Oregon Republicans absolutely love to walk out of the state legislature to deny a quorum when they're unable to get their way. Which is often, since this is a blue state with Democrats firmly in control.
The current GOP hissy-fit is about House Speaker Tina Kotek changing the agreement she made with Republicans to have a 3-3 Democrat-Republican split on the House Redistricting Committee.
That deal gave Republicans veto power over maps to redistrict both legislative and congressional seats following the 2020 census. At the time I thought what Kotek did was a bad idea.
Recently I wrote a post, "Oregon Democrats should hang tough with redistricting map," expressing hope that Oregon Dems would stick with a plan that could give Democrats five of Oregon's six congressional seats. (We added one due to population growth.)
Today the state Senate approved the Democratic redistricting maps, sending them to the state House. There, Kotek undid the deal she'd made with Republicans. Good for her.
When Republicans play fair across the nation, so should Democrats.
But red states are hard at work gerrymandering their way into what they expect will be a takeover of the House of Representatives in the 2022 midterms. It makes no sense for Oregon Democrats to unilaterally disarm when it comes to redistricting, since control of the House could rest on the outcome of a few races -- like here in Oregon.
What Kotek did is described in a Statesman Journal story.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, reneged on a deal Monday that gave House Republicans equal representation on the chamber's redistricting committee in an attempt to pass new congressional district maps which would likely give Democrats disproportionate representation in the state's congressional delegation.
Instead of one evenly split six-member committee that has been working on redistricting since the spring, there will be two House committees for the special legislative session which started Monday: one handling the state legislative maps and the other the congressional map.
The new legislative maps committee has eight members and is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. The second new committee, handling congressional maps, has only three members — two Democrats and one Republican.
Naturally Democrats are trying to put a positive spin on this, claiming that Republicans violated the spirit of the original committee power-sharing agreement by not acting in good faith in coming up with new maps.
I'm inclined to a more cynical view, which usually is more accurate when it comes to figuring out why politicians act as they do.
Many progressives were furious with Kotek for agreeing to an even D-R split on the House Redistricting Committee. Kotek is running for Governor. Winning the Democratic primary would be tougher for Kotek if she was saddled with a soft on Republicans when it came to redistricting.
So acting tough in this special session should help redeem her reputation among the progressives who she needs to vote for her in the Democratic primary for governor.
Sure, now Republicans are threatening a walkout, which could happen tomorrow. But Kotek has given them quite a bit to ponder, walkout-wise. If they walk out, Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a Democrat, would approve legislative maps, while the congressional map would be fashioned by a panel of judges.
The current legislative map is fairly favorable to Republicans.
Thus a walkout could lead to Fagan drawing maps for the state Senate and House that lead to Democrats increasing their majorities in both chambers. On the plus side for Republicans, the panel of judges probably would draw a congressional map more favorable to the GOP.
I think it's more likely than not that a walkout will happen. This would please the Republican base, though it could irritate independents who think GOP legislators should do their job rather than heading for Idaho when they're about to lose a vote.
As I said in my previous post, a walkout always was possible, given Oregon's crazy requirement that two-thirds of each chamber be present for a quorum. Kotek got some concessions in the last regular legislative session when she agreed to evenly split the seats on the House Redistricting Committee between D's and R's.
On the whole, Kotek has played this political game quite well.
If Republicans show up for tomorrow's special session in the House, she'll look even better. It's possible that GOP House members won't walk out, figuring they can always file a lawsuit against the congressional redistricting map, which would land it in the courts, where it would go whether or not a walkout occurs.
That could be the closest thing to a win-win for both sides. Republicans can play the Victim of Kotek game, and Democrats will be pleased that their congressional map was passed by the legislature -- even if a court later deemed it unlawful.