SALEM — Republicans in the Oregon Senate fled the Capitol on Monday to stop Democrats’ bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions after the plan cleared a legislative budget committee earlier in the day.
At Monday’s 11 a.m. Senate floor session, just one Republican showed up: Sen. Tim Knopp of Bend. Democrats waited as sergeants at arms searched Capitol offices to see if they could round up any other Republicans. But they were unable to find any, so Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, adjourned the chamber until Tuesday.
Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. of Grants Pass has been talking with Courtney on a daily basis and “did leave the door open that maybe they’d come back,” Courtney told reporters. But he conceded it’s unclear whether Republicans would return for any deal short of referring the climate bill to voters.
Under the state Constitution, a two-thirds majority of the Senate must be present to conduct business including voting on bills. That means Democrats, despite their supermajority, need at least two Republicans to be present. Courtney said he does not plan to ask the governor to send the state police looking for the Republicans, and Brown said without a request from Courtney she lacks the authority to do so.
Senate Republicans shut down business twice last year by walking out, first to stall a business tax and kill vaccine and gun control bills, then to help kill the 2019 version of cap-and-trade. Earlier this month, House Republicans boycotted an evening floor session to pressure Democrats to slow down the pace of lawmaking.