Oregon Democrats appear set to abandon the climate-change bill that prompted Republican state senators to flee the state, after the Democratic state senate president said Tuesday that the bill doesn’t have enough votes to pass.
If Democrats do back down from the bill, it’ll be a win for the Republicans who left the state to block it—and for the right-wing militias who threatened to shoot state police if they tried to bring the senators back to the capital for a vote.
In a speech first reported by The Oregonian, state Senate President Peter Courtney (D) said the bill doesn’t have enough support from Democrats themselves. “House Bill 2020 does not have the votes on the Senate floor,” he said. “That will not change.”
Democrats can afford to lose two of their own votes while still passing the bill, Willamette Week reported. Two Democratic state senators have already criticized the bill, suggesting that a third, still-unnamed Democrat opposes it.
Other interests, including pressure from the state’s timber industry, could be at play. In his speech, Courtney mentioned the other bills that would die if Republicans don’t return to the senate in an apparent attempt to salvage the rest of the legislative session that ends June 30.
The prospect of the carbon-cap bill passing in Oregon, where Democrats hold the governorship and supermajorities in both legislative chambers, sent the state’s senate Republicans fleeing to Idaho in an attempt to deny the senate a quorum.
Gov. Kate Brown (D), who sent state police to bring the Republican senators back, blasted the fugitive lawmakers in a statement on Tuesday. “Are they against climate change legislation or are they against democracy?” Brown said. “ If they are not back by Wednesday afternoon, we will know the answer."
The bill’s apparent failure is a blow to Oregon progressives, who failed to pass a climate change bill despite Democrats controlling the entire state government. Amy Herzfeld-Copple, the deputy director for the left-leaning Western States Center, called the bill’s potential demise a serious disappointment.
“What’s most disheartening for me in all of this is that our democratic institutions were undermined, a major political party cozied up to militia and paramilitary groups to achieve their political goals, and the planet and our children and our community’s future suffered,” Herzfeld-Copple told The Daily Beast.
While both Republicans and Democratic minorities across the country have used quorum-busting walkouts in the past, the Oregon walkout made national headlines after militias offered to help the Republicans and state Sen. Brian Boquist (R) implied he would shoot police officers himself if they tried to bring him back to the state.