Missing Oregon Senators        Image: KEZI/KGW/CNN, via WXFG.com

A vote on “cap and trade” climate change legislation in the Oregon Senate prompted a walkout by all the Republican Senators on Friday, and the Governor later sent state police to track down them down and bring them back — they are allegedly in hiding in Idaho.  Tensions grew higher when Senate President Peter Courtney told The Associated Press (AP) that the Oregon state police “recommended that the Capitol be closed tomorrow [Saturday] due to a possible militia threat.”

Why This Matters:  The Republican Senators have every right to vote against the climate legislation — but they cannot hold the entire state hostage and frustrate the will of the people of Oregon.  The legislative session ends by law in a week. Democracy means the majority rules and the Democrats outnumber Republicans 18-12 in the Senate.  And for right-wing groups to threaten violence against the Senate and Governor for demanding that the Republicans return and do their job is a tragedy and an anathema to our system of government.  We settle policy disputes by debate and voting not by taking up arms.  We also believe in the rule of law, but somehow even this basic principle is eroding with Republican Senators threatening violence against state police.  This may not end well.

Republican Senators Taunt the Police With Threats.

  • According to the AP, one of the Republicans, Senator Brian Boquist, “urged” the state police to “send bachelors and come heavily armed” when they come to bring him back to the Capitol.
  • Democratic leaders of the Oregon House and Senate put out a joint statement in response saying, “His comments have created fear among employees in our workplace…We will always defend free speech and welcome frank policy discussions, but threats like these are unacceptable.”
  • This Oregon dispute is a reminder of the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 when dozens of militia member occupied the remote Oregon refuge for more than a month to protest federal control of Western lands, which only ended after authorities fatally shot the group’s spokesman and arrested key leaders.

What The Proposed Law Would Do.  The AP reported that the bill cannot move forward to a vote without a quorum of the Senate present, which is 20 of the 32 members.  The Senate president has threatened to impose a $500 fine for each day the Republicans delay a vote on a landmark climate plan.

The opponents of the law argue that it would widen a growing divide between the liberal, urban parts of the state and the rural areas.

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