Oregon Republicans stage walkout of state Senate
SALEM, Ore. (CN) — Oregon Republicans walked off the state Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, leaving the legislative body without a quorum to consider Democrat-led bills involving reproductive health, gender-affirming care and gun safety laws.
“Make no mistake, this is about reproductive rights,” state Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, a Democrat from Beaverton and southwest Portland, said during a press conference. “They walked out today abandoning their duty to democracy and to the people of Oregon.”
In total, the protest included four Republican senators and one independent. Seven other senators had excused absences, state Senate President Rob Wagner, a Democrat from Lake Oswego, confirmed.
Lieber noted Oregon voters have already spoken on the issue through Ballot Measure 113, a law passed in 2022 that disqualifies legislators from re-election at the end of their term if they miss 10 legislative floor sessions without permission.
Oregonians passed the measure in response to Republicans’ five walkouts between 2019 and 2021, one of which killed a bill that aimed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases by 2050 through a cap-and-trade system for businesses and industry.
In response to the Republican senators’ walkout Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, a Republican from Bend, issued a statement explaining that senators are protesting the “behavior of Rob Wagner, who is knowingly and willfully violating Senate rules, Oregon statute and the Oregon Constitution.”
According to Knopp, who was present on the state Senate floor on Wednesday afternoon, Republicans had pointed out that the bills up for consideration by the state Senate violated the law because they are noncompliant with a statute that requires a readability score of 60 on the Flesch readability test.
Knopp wrote that after the Senate recessed, the presiding officer ruled that the bill complied with the statute but failed to provide any reasoning for the ruling despite many objections and appeals.
“Since the beginning of the session, I have argued that Wagner is untrustworthy, deeply partisan and lacks the necessary skills to run the Senate in a bipartisan fashion,” Knopp wrote. “That has been proven true every step of the way and his behavior this week may be the clearest demonstration yet.”
Knopp later added: “Laws are to be plainly written and easy to understand. When the majority of bill summaries written demand a post-graduate degree to understand what the bills do, we disenfranchise Oregonians across the state and violate the law in the process.”
But Lieber blasted Knopp's explanation as "just another tactic."
“They started reading the bills immediately. They continue to utilize the guidelines and rules that we have. I say they’re weaponizing them to slow down the process. This is about reproductive freedom and transgender rights.”
As to whether the Republicans have the power to stop bills from passing through, Wagner said the state Senate will hold sessions four times every day to push them through.
“I don't believe that they have the ability, given what the voters did this last fall in changing the Constitution, that they're going to stop that progress,” Wagner said.