SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Republicans in the Oregon Senate said Friday that they will end a more than weeklong walkout over emissions-lowering climate legislation that ground the Legislature to a halt, declaring victory in the political crisis that pitted 11 GOP lawmakers against a Democratic supermajority.
Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger told reporters that Republicans will return Saturday to vote on budget bills and other priorities for conservatives. He said he’s confident the Senate can work through the dozens of measures before the legislative session ends at midnight Sunday.
Republicans fled the state to deny Democrats the numbers needed to vote on a proposal that would be the second in the nation to cap and trade pollution credits among companies. The governor sent state police to round them up and they were fined $500 a day.
“Our mission was to kill cap-and-trade,” Baertschiger said. And that’s what we did.”
As the political crisis dragged on, Democrats said they didn’t have enough votes even within their own caucus to pass the proposal targeting climate-changing emissions and implored Republicans to return to vote on other critical bills.
The climate plan has exposed lingering tensions between cities like Portland and more rural areas of the state. Rural residents say Democrats from urban areas don’t understand their way of life.
Hundreds of farmers, loggers and truckers rallied at the Capitol on Thursday in solidarity with the Republican senators.
Democrats have made dozens of concessions to respond to concerns from conservatives and industry leaders, but they didn’t go as far as conservatives had hoped.
Democrats said the legislation was critical to make Oregon a leader in the fight against climate change and will ultimately create jobs and transform the economy.
It aimed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases by 2050 by capping carbon emissions and requiring businesses to buy or trade for an ever-dwindling pool of pollution “allowances.” California has a similar program.
Democrats have an 18 to 12 majority in the chamber but need at least 20 members — and therefore at least two Republicans — on the floor to vote on legislation.