reform measures – especially private school vouchers and a proposal to limit teachers’ collective bargaining rights to wages and benefits.

They sent a list of 11 bills they want to see killed to Bosma, R-Indianapolis, on Tuesday night.

Bosma said that wouldn’t happen, and Daniels said so, too.

The governor said he would call special sessions repeatedly, that he is “100 percent” confident vouchers will ultimately pass, and that he would send the bill for special sessions to Bauer and the Indiana Democratic Party.

“I know he doesn’t like the results of the last election. In his shoes, I wouldn’t either. But that doesn’t justify what they’ve done. I promise you we will find a way to have an up-or-down vote on these issues if it takes all year,” Daniels said.

The only contact between the Republican and Democratic House leaders – a phone call early Wednesday morning – apparently did not go well. House Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer of South Bend began to reiterate the list of measures his party hopes to see scotched, and Bosma cut him off.

“I just told him that we weren't going to concede to a list of demands, and that he needed to get back here,” Bosma said. He added that if Democrats are not willing to drop their demands, they should “have fun in Illinois.”

Bauer characterized the speaker’s response as “Nuts” – a reference to U.S. General Anthony McAuliffe’s single-word response to German Nazis who demanded his surrender in World War II.

“It sounds like war to me, and I think that’s what he declared this session,” Bauer said.

Bosma, meanwhile, said he had spoken with the governor. The two said Democrats had successfully blocked a “right to work” union membership bill, but said they would not allow the boycott to scuttle any other agenda items – especially not education reforms.

If Bauer persists, Daniels said, “he can expect a special session, and if he walks out of that one, he can expect another one, and then another one, and every time we will post the bill that he has run up on the taxpayers of Indiana with his name and picture on the bottom line.”

The Democratic exodus mirrors one in Wisconsin, where the state’s Senate Democrats have fled to Illinois to stop Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate public employees’ collective bargaining rights.

Like Wisconsin, union supporters flocked to Indiana’s Statehouse this week. Thousands of protesters were there again Wednesday, chanting over the invocation and Pledge of Allegiance as Bosma called the House into session to see if Democrats would show up.

“This is a national moment, there is no doubt about it,” Bauer said.

Daniels disagreed. He called those protesting a small minority and said just 8 percent of Hoosiers are members of private-sector unions.

Though they have not said when they will come back, Bauer sent a strong signal that his caucus could return to the Statehouse on Monday.

That is when bills that have passed the House and the Senate will switch chambers, and those that have not yet passed will have died – “a fresh start,” said Bauer.

“Monday would be a good day,” he said. “But I’d rather them call me up and say ‘Yeah, you know, we understand that this is too radical.’”

As for how many clothes he packed, Bauer said: “I’ll be all right through Monday, let’s put it that way.”

Other Democrats also said they might be at work Monday – or earlier.

“Hopefully that will be the longest this goes, but we also hope that it will be sooner than that,” said Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes. “I guess everything is always fluid and you never can tell, but clearly, from a calendar sense, that makes common sense.”

Daniels said he hopes Democrats – or at least seven of them, so that the House, where Republicans have a 60-40 advantage, has the two-thirds quorum it needs to conduct business, as the Indiana Constitution requires – will return soon.

“They deserve another chance. Let the heat of the moment cool, I hope,” he said. “Maybe if their leadership doesn’t have a conscience about the unconscionable things they’ve done, maybe individual members do.”

State legislators receive $22,600 annual salaries, plus $155 in per diem pay seven days a week when they are in session and $62 per day when they are out of session.

Bosma has the authority to fine Democrats for failing to show up to work, and Bauer said the decision on whether Democrats receive their pay is up to the Republican speaker.

The Indiana Democratic Party is footing the House members’ hotel bill. Dan Parker, the party chairman, said the first night cost around $2,400.

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