Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2019

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Sun editorial:

Oregon walkout is latest GOP scheme to subvert the will of voters

The Republican Party has employed yet another underhanded tactic in its coast-to-coast assault on democracy.

This time it’s happening in Oregon, where GOP state lawmakers have gone AWOL to block the passage of a bill aimed at curbing climate change. To prevent the state Senate from having a quorum for a vote on the bill, Republicans are refusing to be present.

That’s right, they have literally gone into hiding.

Why? Because they know the bill will clear the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, and the rules say there can’t be a vote without a quorum.

Never mind that the Democrats were elected through a fair process, and that the legislation was crafted in a democratic way — the final bill includes concessions to Republicans, for criminy sake.

No, the GOP won’t allow the will of the people of Oregon to play out. Instead, they’re sabotaging the vote and the process.

Incidents like these are happening far too often in far too many places, where Republicans either flaunt or flat-out break the rules to circumvent democracy. Sometimes, it’s gerrymandering. In a couple of cases, it’s been passing last-second legislation to limit the authority of incoming governors. In general, it’s been voter suppression or, as was the case in North Carolina, outright voter fraud.

The walkout in Oregon once again raises the question: What is it about democracy that Republicans are so afraid of?

Granted, the cap-and-trade bill in Oregon is controversial in the state. It would establish aggressive new targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and would require companies and facilities to either purchase allowances from the state to cover their emissions or trade the allowances with other participants in a secondary market. The caps on emissions are lowered every year and the supply of allowances is reduced, pressuring companies to reduce emissions.

The bill has drawn fierce opposition from the energy and timber industries, which argue that it would hurt them financially while doing little to reverse climate change.

But the proponents of the measure carried the day, plain and simple. The bill passed the House and was on its way to clearing the Senate before the Republicans took a powder.

In walking out, the GOP senators sniffled that the Democrats hadn’t acted in a bipartisan manner in passing the bill and hadn’t included enough of the Republicans’ amendments in the final product.

Oh, boo hoo. For one thing, it’s worth noting again that the bill includes concessions to industries and the Republicans who carried their water. Second, while legislating in the minority isn’t easy, the senators certainly had their chance to massage it.

The bottom line, though, is that if the cap-and-trade bill is truly bad for Oregon, the voters will decide it during the next rounds of elections for state legislative seats.

The Republicans initially said they were merely staging a “peaceful protest” aimed at pressuring Democrats into bringing them to the table again, but that’s proven to be anything but true.

What they’re actually doing is taking the process hostage. Gov. Kate Brown has attempted to stop them by authorizing the Oregon State Police to find the missing Republicans and haul them back to the capital, but as of Monday the senators not only remained defiant but were belying their so-called “peaceful” approach.

Take Sen. Brian Boquist’s warning to state police officials to “send bachelors and come heavily armed” if they tried to round him up. Such sentiment prompted militia elements to vow to protect the AWOL senators.

This is needless drama.

If the Republicans truly cared about democracy, they’d take their licks now and redouble their efforts to elect their candidates — and no, not by redrawing districts, but by selecting strong leaders and sending them out with compelling messages.

As is, the Oregon Republicans are following a reprehensible trend in their party. These win-at-all-costs tactics need to go, and so does the scorched-earth approach when the GOP loses.