An Oregon climate change bill that prompted 12 Republican lawmakers to flee the Statehouse in Salem last week has hit yet another snag: Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat, announced Tuesday that the chamber did not have enough votes to pass the legislation.
The cap-and-trade program intended to rein in industrial carbon emissions lost traction even with the state's Democratic senators, according to Courtney, sparking protesters who were initially demanding that Republicans return to the floor for a vote to begin chanting "Peter Courtney's got to go."
"I've done as much as I can, and I'll continue to try," Courtney said.
Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney. (Oregon State Legislature website)
Gov. Kate Brown, also a Democrat, authorized the state police to round up the 12 Republicans who walked out of the Statehouse in protest of the bill Thursday and bring them back to the Senate floor for a vote but to no avail. If passed, the measure would make Oregon the second state in the nation, after California, to implement such a program.
Republicans fled the Senate, some even claiming to the leave the state, refusing to sign off on a bill that would limit emissions and establish pollution permits or "allowances" for each ton of carbon an industry plans to emit.
Speaking to "Fox & Friends" from an undisclosed location Tuesday, Republican state Sen. Tim Knopp criticized the bill and insisted that he and his GOP colleagues would continue to stymie the state legislative process, which requires 20 members in the Senate in order to constitute as a quorum in order to proceed, unless the carbon tax is scrapped and a bipartisan solution is reached.
The bill would limit greenhouse gas emissions and auction pollution allowances for carbon that businesses want to emit, with a lowering cap. The bill would reduce emissions to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80 percent by 2050. Critics say it would hurt the business community and exacerbate a divide between liberal urban areas and conservative rural parts of the state.
Protesters flood the steps of the Oregon Statehouse on Tuesday in Salem, Ore. (Associated Press)
“All we're saying is, it shouldn't cost thousands of manufacturing jobs, raise the gas tax by 20 cents a gallon to start out with, and raise natural gas prices for people who heat their home by almost 50 percent. We think there's a better way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and so we’re holding out," Knopp said. "And the only way we could do that and stop this vote is by not providing a quorum for Democrats to roll over us.".
Protesters in support of the climate bill were disappointed Tuesday after Courtney's announcement, despite assurances by Democratic lawmakers who insisted they would find a path forward for the bill.
The walkout, going on six days, also leaves several other pieces of legislation, including the state budget, up in the air. Those matters need to be resolved before the Legislative session ends at the end of the week.