SALEM, Ore. — Oregon’s Republican senators returned to the Capitol after they fled the state to prevent a vote on House Bill 2020, a sweeping climate plan known as cap and trade.
The Senate Republican leader announced on June 28 that the bill was dead and his colleagues returned to Oregon to finish the legislative session on June 30.
The bill would have aimed to reduce fossil fuel emissions through a cap on carbon. Supporters call it the United States' most progressive climate policy, saying it not only cuts emissions but invests in transitioning the state economy and infrastructure to better prepare for more intense weather events as climate change worsens.
Senate Republicans believe the bill would have cost many of their constituents in rural Oregon their jobs. Members of the logging and agricultural industries believe it would lead to increased fuel prices, mass layoffs and shuttered businesses.
Here’s a look back at how the walkout began and ended.
June 17, 2019: Oregon House approves cap-and-trade bill
House members voted 36-24 after nearly six hours of debate, sending the bill to the Senate.
House Republicans blasted the plan, saying it would raise gas prices and cause businesses to move. They also said it would hurt rural economies that depend on the industries targeted under the legislation.
Rep. Karin Power, one of the Democrats behind the bill, said the state is behind on its emission reduction goals and must take dramatic action to respond to climate change.
Gov. Kate Brown said she would sign the bill.
June 18: Republicans say 'all options are on the table' to stop cap and trade
Senate Republicans implied they could walk out for the second time during the 2019 Legislative Session to block a vote on House Bill 2020.
In May, Republicans had brought all business to a halt for nearly a week by refusing to show up to vote on a school funding tax package. They ended the walkout after Gov. Brown agreed to table two controversial bills on gun control and vaccination requirements.
In return, Republicans agreed that they would not walk out again.
June 19: Brown threatens special session if Republicans walk out
The day began with loggers and truckers rallying at the Capitol in opposition to HB 2020. A convoy of big rigs arrived early in the morning.
Many of the protesters said they were worried the bill would kill business and force companies to move.
Later, Gov. Brown said she was prepared to extend the legislative session and mobilize the Oregon State Police if Republicans followed through on a threat to walk out and block the vote.
Brown called the Republican threat of a walkout "a slap in the face," saying conservatives have turned "their back on respectful dialogue just because they don't agree with others in the conversation."
Sen. Brian Boquist, a Republican from Dallas, pushed back against the governor's threats.
"If you send the state police after me," he told Senate President Peter Courtney, "hell's coming to get you."
He later told KGW’s Pat Dooris that if police come, they should "send bachelors and come heavily armed. I'm not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon."
June 20: The walkout begins
The Senate session began with only Democrats answering roll call.
President Peter Courtney called it the "saddest day of my legislative life," to ask Brown to use state troopers to find the senators.
Republican senators not only left the Capitol, they fled the state and went into hiding to avoid the troopers’ jurisdiction.
“The only options we had to slow this bill down and get the attention of the public and the majority was to deny a quorum and walk out," said Sen. Tim Knopp, who represents the Bend area.
June 22: Militia threat shuts down Capitol amid walkout
The Capitol was closed on a Saturday due to a "possible militia threat" from right-wing protesters.
The right-wing groups posted their support for the GOP lawmakers on social media — in one instance offering to provide escorts to them should the state police come for them. The senators declined the offer.
One of the groups, the Oregon Three Percenters, joined an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.
Oregon State Police said they had been "monitoring information throughout the day that indicates the safety of legislators, staff and citizen visitors could be compromised if certain threatened behaviors were realized."
June 23: Republican says Democrats 'lacked the courage' to face protesters
Oregon Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr. released a prepared statement Sunday criticizing the Democrats for canceling Saturday's session and closing the Capitol building.
“Democrats were reactionary to rumors and lacked the courage to face these Oregonians by closing the Capitol building on Saturday, when it was scheduled to be open, and limiting space in the gallery of the Senate Chamber, forcing them into committee rooms to watch the floor on Sunday,” he said.
Meanwhile, a few dozen people protested outside the Capitol on Sunday.
Many of those who attended Sunday's rally said they want the public to be able to vote on the bill, echoing the demands of the Republican senators.
June 24: Climate bill supporters plan rally at the Capitol
Supporters of HB 2020 planned a rally calling for Senate Republicans to return to work.
Gov. Brown said that the Republicans broke their promise to Democrats by walking out. She told the Associated Press that the Senate Republican leader must return to the building, or at least the state, if he wants to negotiate.
June 25: Top Democratic leaders say the bill doesn’t have the votes to pass
Senate President Peter Courtney opened the morning floor session by saying the bill didn't have enough votes to pass.
Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick confirmed later in the day that the bill was likely dead for this legislative session because there wasn’t enough support within the Democratic party.
Courtney made an impassioned plea for the GOP senators to return to chambers. He said no one directed him to make his remarks. "It's just Peter," he told his Democratic colleagues on the floor.
Courtney said bills remained that would help solve mental health issues, farming, economic development, mental health and other needs, and they were being held up by the stalemate.
Baertschiger said Republicans needed further assurances that the legislation is at a "complete end." The minority leader added that he still needed to have further conversations with Democrats so that "Republicans feel comfortable with the process."
Under Senate rules, senators would still vote on the bill if Republicans returned. Burdick said it would likely be a procedural vote to send the proposal back to committee.
June 26: Republicans say “No deal”
The 11 Republican senators released a statement saying they weren't coming back to work because they didn't believe HB 2020 was actually dead, as Democrats claimed.
"Despite the rumors, there has been no deal," Senate Republicans said in a prepared statement.
June 27: Truckers, loggers and farmers protest the bill in Salem
As the walkout entered its second week, truckers and loggers from across the state converged on Salem to protest HB 2020.
June 28: 'The bill is dead' Republicans say as they announce walkout is over
"Our mission after walking out of this building was to kill cap and trade. And that’s what we did," Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr. said Friday morning.
He said he was the only one of 11 GOP holdouts in Oregon. The other 10 would return in time to resume Senate sessions Saturday morning.
June 29: Republicans return, bill sent back to committee
Nine of the 12 Republicans returned to the Capitol on Saturday, giving the Senate quorum for the first time since June 19.
One of the first acts of the session was sending the cap-and-trade bill back to committee.
June 30: Democrats demand action on Boquist; Legislature adjourns
Just one day after Republicans ended the walkout, voting in the Senate was pushed back more than three hours as Democrats met in closed-door meetings to press for action against Sen. Brian Boquist, who drew criticism after saying state police should "send bachelors and come heavily armed" if they try to return him to the Capitol.
Democrats' efforts proved futile, however, as Boquist was able to appear on the Senate floor to vote on some of the remaining policy bills.
Later Sunday, the Legislature adjourned its 160-day legislative session after sending Gov. Kate Brown a new two-year state budget and dozens of policy priorities.