Oregon Militias Threaten Violence Over GOP Carbon Credit Standoff; Capitol Closed For Safety

Oregon militias have reportedly threatened violence over an ongoing standoff between GOP and Democratic state legislators over climate change legislation, according to the Wall Street Journal

"The State Police Superintendent just informed the Senate president of a credible threat from militia groups coming to the Capitol tomorrow," reads a text message sent out to senators on Friday. "The Superintendent strongly recommends that no one come to the Capitol."

It is unclear what the threats were, as the state's Democratic leadership did not provide evidence of their claim. 

On Saturday, Oregon State Police said that they were monitoring threats and that they were closing the building. 

"The safety of legislators, staff and citizen visitors could be compromised if certain threatened behaviors were realized," said state police captain Tim Fox. 

On Thursday, the Three Percenters, a group that joined the armed takeover in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, said it would do whatever was necessary to keep the Republican senators safe. The Republicans said they wouldn’t accept the group’s help. -Wall Street Journal

What began as a disagreement over a cap-and-trade bill that exacerbated a growing divide between city-dwelling Oregon liberals and their conservative rural counterparts erupted into a full-fledged standoff after eleven GOP senators banded together and are refusing to show up for the vote

Despite holding an 18 to 12 supermajority in the House and Senate, Democrats cannot approve the bill without at least two Republicans present. After several days of heated debate between the two sides, eleven GOP members mutually agreed to boycott the vote. 

The bill, HB 2020, would make Oregon the second state in the country to set up a cap-and-trade system for all sectors of the economy. California was the first, after passing a similar bill in 2016.

Democrats had scheduled a vote on the bill Thursday, but all 11 Republican senators fled the state. At least 20 senators must be present for a quorum, so Democrats need at least two Republicans present to hold a vote. -Wall Street Journal

After Governor Brown (D) authorized state police to hunt down and wrangle the absentee GOP lawmakers, Sen. Brian Boquist (R) said he was prepared for a bloody standoff if state troopers show up - warning "Send bachelors, and come heavily armed; I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon, it’s just that simple." 

The eleven senators are also being hit with a $500 daily fine for each day they refuse to show up for the vote. They say they won't come back until Democrats agree to major changes in the bill, which they have argued would cripple manufacturing and other industries in the state. 

"This bill needs to be referred to the voters" due to its profound impact on Oregon's economy, said Republican senate leader Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr., speaking by phone from outside the state.

Sen. Michael Dembrow, one of the Democratic architects of the bill, said manufacturers had already been given major exemptions under the bill and that Republicans were only stalling to kill the bill. Voters could still gather signatures for a ballot measure to repeal the bill, he said, but unlike with a referendum, work on it could proceed in the meantime.

He said the Democrats’ resolve had been strengthened by the Republicans’ flight from the state. “The last thing we can do is make this kind of behavior the norm, because then it’ll happen every session,” Mr. Dembrow said. -Wall Street Journal

Democratic legislators say they will return to the Senate floor Sunday whether or not Republicans had returned.