Oregon Senate Republicans continued their boycott of the Legislature during a floor session Sunday.
“We’re not gonna get a quorum,” Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said, before gaveling out until 10 a.m. Monday.
“We have 18,” Courtney said, referring to the Democrats assembled on the Senate floor, some wearing jeans and other casual clothes. “Everybody knows we need two more.”
Democrats need a quorum of 20 members to conduct business. Republicans walked out of the Capitol last week to block a scheduled vote on a controversial climate change bill, House Bill 2020, which would put a cap on greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
Unlike Thursday and Friday, Courtney did not ask the sergeant-at-arms to search the building for absent Republicans. He said the staff who would conduct such a search were not at the Capitol on Sunday.
“Again, I ask the senators that are not here to please, if you will, come to the building,” Courtney said. “We have budgets we need to pass that are for all of Oregon. And many of the public policy items, they are very important to us all.”
Continuing to hold floor sessions allows Democrats to keep up pressure on Republicans, who are being fined $500 for each missed session. A floor session scheduled for Saturday was canceled because the Capitol was closed for a planned protest by the Three Percenters militia.
Fewer than 100 supporters of the Republican senators gathered peacefully outside the Capitol on Sunday, a handful wearing clothes bearing the militia’s insignia. There did not appear to be problems or interruptions during the brief floor session.
Courtney thanked Oregon State Police troopers who provide security at the Capitol and have increased their presence since the walkout. He also thanked the loved ones of Democratic senators and acknowledged they might be worried about the situation.
Multiple Republican senators have left the state so they are outside the jurisdiction of the state police. One of them, Sen. Cliff Bentz of Ontario, said by phone Sunday that he remains in Idaho but has moved locations. Bentz said he is pleased the walkout is drawing state and national attention to “one of the biggest issues of our time” — climate change — and to Republicans’ concerns about the emissions capping plan many Democratic lawmakers want to pass to address it.
Bentz said Senate Republicans have continued talking with Democrats throughout the walkout.
“We’re not just going to get steamrolled,” Bentz said. Republicans had felt as though Democrats were not responding to their concerns, but Bentz said the walkout has changed that. “The dynamic changes pretty significantly, and that’s what we’re dealing with right now,” he said.