SALEM, Ore. — Democratic lawmakers left in the absence of House Republicans who have shunned the capitol in protest over cap-and-trade moved on Thursday to issue subpoenas requiring that the errant lawmakers return "to explain their absences."
The House Committee on Rules, now solely populated by Democrats, voted to issue those civil subpoenas Thursday afternoon — demanding that Republican representatives appear for the committee on Thursday, March 5.
The text of the civil subpoenas reads as follows:
By virtue of the authority of and in compliance with ORS 171.510, and following a majority vote of the House Rules Committee on February 27, 2020, I, Paul Holvey, State Representative and Chair of the House Rules Committee, hereby require you to appear before the House Rules Committee at 1pm on Thursday, March 5, 2020 in Hearing Room F of the State Capitol, Salem, Oregon, 97301, as a witness before such committee and be prepared to testify about your unexcused absences during the 2020 regular session of the Legislative Assembly, the need for members to fulfill their oaths of office and constitutional duties as legislators by attending sessions of the Legislative Assembly, and how the work of the Legislative Assembly during the 2020 calendar year may be completed.
“This is an extraordinary measure brought on by the extraordinary actions of the House Republican caucus,” said Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, the chair of the House Committee on Rules.
According to a statement from House Democrats, Oregon law allows the chair of a committee to compel attendance of witnesses with a majority vote. Though Democrats have lacked the two-thirds quorum to forward any legislation, they maintain a majority in the capitol.
“We all took an oath to support the Oregon Constitution and faithfully discharge the duties of our office, which requires our attendance when the legislature is in session," Rep. Holvey said. "As I see it, House Republicans are currently in violation of that oath. These Republican legislators owe the people of Oregon an explanation for their absences.”
The subpoenas are intended to be served to every member of the House Republican caucus that has been absent and unexcused. House Speaker Tina Kotek reportedly told lawmakers that she'd been in contact with the absent Republicans, asking them to return to work.
Rep. Kotek told Democrats that she'd either received "no commitments" from Republicans on whether they would return, or responses directing her to contact Republican Leader Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby.
Later Thursday evening, Rep. Drazan issued a brief response to the move by Democrats on the committee.
“This is just the latest example of the majority party’s strong-arm tactics designed to end negotiations. We will not be intimidated. We remain resolved to serve the hardworking families of Oregon who have asked for the abuse of power to end and for cap and trade to be referred to the people.”
Republican lawmakers in the Oregon Senate began the walkout on Monday when Democrats moved the cap-and-trade bill from the final committee and toward the Senate floor.
The lack of a quorum has held up all legislation in Salem this week, and politicians have taken to pointing fingers across the aisle as vital funding bills languish. On Friday, the Oregon Food Bank issued a statement calling out Republicans for the legislative gridlock.
“Our statewide network of food banks is incredibly fortunate and proud to have earned the support of a broad, bi-partisan coalition of elected leaders. But we have no hope of achieving our shared mission to end hunger when half that coalition refuses to show up to work. No discussion or decision-making takes place when lawmakers don’t show up to make laws," said Susannah Morgan, CEO of the Oregon Food Bank. “Simply put, the Republican walkout jeopardizes critical anti-hunger initiatives — and our democracy. Oregon families deserve better, and it’s time for Republicans to return to the work we elected them to do.”
— Oregon Food Bank (@oregonfoodbank) February 28, 2020