Some Republican lawmakers returned to the Oregon Senate on Saturday, ending a walkout over a carbon-emissions bill they said would harm their rural constituents. Nine of the 12 minority Republicans returned to Salem, the AP reports, after Senate President Peter Courtney said the majority Democrats lacked the votes to pass the legislation aimed at countering climate change. The House had previously passed the bill, one of the centerpieces of Oregon's 2019 legislative session, which is scheduled to end Sunday. Democrats have an 18-12 majority in the Senate but need at least 20 members—and therefore at least two Republicans—to vote on legislation. The walkout began June 20. Many left the state after Gov. Kate Brown ordered state police to bring them to the Capitol.
Democrats had said the climate legislation was critical to make Oregon a leader in the fight against climate change and will ultimately create jobs and transform the economy. They made concessions, but didn't go as far as Republicans hoped. "Our mission in walking out was to kill cap and trade," Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger told reporters Friday. "And that's what we did." The legislation would have been the second in the nation to cap and trade pollution credits among companies. It aimed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases by 2050 by capping carbon emissions and requiring businesses to buy or trade for an ever-dwindling pool of pollution "allowances." Baertschiger said he received assurances from the Democratic Senate president and the governor that the climate bill won't move forward this session. More than 100 bills remain to be addressed. Baertschiger said he's confident the Senate can work through dozens of measures before the legislative session ends. (One senator threatened violence if forced to return to Capitol.)