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Oregon Republicans Will Return To Capitol Sunday Even Though Session Is Over

<p>State Sen. Herman E. Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, in the Oregon Senate on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Salem, Ore.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

State Sen. Herman E. Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, in the Oregon Senate on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Salem, Ore.

Democratic leaders have declared the 2020 Oregon legislative session over.

Now the Republicans who left the statehouse last week say they're ready to return.

The two parties spent several days trying to end the impasse that began when GOP lawmakers walked out to block a vote on a plan to fight global warming. Republicans said they were open to coming back — but only to pass a series of budget bills. Democrats rejected that offer. On Thursday afternoon, they unexpectedly adjourned the session three days before the constitutional deadline. 

Republicans in the Senate said Friday that they're still willing to return — under the limits Democrats have already rejected.

“As promised, my caucus and I will be ready to work on March 8 to pass the bills the short session was intended for," Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. said in a written statement. "The focus all along should have been on the budget bills, not cap and trade. It amazes me how the Democrats do not take any responsibility for the failure of the session. Let’s get back to the purpose of the short session.”

It seems the Republicans now have a chance to show up to a half-empty legislative chamber. Democrats said they are focusing on hammering out a framework for a special legislative session, and Gov. Kate Brown has said she'll issue an executive order on climate change. 

One Republican in the Senate has continued to show up every day despite the walkout. On Friday, Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, was the only person in the entire chamber.

“It’s lonely today,” he said, surrounded by rows of empty desks. “I hope I will see my colleagues from both sides of the aisle.”

Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg, said he will be on the floor on Sunday with the rest of his caucus. Democrats shouldn’t be running around “crying and whining about what victims they are,” he said.

“They are in the majority. They are the aggressors,” Heard said. “They are bringing legislation that will burn our communities to the ground.”

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said on Thursday she wasn’t going to “roll over and only let certain bills become law based on a kill list developed in a backroom in an undisclosed, out-of-state location by absent Republicans and corporate lobbyists."

In coming months, both Republicans and Democrats will be jockeying to control the narrative about the walkout before the upcoming 2020 elections.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Lauren Dake is a political reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. Before OPB, Lauren spent nearly a decade working as a print reporter. She’s covered politics and rural issues in Oregon and Washington.