On Monday, the Oregon Senate was scheduled to convene at 11 a.m. to conduct business in the short legislative session. Of the twelve Republican senators, eleven failed to attend, denying quorum and grinding the business of the Senate to a halt. Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger (R-Grants Pass) blasted the President of the Senate for rigging the vote to move the bill out of the Ways and Means Committee for a vote on the floor.
This marks the third time in less than a year that Senate Republicans have blocked priority legislation of the Democrats by denying quorum. Oregon’s Democrats enjoy an 18-12 supermajority in the chamber (and a 38-22 supermajority in the House). Last summer, the Republicans walked out twice, once to block severe gun-control bills and a greatly expanded vaccine mandate, and again to block cap and trade.
Oregon Democrats have made cap and trade their highest priority, and entered both legislative sessions confident that the supermajorities would mean smooth sailing for their agenda.
Baertschiger’s full statement reads:
Today, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) used partisan politics on the Joint Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful budget committee in the legislature, to move SB 1530 out of committee. He rigged the vote by joining the committee in an unprecetented move and cast his “yes” vote to get cap and trade out of committee.
Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr. (R-Grants Pass) released the following statement:
“Senator Courtney’s actions leave no other option for Senate Republicans but to boycott and deny quorum because cap and trade is on the way to the Senate floor. Democrats refused to work with Republicans and denied every amendment that was presented. Pay attention Oregon – this is a true example of partisan politics. Instead of referring this legislation to let the people decide, the Democrats are willfully ignoring 26 counties and one district, representing nearly 2 million Oregonians that have signed proclamations against cap and trade, to push their agenda.”
Courtney, concerned about Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) and her declared intention to vote No on the bill, manipulated the rules of the Ways and Means Committee to have himself added as an ex officio voting member to move the bill to the floor. A conservative Democrat, Johnson represents a rural district and has broken with the Democratic caucus several times over the years on priority issues. Johnson appeared at the Timber Unity rally on February 6, a demonstration against cap and trade that featured upwards of 10,000 protesters and almost 1,000 log trucks, tractors, and other diesel vehicles.
Republicans offered several amendments during a series of work sessions, all of which the Democrats denied without debate. The short session is constitutionally mandated to end on March 5, so this is the last opportunity Democrats have to pass major legislation before elections — unless Governor Kate Brown (D-Portland) calls a special session. The severely truncated schedule places a lot of pressure on Democrats who promised to advance an aggressive agenda with their supermajorities in both houses of the legislature.
Republicans have repeatedly complained about the treatment they face from the Democratic supermajority. Rep. Shelley Boshart Davis (R-Albany) posted a video on Facebook last week demonstrating their point:
When a piece of legislation doesn't have enough time in committee, it ends up looking like this on the Floor. This wasn't obstruction, this wasn't delay, this was asking questions that needed answered, following procedure and trying to keep with the process in a crazy short session – yet this is what we were met with. Legislators either not knowing the answers, or not willing to take the time to answer. Either way, this isn't okay. Yet, this is your government at work Oregon.
Posted by Shelly Boshart Davis on Thursday, February 20, 2020
Representative Dallas Heard (R-Roseburg) made an even more forceful statement on Facebook:
The Democrats have shown me in all of the now 6 legislative sessions I have been a part of, that they do not consider rural Oregonians to be equal citizens with themselves. The Democrats can’t say they support equality, tolerance and co-existance while they repeatedly run over the rights of anyone who thinks or is different than them including some from their own party. They must be exposed by all of us who have been their victims for the past 40 years in rural Oregon. The media in large part continues to provide cover for these leftist Democrats by constantly running headlines that suggest it is the Republicans fault for the session being in doubt, but it is in fact the SUPER MAJORITY DEMOCRATS who refuse to honor the intent of the voters that these short sessions be used to simply pass technical fix and budget adjustment legislation. It is the Democratic majority who has refused to bring forward the budgets so we can approve those bills and move forward with governing Oregon properly. If the short session is brought to a stop, it will be by the Democrats who have complete control over the process and have become so arrogant that they actually believe they have the right to take our freedom and liberty away from us, simply because they believe themselves to be the higher educated and frankly higher born citizens.
Last summer, Governor Brown ordered the State Police to go to the homes of the senators and compel them to attend the legislative session, causing them to flee the state. It remains to be seen how this session’s walkout will unfold, but the Republicans have signaled that they are just as united in their belief that the cap-and-trade bill must be stopped.
An earlier version of this article reported in error that Courtney removed Johnson from Ways and Means.