SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — After Senate Republicans walked out of a legislative session to prevent a quorum — effectively blocking votes on any and all bills — Governor Kate Brown authorized the Oregon State Police to find the missing members of the GOP and bring them back.
The governor threatened on Wednesday to do this. When they did, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney asked Brown to mobilize the OSP.
Courtney says he “had no choice” but to call the Oregon State Police and adds “this is the saddest day of my legislative life.”
He begged Republicans to return to take a vote calling their behavior “extraordinarily dangerous and explosive.”
In a statement, Gov. Brown said:
“After many hours of well-intentioned, respectful negotiations on Wednesday, the Senate has come to an impasse. The Senate Republicans have decided to abandon their duty to serve their constituents and walk out. The Senate Democrats have requested the assistance of the Oregon State Police to bring back their colleagues to finish the work they committed to push forward for Oregonians. As the executive of the agency, I am authorizing the State Police to fulfill the Senate Democrats’ request. It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building. They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do.”
The Republicans walked out of a session to block a vote on a sweeping climate plan. If they don’t return by 11 a.m. Friday, the missing Republicans will be fined $500 a day for being no-shows during the legislative session.
Troopers also have the authority to arrest the wayward lawmakers if they refuse to willingly return.
In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Brown said it is critical for Oregon to pass legislation to tackle global climate change. She was surrounded by children wearing shirts that read “I will be X years old when my climate fate is sealed”
Brown said she is confident troopers can do their jobs.
“OSP is utilizing established relationships to have polite communication with these Senators. While we obviously have many tools at our disposal, patience and communication is and always will be our first, and preferred, option,” OSP said in a press conference.
OSP spokesperson Tim Fox said they will go to great lengths to avoid arresting senators and no physical contact is permitted without the OSP superintendent’s permission.
He said OSP has been in contact with several of the senators but they will not provide details.
KOIN 6 News has reached out to the senators but learned they are out of state.
“I can tell you I will be in multiple states and on the move and some of my colleagues are as well,” Senator Tim Knopp told KOIN 6 News Thursday evening.
Senators risk a $500 fine for each day they fail to appear. The session ends on June 30, which means if Republicans don’t come back, all the bills from the previous session will have to be re-introduced in a special session.
“There needs to be continued negotiations, a bi-partisan solution that involves the voices in the minority,” Knopp said.
This is not the first time police have gone after rouge lawmakers. In 1971 Democrats boycotted the Senator over the legal voting age.
“They did round them up,” political expert Jim Moore said. “Things basically settled down in a couple of days.”
Moore believes we will see a repeat of that. With Senate Republicans in the minority, they don’t have enough votes to block the bill.
“This taking your toys and going home strategy doesn’t really work,” Moore said. “It’s total theater. Until the end comes, we don’t know what is really happening behind the scenes. We are just in the audience the curtain is open and we are wondering where half the cast is.”
WATCH: Brown addresses GOP walkout