There is no better example of political failure than the move by Republican lawmakers to walk away from the Oregon Legislature on Thursday.
But before the usual blame machine cranks up in an effort to saddle GOP lawmakers with all the responsibility, voters should take a step back and carefully review this most recent brush up at the Legislature. That’s because a careful assessment will show there is plenty of blame to go around.
Senate Republicans walked away in an effort to derail Oregon’s ambitious — and complicated — climate change legislation. House Bill 2020 — designed to slash the state’s carbon emissions — is entirely a creature of the Democratic supermajority and, as such, should be a big red flag for voters.
We wrote earlier in this space that we believe the bill would be disastrous for working-class Oregonians and do little to prevent climate change. We still believe that. The bill is a byzantine, muddled example of good intentions gone awry. What’s worse, Democrats crafted the legislation and then brushed off — repeatedly — Republican attempts to reach a compromise on issues in the bill they felt hurt Oregonians.
Instead of compromise, discussion and debate — hallmarks of democracy — the majority party at the Legislature acted in a unilateral manner unworthy of the traditions of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Senate President Peter Courtney’s decision to yank Sen. Betsy Johnson off the Ways and Means Committee for the cap-and-trade vote was a particularly naked power grab, in our opinion.
Republicans in the Legislature are not without fault. Let’s face it, the GOP in Oregon has made a number of political miscues during this legislative session but this time, and on this issue, they are in the right.
With a supermajority, the Democrats have the power to shove through whatever legislation they want. Democracy, though, isn’t about applying unchecked power. It is about seeking the best solution from a variety of different political viewpoints. It is about compromise.
To make matters even worse — which hardly seems possible — Gov. Kate Brown delivered on a threat to use the state police to bring GOP lawmakers back to the Legislature if they departed.
That means we — the state of Oregon — have descended to the low level of detaining elected lawmakers, transporting them back to Salem and shoving them into the Senate to be present so the Democrats can pass their legislation. Such an action also isn’t democracy.
Oregon lawmakers need to take a timeout, reflect on what is at stake, and then return to the Legislature with the goal of seeking a compromise. The core element of democracy is compromise. We need more of that instead of political grandstanding.