Work going on in the Oregon Legislature rolled to a stop Friday when Republican senators walked out, denying the Senate a required quorum to work.
The move was the third time in three years, Republicans staged a protest by walking away from the Senate. Without the Republican members, no work could continue.
Both sides – Republicans and Democrats – pointed the finger of blame when discussing the walkout. The Republicans quickly sent out a press release, saying the Democrats and Gov. Kate Brown are hurting Oregon during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Republicans voted to three key issues they say the Democrats are not approaching properly – safely reopening schools, equitable distribution of the COVID vaccine and helping Oregonians impacted by COVID and the state lockdowns.
“Throughout the pandemic, the Legislature has abdicated too much responsibility to the governor,” Republican Leader Fred Girod said. “We cannot sit by and watch the governor fail to deliver on the biggest issues facing Oregonians today. It's time to take some of the responsibility and get to work on the issues that matter most to Oregonians. We are demanding legislation aimed at school reopenings, vaccine distribution, economic recovery and government accountability be moved to the top of the priority list.”
Girod said the state has failed school students, pointing out that 80 percent of students are still not in school, almost a year after lockdowns began.
“The governor has completely failed Oregon families and students,” Girod said. “She first promised that schools would reopen Feb. 15. She failed to put our kids first. Now she is moving the goalposts to the spring. Parents and kids no longer have any trust in her empty promises. We need truly bold action. Gov. Brown is the superintendent of public instruction. She needs to start acting like it and demand teacher’s unions immediately send their members back into the classroom.”
On the flip side, Majority Leader Rob Wagner decried the Republican move, saying the GOP was stopping state business when it is needed most.
“Senate Republicans continue to sabotage Oregon’s democracy and undermine the will of voters,” Wagner said. “They have abdicated the oaths of office many of them took just weeks ago. They continue to accept pay, benefits and daily expenses from Oregon taxpayers all while completely obstructing the business before the Legislature – the people’s work. We have tremendously important work this session. Lives are at stake as we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet the Senate Republicans continue their anti-democratic walkout tactics.”
Wagner said walkouts in three straight years prove Republicans are not serious about representing their constituents.
“This must stop,” he said. “Oregonians will hold Senate Republicans accountable and responsible for walking off the job. There will be consequences for their breach of the public trust. We will advance new rules and laws that will deter future walkouts and provide accountability for all elected officials who refuse to show up for Oregonians.”
Girod saw things differently, saying Democrats need to change their focus on the real issues impacting the state.
“Our main concern this session ought to be helping Oregonians recover from the pandemic and its economic devastation,” Girod said. “Yet Democrats are intent on taxing COVID relief money and increasing the cost of living for Oregonians. I urge legislative leaders to pass Senate Republican bills aimed at giving working Oregonians relief and getting them back to work. Yesterday’s revenue forecast indicated that the state has brought $800 million in extra tax dollars. President Biden’s bailout plan will add billions of more dollars. There is no need for new taxes.”