The 11 Republicans of the Oregon Senate were still on the lam Friday as liberal Democratic Gov. Kate Brown sent the Oregon State Police after them when they refused to show up for a vote on a massive climate bill.
But now it’s been revealed that Brown once fully supported a similar walkout by her own party in 2001.
The Republicans have been protesting the bill, which they say would regulate many timber, farming, and trucking companies and families out of business. A second climate bill could also raise gas prices by 22 cents a gallon in a state that already has fuel prices well above the national average.
Rather than vote against the bill — and lose in the Democratic-controlled Senate — Republicans decided to not show up on Thursday to prevent the vote from even happening. They’ve vowed to stay away until either the Democrats come back to the negotiating table so they can discuss the many problems with the bill or until the legislative session ends on June 30.
When Brown threatened to send the Oregon State Police after them to force them to return to the Capitol and vote, the Republican senators fled, with some of them hiding out in undisclosed locations in the neighboring Republican state of Idaho. Idaho is not expected to allow the Oregon State Police to come in and take the senators back.
"Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” warned Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas), who is reportedly hiding out in Idaho. “I'm not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It's just that simple."
But he also pointed out a 2001 Associated Press story quoting Brown supporting a Democratic walkout back when she led the Democrats in the Senate. Back then, Democrats walked out in protest of a Republican redistricting push.
“Senate Democratic Leader Kate Brown, D-Portland, called the House Democrats’ actions ‘very appropriate under the circumstances.’” the AP story said.
“‘Under certain circumstances, it’s fair to say we would use all the tools available to us,’ and stage a similar boycott, she said,” the story also quoted her saying.
The Oregon Constitution says senators can be compelled to show up to work, The Oregonian reported. There’s been discussion over if the word “compel” means that physical force can be used.
The Oregon State Police are seeking “out of state resources” to help them convince the Republican legislators to return to the Capitol, but said they were not, at this time, planning to arrest them or handcuff them if they found them. One wonders, though, how else they plan to convince the lawmakers to come back.