Democratic leader concedes on Oregon climate bill after Republican walkout

Democratic leader concedes on Oregon climate bill after Republican walkout
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The Democratic leader of Oregon's state Senate on Tuesday said that a sweeping climate bill did not have votes needed to pass after GOP senators walked out to avoid the vote.

"What I'm about to say I say of my own free will. No one has told me to say this," Senate President Peter Courtney (D) said.

"HB 2020 does not have the votes on the Senate floor. That will not change." 

Republican state senators walked out five days ago to protest the cap-and-trade bill.

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Despite Democrats in Oregon controlling both state chambers and the governorship, Republicans had the numbers to deny the necessary quorum to approve the legislation.

Courtney on Tuesday pleaded for Republicans to return to the chamber, noting budget bills that have not been approved.

Republican lawmakers have expressed confusion regarding Courtney's statement.

“The question becomes: What are they trying to do?” state Sen. Cliff Bentz (R), who is believed to be staying in Idaho while the boycott plays out, told Oregon public broadcaster OPB.

“Are they trying to make some sort of arrangement? If they are suggesting they don’t have the votes, what’s the procedure they’re going to use to kill the bill? Are they going to call it up for a vote?”

“We need clarification. What does that mean?” state Sen. Ted Knopp (R) told OPB. “Does it mean it’s dead until the 2020 session? Is the governor going to take it up in a special session?”

House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) said Tuesday that she was unwilling to give up hope on passing climate legislation this session. 

“This has been a dark week for the integrity of the Legislature,” Kotek tweeted. “Senate Rs have been threatening our democratic institution and subverting the will of Oregon voters who know we need to act now. Their walkout has come at immense cost to our institution and potentially the planet.” 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) released a statement blasting Republicans and urging them to come back for a vote.

"This is not the Oregon Way and cannot be rewarded,” Brown said. “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." 

Updated: 5 p.m.