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Senate President: Not enough votes for Oregon climate bill

The Oregon Senate President says there aren't enough votes within his own majority Democratic caucus to approve a landmark climate bill.

Posted: Jun 25, 2019 10:50 AM
Updated: Jun 25, 2019 3:09 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The president of the Oregon Senate said Tuesday there weren't enough votes in his majority Democratic caucus to approve a landmark climate bill that has sparked a walkout by Republicans and left other key issues such as the state budget in limbo.

Governor Brown's statement (issued on Tuesday) following Sen. Courtney's remarks

"Senate Republicans have blocked a bill that provides a better future for our state and for our children, and the tactics they employed to do so are not just unacceptable, but dangerous.

"This is not the Oregon Way and cannot be rewarded. 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."

The disclosure prompted young climate activists in the Senate chamber to turn their backs in protest against Sen. President Peter Courtney.

Meanwhile, all 11 Republican senators extended their walkout involving the issue for a sixth day, denying Democrats enough lawmakers to call a vote on the plan that calls for capping and trading pollution credits among companies.

Courtney acknowledged that the proposal faces an uncertain fate — even among Democrats. He pleaded with Republicans to return to the Capitol to consider dozens of other issues caught up in the impasse.

"This is about the 145 bills that we must pass," he said. "I've done as much as I can, and I'll continue to try. But this is a remarkable opportunity to finish our work."

Senate Republicans didn't immediately respond for a request to comment.

Dozens of young climate activists were in the audience as part of a larger protest against the GOP walkout. They flooded out of the Senate chamber and onto the Capitol steps, chanting "Peter Courtney's got to go" and "protect our future, not the polluters'."

"This is the biggest failure of public leadership in Oregon in recent memory," said Tera Hurst, executive director of Renew Oregon, the lobbying group behind Tuesday's climate protest. "He's allowed a minority of Senators to dictate how business is run in our government. This not only endangers this bill, but the future of our representative democracy."

Democratic senators spoke to hundreds of protesters who came to the capitol to protest the GOP walkout, saying that although Courtney's comments were disappointing, Democrats are still fighting for a path forward.

"The whole world is disappointed in Oregon," said Sen. Michael Dembrow, one of the key lawmakers behind the plan. "But the whole world can become proud of Oregon. We need to stand together."

Gov. Kate Brown has drawn a hard line on negotiations, saying she would only negotiate with Republicans if they return.

Brown said in a statement following Courtney's comments that Republicans' behavior "cannot be rewarded."

"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," she said.

Republicans are protesting what would be the nation's second statewide cap and trade program after California. The measure is intended to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases in Oregon by 2050 by capping carbon emissions and requiring businesses to buy or trade for an ever-dwindling pool of pollution "allowances."

Conservatives say the proposal will kill jobs, raise the cost of fuel and gut small businesses in rural areas.

Republicans' walkout drew scrutiny after a weekend that began with the Senate leader ordering the Capitol closed because of a "possible militia threat" from far-right groups, who threatened to join a peaceful protest organized by local Republicans.

One of those groups, the Oregon Three Percenters, joined an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 and has offered safe passage to senators on the run.

The threat, however, never materialized. Fewer than 100 people showed up to protest.

Legislators have yet to approve a majority of the state budget and other Democratic priorities addressing affordable housing, paid family leave and driver's licenses for immigrants in the country illegally. Courtney painstakingly described the work left to be done before the Legislative session is set to finish at the end of the week, saying it affects "every facet" of life in Oregon.

"Please, senators, come to this floor to pass these policies and pass these budgets," he said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 21488

Reported Deaths: 357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah496096
Washington311925
Marion293870
Umatilla230228
Clackamas154940
Malheur80414
Deschutes61110
Lane5903
Jackson4732
Yamhill46713
Lincoln4189
Union3942
Morrow3723
Jefferson3714
Polk31912
Linn28410
Klamath2012
Hood River1930
Wasco1923
Benton1696
Douglas1511
Josephine1152
Columbia970
Coos910
Clatsop850
Crook491
Baker400
Tillamook340
Lake320
Wallowa191
Sherman160
Curry150
Harney100
Gilliam40
Grant40
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

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Confirmed Cases: 574231

Reported Deaths: 10476
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Los Angeles2105434998
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Orange40527726
San Bernardino36072546
San Diego32975594
Kern24440171
Fresno17846171
Alameda13631209
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Contra Costa9404139
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Merced573670
Monterey544635
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Kings445356
Solano427441
Sonoma367047
Madera246339
Placer231922
San Luis Obispo225416
Yolo183444
Santa Cruz12436
Butte12388
Napa107411
Sutter9527
San Benito7654
El Dorado7552
Lassen6830
Yuba6464
Mendocino47210
Shasta45910
Colusa3914
Glenn3603
Nevada3571
Humboldt2864
Tehama2761
Lake2402
Amador1822
Mono1581
Tuolumne1553
Calaveras1471
Inyo1063
Siskiyou1020
Del Norte1000
Mariposa622
Plumas360
Modoc50
Trinity50
Sierra40
Alpine20
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