All 11 Republican state senators in Oregon are currently in hiding in order to prevent the state legislature from having the quorum of people necessary to pass a carbon cap. Now, Gov. Kate Brown has sent the cops looking for them, according to The Oregonian.
This bizarre series of events began on Thursday morning, when none of the Republican legislators showed up for the scheduled session. At that point, Senate President Peter Courtney sent the senate’s sergeant at arms to go look for the missing senators.
But the sergeant didn’t find them—probably because they weren’t loitering around the capital. Several of them have apparently left the state entirely.
Courtney then requested that Brown send the police after the missing legislators. Brown quickly agreed.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building,” Brown said in a statement. “They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do.”
“I apologize to the citizens for taking [state troopers] off the streets to look for [missing lawmakers],” Courtney said on the senate floor, according to the Oregonian.
Democrats say that Republicans are abandoning their constituents by refusing to do their jobs.
“The Senate Republicans’ walkout is a slap in the face to all hard-working Oregonians, particularly to those in their districts,” Sen. Ginny Burdick told the Oregonian. “The taxpayers are paying them to do a job for their constituents and they are not doing that job.”
But Republicans say they believe this is how they can best serve their constituents.
“Protesting cap-and-trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job,” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. said in a statement earlier today. “We have endured threats of arrest, fines, and pulling community project funds from the governor, Senate president and majority leader. We will not stand by and be bullied by the majority party any longer.”
Good for them! Not giving in to the bullies of... the democratic process
A news release from the Oregon State Police said that they are “utilizing established relationships to have polite communication with these Senators. While we obviously have many tools at our disposal, patience and communication is and always will be our first, and preferred, option.”
From the Oregonian:
By Thursday evening, state police provided more information in a release, saying that “several” Senators had been contacted and that the agency will “go to great lengths” to avoid physically arresting and handcuffing lawmakers. No physical contact is permitted, the release continued, without permission from the police superintendent.
Most interesting, the agency noted that troopers are receiving assistance from “out of state resources,” though state police did not elaborate.
Well this all seems fine and normal.
Democrats are also employing money as a strategy to coax the Republicans back to their jobs. Democratic Senators announced that Republicans would be fined $500 a day while they are in hiding.
Of course, some people agree with the Republicans, and have raised more than $10,000 in an online fundraiser for the legislators.
“Money will be withdrawn at regular intervals and dispersed to the senators for expenses,” the fundraisers wrote. “That may be traveling expenses or paying fines imposed by Kate Brown.”
This is all to prevent a vote on a cap-and-trade policy that would mean higher energy prices in the state. Truckers, loggers, and rural Oregonians are some of those who disagree with the bill. I’m sure none of them will regret not taking action on climate change in a few decades!
In May, Republicans successfully used this same technique to protest a bunch of Democratic bills, and ended up getting Democrats to drop a gun storage bill and mandatory vaccination bill. In 2001, Oregon Democrats walked out to protest a redistricting bill, and stayed away for a week.
There is law in the state that says senators who use this technique can technically be arrested, but it’s hard to imagine Democrats wanting to go that route. It’s possible that Republicans will win this round too, if Democrats refuse to take such dramatic action.