Oregon’s Republican state senators have been in hiding since last Thursday, when they staged a walkout to avoid a vote on a groundbreaking climate bill that advocates expected to pass. But on Tuesday, the state Senate’s top Democrat pronounced it dead without a vote, saying it didn’t have the support needed from his party to pass anyway.
“House Bill 2020 does not have the votes on the Senate floor. That will not change,” said Democratic Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney.
The cap-and-trade bill (HB 2020, or the Clean Energy Jobs Act) would have limited carbon emissions and charged companies that pollute. If it passed, it would have generated almost $500 million in revenue that would have been reinvested to create clean energy jobs. It was backed by a broad coalition of climate and environmental organizations and businesses.
Bill supporters are outraged by Courtney’s statement.
“Senate President Peter Courtney said on the Senate floor today there are not the votes to pass HB 2020,” said Tera Hurst, executive director of clean energy advocacy coalition Renew Oregon, said in a statement. “That is in direct contradiction to what 16 Senators told their constituents to their faces in recent days.”
Environmental advocates expected the bill to pass at a Senate vote last Thursday, but without the votes to reject the bill, the Senate Republicans staged a walkout, eliciting the support of right-wing militias who vowed to protect them.
The Oregon State Senate is comprised of 18 Democrats and 11 Republicans. With only Democratic members left, the Senate couldn’t hold a vote—they would need a quorum of 20 members.
The Republican Senators are now in hiding—some are rumored to have traveled out of state. Democratic Governor Kate Brown ordered the state police force to find the Senate Republicans and force them to return to the Capitol. But with just five days left in the legislative session, the state Senate’s top Democrat announced that his party couldn’t muster up the votes to pass the bill.
Some Republican senators are suspicious that the bill isn’t truly dead, and that Courtney’s statement was a means to lure them back to the Capitol to vote on the other 125 other bills that the walkout jeopardizes. Republicans have shown no signs that they will return, and Oregon’s legislative session ends on Sunday.
In response to Senate President Courtney’s premature end to the bill, protesters gathered outside the Capitol, chanting, “hey hey, ho ho, Peter Courtney’s got to go.” Hurst of Renew Oregon called Courtney’s decision, “the biggest failure of public leadership in Oregon in recent memory.”