Senate GOP may return to Capitol by Thursday


The Republican lawmakers walked out on Thursday

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Republican Senators hiding in Idaho say they may return by Thursday if they receive assurances HB 2020 can’t pass.

Supporters of the bill gathered outside the Capitol for a rally calling on the 11 Republican senators to return to work as the GOP walkout enters its sixth day.

Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger said in a statement Tuesday that Republicans are still trying to “sort out” how to proceed in the wake of an announcement from Democratic leadership that a cap and trade plan has lost support among Democrats.

Baertschiger says Republicans need further assurances that the legislation is at a “complete end.” The Minority Leader adds that he still needs to have further conversations with Democrats so that “Republicans feel comfortable with the process.”

The senators left the Capitol on Thursday to protest the cap-and-trade bill. They’ve vowed to “run out the clock” on the legislative session, which ends on June 30. However, Gov. Kate Brown said she will call a special session if there is still work to be done.

On Tuesday morning, Senate President Peter Courtney said there aren’t enough votes within his own majority Democratic caucus to approve House Bill 2020, which would be the second statewide cap and trade plan in the nation. ​​​​​​​

Courtney pleaded with the missing Republican senators to return to work, saying the Senate still needs to approve budget bills and policies addressing foster care and mental health.

Ahead of the rally, organizers said they were in touch with Oregon State Police over more possible threats. Organizers said it’s a real concern, especially after threats closed the Capitol on Saturday.

OSP recommended the Capitol close after anti-government groups threatened to join a protest planned inside the building. The threat never materialized and less than 100 protesters showed over the weekend.

What is HB 2020?

House Bill 2020 would create a cap-and-trade system that would control air pollution by capping the amount of carbon a business could produce. Businesses can emit more if they buy the rights from other companies who don’t use their limit.

The measure passed the House on Monday, June 17, however, all Republicans voted against it. The GOP lawmakers then walked out of the legislative session on Thursday to prevent a quorum — effectively blocking votes on any and all bills.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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