It's difficult for me to say this, since I hate to reward Republican hostage taking, but in this case the hostage is a whole lot of legislation that would benefit Oregonians more than Democrats bending on two bills detested by the Senate Republicans who have walked out would hurt Oregonians.
Yes, a month ago I said that Democrats shouldn't negotiate over the walkout, as this will just encourage more walkouts. But now the June 25 deadline when the current legislative session must end is less than two weeks away.
So the situation is similar to what President Biden and congressional Democrats faced in the standoff over raising the nation's debt limit. Republicans have enough far-right crazies to be willing to sacrifice the common good in exchange for taking a stand on issues that their base cares a lot about.
In the case of Oregon, those are two bills Democrats have made their own priorities. One would allow abortions to be provided to minors younger than 15 without parental consent. The other would raise the age for purchasing most firearms from 18 to 21.
An Oregon Capital Chronicle story describes the negotiations that are going on in the legislature regarding these bills.
OPB reported Monday, and the Capital Chronicle confirmed, that Democrats are considering softening language that would allow a child of any age to receive an abortion without parental consent. Another proposal under consideration includes potential changes to drastically pare down House Bill 2005, a firearms bill, by eliminating provisions that would raise the minimum age to purchase most firearms from 18 to 21 and allow local agencies to ban firearms on government-owned property. Those changes would only keep in place the proposed ban on ghost guns, which lack serial numbers and cannot be tracked by law enforcement.
Yet another proposal would kill Senate Joint Resolution 33, a proposed constitutional amendment that would put the right to an abortion, same-sex marriage and transgender health care in the state constitution. If passed, it would go to Oregon voters.
However, Senate sources said there is no deal yet and proposals can rapidly change in a fluid environment as talks proceed between Republican and Democratic senators.
The situation is analogous to Biden and congressional Democrats giving in on some Republican demands in order to prevent a much worse disaster: failing to raise the debt ceiling.
Here in Oregon, it would be a disaster if many worthy bills fail to be enacted because of the standoff over the abortion and gun bills -- which, if reporting is correct, are a marked reduction from the 20 bills that Republicans wanted killed a month ago.
The problem for Democrats in both cases is that they failed to take away the hostage-taking ability of Republicans when they had the chance to do this. The debt ceiling should have been abolished by Congress and Biden; Oregon Democrats should have taken steps to abolish the two-thirds quorum requirement in the state constitution, replacing it with a simple majority as almost all other states have.
Sure, it bothers me when Republicans exercise raw political power that risks harming our state. But politics isn't a white gloves tea party. It's a rough and tumble sport. So I don't blame Oregon GOP legislators for using every tool at their disposal to stop legislation they don't like. Democrats would do the same.
In Oregon few abortions are performed on girls younger than 15. Only a handful or so of these involve girls whose parents won't consent to an abortion. It's understandable that 150 Oregon physicians have urged Democrats not to change the language in House Bill 2002 that allows for abortions to be provided to girls younger than 15 without parental consent.
However, politics involves compromise. Democrats can either let this legislative session end with few accomplishments, or they bend on the abortion and gun bills in exchange for a promise from Republicans not to engage in obstruction tactics for the rest of the session.
It's the sort of bargain that won't please either side. Which means it's a bargain worth pursuing given what's at stake here.