Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney Says Carbon Cap Lacks Necessary Democratic Support

Speech on the Senate floor appears to be concession to Republican walk-out. But the governor and House speaker are reading from different scripts.

Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) this morning made a startling announcement in a floor speech: House Bill 2020, the controversial cap-and-trade bill that Republicans blocked by fleeing the state, does not have sufficient support from Democratic senators to pass.

"House Bill 2020 does not have the votes on the Senate floor," Courtney said this morning. "That will not change."

That's a significant admission because Senate Republicans walked out of the Capitol on June 20 to deprive the Senate of a quorum and therefore block what they feared would be the passage of HB 2020.

But if the Democratic votes are not there anyway, as Courtney said today in a speech first reported by The Oregonian, the GOP walk-out was unnecessary.

Democrats have said they believe, based on legal advice from the legislative counsel's office, that they only need a simple majority to pass the measure, i.e. 16 votes. There are 18 Democratic senators.

So what Courtney is saying is that at least three Democrats do not support the bill in its current form.

Sens. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) and Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham) have previously expressed significant concerns about the bill. It's unclear who the third "no" vote is. (All Republicans would be expected to vote against the bill.)

Courtney went on to bemoan the consequence of the absence of the Republicans, which is depriving the Senate of a quorum and preventing passage of more than 100 bills, many of which are uncontroversial and enjoy bi-partisan support.

Courtney appealed to Republicans to come back so those bills could get a vote.

It is unclear whether Courtney's request will bring Senate Republicans back to the Capitol before the session's scheduled June 30 conclusion.

It's also not clear that Courtney is on the same page with House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland). Here's what Kotek tweeted after Courtney's speech:

"The Senate President said today that House Bill 2020, in its current form, does not have the votes to pass that chamber," Kotek tweeted. "I believe him. But I'm not giving up on passing strong climate legislation this session and I will not lose hope."

Meanwhile, Gov. Kate Brown, in a statement more than an hour after Courtney's speech, tried to continue blaming the Republicans for the climate bill's failure despite the senate president's admission that his caucus couldn't muster the votes to pass the bill.

"Senate Republicans have blocked a bill that provides a better future for our state and for our children, and the tactics they employed to do so are not just unacceptable, but dangerous," Brown said in her statement.

"This is not the Oregon Way and cannot be rewarded. The Republicans are driving us away from the values that Oregonians hold dear, and are moving us dangerously close to the self-serving stalemate in Washington, DC."

"It's now up to Republicans to prove me wrong. Are they against climate change legislation or are they against democracy? If they are not back by Wednesday afternoon, we will know the answer."

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