Oregon GOP senators want assurance climate bill is dead

Walkout in sixth day; Dems say not enough support

Cap and trade rally held in Salem

(Update: Senate Republicans want assurances climate bill is dead)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Senate Republicans said late Tuesday they need further assurances from Democrats about the fate of a landmark climate bill if they are going to put an end to their walkout that has dragged on into a sixth day.

Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger said in a statement Tuesday that Republicans are still trying to "sort out" how to proceed in the wake of an announcement from Democratic leadership that a cap and trade plan has lost support among Democrats.

Baertschiger said Republicans need further assurances that the legislation is at a "complete end." The minority leader added that he still needs to have further conversations with Democrats so that "Republicans feel comfortable with the process."

Republicans have fled the Capitol __ and the state __ to avoid a vote on a statewide cap on carbon emissions. Senate President Peter Courtney begged Republicans to return, saying there's still dozens of policy measures to approve before the legislative session ends on Sunday, as the state Constitution dictates.

Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick confirmed Tuesday afternoon that the landmark climate bill that sparked a walkout by Republicans is likely dead for this legislative session.

Burdick told reporters that there isn't enough support within the Democratic party to pass what would be the second statewide cap and trade plan in the nation.

All 11 Republican senators didn't appear for a sixth day to protest the proposed cap on carbon emissions. Burdick said the announcement doesn't mean Democrats are "rewarding bad behavior."

In fact, she said, it was her sense that "the votes were never there" even before the Republican walkout.

The Senate would still vote on the measure if Republicans returned. Burdick said it would likely be a procedural vote to send the proposal back to committee.

Earlier Tuesday, the Oregon Senate president said there weren't enough votes in his majority Democratic caucus to approve a landmark climate bill that has sparked the walkout by Republicans and left other key issues such as the state budget in limbo.

The disclosure prompted young climate activists in the Senate chamber to turn their backs in protest against  Courtney.

Meanwhile, all 11 Republican senators extended their walkout involving the issue for a sixth day, denying Democrats enough lawmakers to call a vote on the plan that calls for capping and trading pollution credits among companies.

Courtney acknowledged that the proposal faces an uncertain fate — even among Democrats. He pleaded with Republicans to return to the Capitol to consider dozens of other issues caught up in the impasse.

"This is about the 145 bills that we must pass," he said. "I've done as much as I can, and I'll continue to try. But this is a remarkable opportunity to finish our work."

Dozens of young climate activists were in the audience as part of a larger protest against the GOP walkout. They flooded out of the Senate chamber and onto the Capitol steps, chanting "Peter Courtney's got to go" and "protect our future, not the polluters'."

"This is the biggest failure of public leadership in Oregon in recent memory," said Tera Hurst, executive director of Renew Oregon, the lobbying group behind Tuesday's climate protest. "He's allowed a minority of senators to dictate how business is run in our government. This not only endangers this bill, but the future of our representative democracy."

Democratic senators spoke to hundreds of protesters who came to the capitol to protest the GOP walkout, saying that although Courtney's comments were disappointing, Democrats are still fighting for a path forward.

"The whole world is disappointed in Oregon," said Sen. Michael Dembrow, one of the key lawmakers behind the plan. "But the whole world can become proud of Oregon. We need to stand together."

Gov. Kate Brown has drawn a hard line on negotiations, saying she would only negotiate with Republicans if they return.

Brown said in a statement following Courtney's comments that Republicans' behavior "cannot be rewarded."

"The Republicans are driving us away from the values that Oregonians hold dear, and are moving us dangerously close to the self-serving stalemate in Washington, DC," she said.

Republicans are protesting what would be the nation's second statewide cap and trade program after California. The measure is intended to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases in Oregon by 2050 by capping carbon emissions and requiring businesses to buy or trade for an ever-dwindling pool of pollution "allowances."

Conservatives say the proposal will kill jobs, raise the cost of fuel and gut small businesses in rural areas.

Republicans' walkout drew scrutiny after a weekend that began with the Senate leader ordering the Capitol closed because of a "possible militia threat" from far-right groups, who threatened to join a peaceful protest organized by local Republicans.

One of those groups, the Oregon Three Percenters, joined an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 and has offered safe passage to senators on the run.

The threat, however, never materialized. Fewer than 100 people showed up to protest.

Legislators have yet to approve a majority of the state budget and other Democratic priorities addressing affordable housing, paid family leave and driver's licenses for immigrants in the country illegally. Courtney painstakingly described the work left to be done before the Legislative session is set to finish at the end of the week, saying it affects "every facet" of life in Oregon.

"Please, senators, come to this floor to pass these policies and pass these budgets," he said.


News release from Gov. Kate Brown:

Governor Kate Brown: 'This is Not the Oregon Way and Cannot Be Rewarded'

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown today released the following statement on the Oregon Senate Republicans' continued walkout. 

"Senate Republicans have blocked a bill that provides a better future for our state and for our children, and the tactics they employed to do so are not just unacceptable, but dangerous.

"This is not the Oregon Way and cannot be rewarded. The Republicans are driving us away from the values that Oregonians hold dear, and are moving us dangerously close to the self-serving stalemate in Washington, DC."

"It's now up to Republicans to prove me wrong. Are they against climate change legislation or are they against democracy? If they are not back by Wednesday afternoon, we will know the answer."

Statement from Preston Mann, spokesman for Partnership for Oregon Communities:
"Regardless of the Senate President's comments this morning, cap-and-trade is still on the third reading calendar and will require some form of legislative action to truly be considered dead. We will continue to oppose HB 2020 until the final gavel falls."

The following is a statement from Tera Hurst, Executive Director of Renew Oregon-:

"Senate President Peter Courtney said on the Senate Floor today there are not the votes to pass HB 2020. That is in direct contradiction to what 16 Senators told their constituents to their faces in recent days. Instead of having the Senate vote on the floor and stand up to the public, the Senate President is allowing members to hide behind a contradictory statement. Make them vote and answer to their voters and Oregon's children." 

"This is the biggest failure of public leadership in Oregon in recent memory. After the Senate President promised a floor vote to make Oregon a leader in protecting its people from climate change, a vote on HB 2020 as voters demanded, he has gone back on his word. He's allowed a minority of Senators to dictate how business is run in our government and members of his own party to hide from their constituents. This not only endangers this bill, but the future of our representative democracy."

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