Republicans Propose Neo-Wobbly Socialism!
They strike; refuse to work — while getting paid!
The Oregon Legislature adjourned its 35-day biennial session on March 5, 2020 for the first time in the nine-year constitutional history of biennial sessions without completing its work. Unprecedented.
In February, lawmakers set out with an optimistic policy agenda for the short session: bills for earthquake preparedness, wildfire suppression, our state’s housing crisis and climate change policy. Hell, turns out if they stayed there working until March 8 they could’ve even done some coronavirus pandemic planning or passed some much needed budgets for rural Oregon!
None of that happened. Instead, Republicans in both the House and Senate left the Capitol two weeks ago to protest the cap-and-trade bill. On March 5, OPB reported “on Thursday, after the two sides spent days trying to end an impasse, legislative leaders unexpectedly adjourned the session three days before the constitutional deadline.”
But was it “unexpectedly”? It didn’t quite knock me over with a feather.
Republicans are blaming Democrats and vice versa. But a review of the nasty ending of the 2019 regular session demonstrates how we reached this constitutional crisis in Oregon.
Remember, the 2019 Senate Republicans walked out initially over cap-and trade, ostensibly. But Senate Democrat leaders and Gov. Kate Brown continued to secretly negotiate with their leaders. The Rs then returned with an agreement that involved additional issues concerning vaccinations, coyote killing and some gun bills. But then the Senate Rs walked out again, breeching that previous agreement that stipulated they wouldn’t walk out again. Finally, the Rs returned, provided a few votes for budgets and then adjourned.
But trust was broken when the Republicans reneged after their initial return in 2019. Cap-and-trade was sunk because the Rs wouldn’t provide the votes needed to suspend the rules of the Senate in order to pass budgets and hold up votes on “substantive” issues like vaccinations, guns and climate change.
So besides trust being broken already in the Senate, it was bound to get worse in the House as well in 2020. The previous Republican leader, Carl Wilson, had been replaced by the current leader, Christine Drazen. She was the ringleader in the plot to remove Wilson because he had failed to lead a walkout of the House Rs in 2019.
Republicans this time thought they could set the terms of the debate despite their continuing 40 percent minority. Even though Democrats held a “super-majority” of 60 percent, Republicans could simply block any activity of either chamber by not providing the necessary votes (or physical presence in the capitol) to move bills forward by providing the 67 percent majority required to suspend rules in the final days.
But the Democrats called their bluff. Republicans knew damn well that the deadline for requiring a two-thirds vote for rule suspension put them in the driver’s seat as of March 5.
I’m so damn proud of House Rules Chair Paul Holvey issuing subpoenas for the missing House members in that final week. And I think House Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney finally showed true leadership; they refused to negotiate further with untrustworthy colleagues.
And, to her credit, the governor stayed out of it. As Oregon Chief Justice Wally Carson used to say: The Legislature proposes, the executive disposes and the courts settle their hash!
My dad loved another old saying: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Kotek and Courtney told the Rs they wouldn’t negotiate and be held hostage by the two thirds requirement to suspend the rules. Republicans own this shutdown every which way. And they should own the anger of their rural constituents when they left lots of stuff on the table for central and eastern Oregon.
Even Republican newspapers in Bend and Umatilla County and elsewhere are bemoaning the loss of their direly needed local programs.
Sometimes you have to call bullies on their bluffs to move forward. The Democrats stood up to the idiot winds for a change. I’m proud of those folks.
I agree with Hood River resident Lara Dunn who launched a recall petition against Republican Chuck Thomsen because of his role in the walkout. “Senator Thomsen broke his promise to represent us in the Legislature,” Dunn wrote in her petition. “He stopped going to work but still collected his taxpayer-funded salary and daily stipend. He must be recalled and replaced by someone who will show up and fight for our jobs, our schools, our health care and our future.”
Damn Neo-Wobbly terrorists! Let them repopulate Idaho! Get back to work, you slackers! I know, I know: OK, Boomer.
Special session? Stay tuned.
Tony Corcoran of Cottage Grove is former state senator and a retired state employee.