The Wisconsin state Assembly on Thursday passed a controversial bill that curbs collective bargaining rights for some state employees, sending it to Republican Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

The move caps off a dramatic day in the Wisconsin legislature, headlined by the state Senate's use of a procedural maneuver Wednesday night to pass a revised version the bill without Democrats present. The Assembly passed the measure by a vote of 53-42.

ADVERTISEMENT

Walker said at a press conference Thursday that he would sign the bill as soon as possible. 

The Assembly's vote is an apparent victory for Walker and state Republicans, who had been stymied on the bill for weeks while taking salvos from waves of pro-union protesters and national Democrats, who criticized the bill as unfair to the working class.

The Wisconsin struggle has become a symbol of the national debate over federal debts and deficits. President Obama has called the proposal an "assault" on unions while leading Republicans have lauded the plan as a bold move to rein in government costs. 

Intrigue surrounding the fight spilled into Thursday. Crowds of protesters had to be removed from the state Capitol in Madison so that state representatives could vote.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson led a prayer before the Assembly session, pleading for unity between members of the two political parties. But after that, Assembly Democrats held a vote to remove Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R), which failed.

A Democratic legislator also filed a complaint in county court that the Senate's procedural maneuver violated a state law requiring advance notice for meetings of public bodies, according to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. State Republicans deny the move broke the law.

The Senate advanced the bill after they severed it from other fiscal provision contained in the broader budget fix proposal. That allowed them to bypass a rule requiring that a quorum of 20 senators be present to vote on fiscal matters. 

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sought to paint the Republicans' move as a victory for liberals by accusing the GOP of hubris. 

"Gov. Walker’s over-reaching has brought us to this moment to talk about jobs. This is the debate we’ve wanted to have," Trumka said. "Well, guess what? Suddenly the debate came to us, and we’re winning."