Because this is Oregon, not Alabama or Mississippi, I've gotten used to saying that while our Republican politicians seem to be more reasonable than Republican officeholders in red states, they're actually just as far-right.
The only difference being, Oregon Republicans don't have the opportunity to manifest their extremism given how Democrats dominate our state's political balance.
Well, now that the walkout of Republicans in the state Senate has entered a fifth week, with the GOP being utterly unwilling to negotiate an end to the walkout (Governor Kotek has said that she's given up on her attempt to broker a deal), it's apparent that our homegrown Republican politicians are even crazier than Republicans in Congress -- and that's saying something.
For Congressional Republicans just went along with a bill to raise the debt limit that, shockingly, was nicely bipartisan. Both sides ended up compromising, with the end result pleasing neither Democrats nor Republicans completely.
In short, what happened in Congress is what would be expected when Democrats control the presidency and have a majority in the Senate, while Republicans control the House, where spending bills must originate.
So as a progressive, I was pleased with how the debt limit deal turned out.
Unfortunately, there's no sign that GOP members of the state Senate have any interest in reaching a deal with their Democratic colleagues to end their walkout. It looks like they'll keep on ignoring their sworn duty to serve as elected legislators until the current legislative session ends on June 25.
An Oregon Capital Chronicle story describes the disturbing state of affairs in the Senate.
Oregon senators participating in the GOP-led walkout will need to decide Monday whether to return to floor sessions or face daily $325 fines.
The walkout has denied the Senate a quorum since May 3, halting votes on bills addressing housing, drug addiction, public education and other issues.
On Thursday, Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, and other Democratic senators stepped up the pressure. After the roll call and sergeant-at-arms’ customary search for senators, Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, D-Beaverton, made a request: Senators should face a $325 fine for an unexcused absence for each day the Senate fails to reach a quorum. It starts Monday and is not retroactive.
...Republican senators are skipping floor sessions for a variety of stated reasons. First, they said the Senate failed to follow a law that requires bill summaries be written at an eighth-grade reading level so the public can access that information. As the walkout progressed, Republican senators also said they want to kill or water down bills they strongly oppose, including House Bill 2002, which shores up abortion rights for minors under 15 without parental consent and access to transgender care.
“The people of Oregon do not want backroom deals,” Wagner said. “The people of Oregon don’t want kill lists.”
Time is running short. The 160-day session must end by June 25, a little more than three weeks away. Republican senators have offered to return on the final day to pass budget bills, but Democratic senators have said this isn’t acceptable and fails to provide enough time to vet bills.
This means that the temper tantrum being engaged in by the crybabies in the Oregon Senate -- boo-hoo, Republicans can't win enough elections to be a majority, so we'll just leave the legislature and pout -- likely will result in their mostly rural constituents losing out on the benefits of many bipartisan bills already passed by the Oregon House.
Eventually (unless the GOP wants to be responsible for shutting down state government) those Republican senators are going to have to return and provide the two-thirds quorum needed to pass a state budget.
A Willamette Week story describes the nasty consequences if this doesn't happen.
As the Oregon House gamely continues work on bills destined to die if Senate Republicans do not return from their walkout, a new opinion from the office of Oregon Legislative Counsel Dexter Johnson paints a dire picture of what it would mean if the Legislature fails to pass a budget (which it cannot do unless GOP senators return).
The Oregon Constitution requires that the Legislature pass a balanced budget every two years to fund continuing operations.
In short, the legislative counsel’s opinion says, the failure to pass a budget would cause the state to rely on a “continuing resolution” to fund most basic services until Sept. 15, 2023, when the resolution expires. (Agency budgets would not increase from the previous biennium, which means some services would be curtailed.)
After the resolution expires, the opinion says, things would take a serious turn for the worse: K-12 schools would lose two-thirds of their funding; Oregon Department of Transportation work would grind to a halt.
The other source of school funding, property taxes, could not fill the gap and would not become available until long after school starts in the fall. “Local property tax revenue is not available until after November 15,” the opinion says. “Projects primarily funded by the state highway fund could not continue.”
Other major state agencies, such as the Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon Department of Human Services and the Oregon Department of Corrections, that depend on the general fund could shut down, according to the opinion penned by senior deputy legislative counsel David Fang-Yen.
As much as Congressional Republicans hate big government, they passed legislation that keeps the federal government funded at basically current levels for the next two years.
Yet so far, Oregon Republicans haven't been willing to do this unless Democrats give up their legislative priorities, which naturally is unacceptable to the party that voters gave sizable majorities to in both the state House and Senate.
Somehow our state has to find a way to change the two-thirds quorum requirement in the legislature to the simple majority that virtually all other states have. This should have been voted on by citizens rather than the ballot measure approved by voters in 2022 which prohibits legislators from running for office again if they have ten or more unexcused absences.
Republicans are ignoring that ballot measure in hopes it will be declared unconstitutional, or that a quirk in the wording of the measure will allow Senate GOP members who walk out to serve an additional term after their current term expires.
Regardless, the only real fix to GOP walkouts is to change the quorum requirement to a simple majority.