"I started driving as soon as I heard this was going to be happening, that they were going to split this and pass this the way that it did. And it was unfortunate that there was no opportunity for input," Larson said.
"We took a very, very unusual action going to Illinois but it was legal. They took a very, very unusual action tonight, which may not have been legal. But the problem is the escalation of reaction has to stop," said Sen. Tim Cullen.
"We didn't force them into anything. They would not debate the bill; they would not amend the bill. When we were up in Wisconsin, they were going to put time limits on this debate and they were going to try and make this law within a week. And you're talking about six decades worth of strong, bipartisan support for collective bargaining in the state of Wisconsin," said Sen. Jon Erpenbach.
The leader of Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate said his caucus will return to the state, but he won't say when.
Senate Democratic leader Mark Miller of Monona said Democrats will "join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government," but he refused to say when.
"In thirty minutes, 18 state Senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten. Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people," Miller said in a statement.
Before the sudden votes, Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch said if Republicans "chose to ram this bill through in this fashion, it will be to their political peril. They're changing the rules. They will inflame a very frustrated public."
Democratic Senators said they are planning to meet Thursday in Illinois to regroup and discuss a strategy moving forward, which includes challenging the legality of the Republican senators' actions.
Unions React To Senate's Action
Unions are outraged about the Senate Republicans' vote to strip collective bargaining rights, potentially changing more than 50 years of laws in a matter of minutes.
Wisconsin was the first state to approve collective bargaining for public sector workers in 1959, but now those rights are up in the air.
"Clearly there were no negotiations going on, and it really shows what the governor and the majority leader were saying the last couple of days just cannot be taken at face value. Clearly this does not suddenly pop in their head at 3:59 this afternoon," said Rick Badger, AFSCME Council 40 executive director.
"What the Republican senators are doing here, what the governor is doing here, is mandating what local school districts can do, local government can do, county government can do. They're forcing it down their throat," said John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc.
MTI, the Madison teachers union, is asking all teachers to report to work Thursday. Matthews said that "the Senate's improper and illegal action will be challenged in court."
Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell expressed outrage "on behalf of educators everywhere at the despicable and possibly illegal actions by the Senate."
But Bell encouraged educators to return to work to Thursday as leaders explored the next steps in their battle against Walker's proposals.
"I ask Wisconsin's educators to be at work tomorrow (Thursday). We will not back down. We will continue this fight," Bell said.
Wisconsin State Employees Union Executive Director Marty Beil criticized Walker and Republicans "for destroying 50 years of labor peace, bipartisan cooperation and Wisconsin democracy." He also encouraged Wisconsin residents to channel their energies into peaceful demonstration and adherence to the democratic process, namely the recall of eight Republican senators who stood with Walker.
Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, also released a statement on the Senate's vote Wednesday night.
"Senate Republicans have exercised the nuclear option to ram through their bill attacking Wisconsin's working families in the dark of night. Walker and the Republicans acted in violation of state open meetings laws, and tonight's events have demonstrated they will do or say anything to pass their extreme agenda that attacks Wisconsin's working families," Neuenfeldt said in the statement. "Tonight's trampling of the democratic process in Wisconsin shows that Scott Walker and the Republicans have been lying throughout this entire process and we have been telling the truth -- that NONE of the provisions that attacked workers' rights had anything to do with the budget."
Stay tuned to WISC-TV and Channel 3000 for continuing coverage.