SALEM, Ore. (KATU) — As the Oregon Senate Republican-led walkout entered its 14th day on Monday, Gov. Tina Kotek walked into the Republican and Democrat offices at the Capitol in an apparent attempt to get the lawmakers back on the Senate floor.
Ten senators were absent from Monday’s scheduled session, preventing a quorum needed to vote on legislation.
With only 33 days left in the legislative session as of Tuesday, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are digging in their heels.
Republicans have vowed to come back on June 25, which is the last day of the session. They say on that day they are only willing to pass the budget and bipartisan bills.
The walkout began on Wednesday, May 3, with Oregon's GOP senators objecting to two controversial bills – one that would protect access to gender affirming care for minors as well as reproductive care like abortion and a gun control bill.
Shortly after the start of the boycott, Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-District 27, told KATU his party’s refusal to come to work is because Democrats are violating a Senate rule that requires a bill’s summary to be written in a way that the general public can understand.
"We have no choice but to protest in this way," said Knopp said during news conference earlier this month. "We believe that Democrats should follow the law, and we don't believe that they currently are; therefore, we are engaged in a peaceful constitutional protest.
Democratic lawmakers disagree, and say the issue is clearly not about a Senate rule.
This is just another tactic," Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, a Democrat, said during a news conference. "They started reading the bills immediately, they've continued to utilize the guidelines and rules that we have. I'd say they are weaponizing them to slow down the process. This is about reproductive freedom and transgender rights.
Senate President Rob Wagner has said that he will not allow the Republicans' last minute return to happen, which means the state could get to the end of session without passing a budget.
Gov. Kotek has committed to calling a special session to pass the budget if that does not happen by the time the legislative session adjourns.
If that happens, any bills that haven't already passed the Senate would die.
When she met with lawmakers Monday, she noted that all but one Democrat senator was there in person, while only one Republican senator was there in person.
"One person was there and the rest of them were on Zoom. I think that says a lot about who is interested in resolving the crisis," Kotek said.
It appeared the two sides were not closer to an agreement.
We were just listening today," Kotek said. "We were not negotiating, but it's very difficult when Senate Republicans do not show up. I think that is very disrespectful.
Knopp is accusing the Senate's Democratic leadership of threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get their way" and said that Republicans are ready to work on " the issues most important to Oregonians – homelessness, affordable housing, public safety, cost of living, job creation, and fully-funded education.”
Among Knopp and the Republicans' demands, is the call for Democrats to kill roughly 20 bills they say are hyper-partisan.
Lieber said in a statement responding to the GOP that members of her party are "upholding our constitutional duty to show up for work and vote on the floor."
One of the results of this boycott is that at least three Senators will be barred from seeking re-election, due to a ballot measure passed in 2022 that prevents lawmakers from seeking office again of they have 10 or more excused absences on days they are scheduled to vote.