On Thursday, Oregon Senate Republicans disappeared from the state Capitol, denying Democrats a quorum to vote on a carbon cap-and-trade bill. Gov. Kate Brown ordered the Oregon State Police to fetch them.
Both moves are part of an episode of partisan gamesmanship that's fairly common in Oregon and other states. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have previously fled Salem to protest bills they find onerous; governors have previously sent state troopers to retrieve them.
But this time, the theater awakened right-wing extremist groups, who pledged on social media to provide armed protection for the Republican senators.
Those offers came from groups like the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia. People associated with the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2017 also pledged assistance. A few claimed to have received requests for help from senators.
But Senate Republicans this morning rejected offers of armed protection—and denied requesting such aid.
"The senators are not with any militias and they're not accepting their help," Kate Gillem, a spokeswoman for the Senate Republicans, tells WW. "They're not interested."
The Oregonian first reported the senators' rejection of militia aid.
Gilles tells WW that Senate Republicans remain out of state, refusing to vote on House Bill 2020, which would set limits on carbon emissions. That bill would address climate change but is noxious to much of the state's business lobby, including timber companies that have been furious over tax increases passed by Democratic super-majorities in the Legislature.
The frustration boiled over this week as Republicans threatened to walk out over HB 2020.
Brown threatened to send state troopers to fetch them—a warning that led Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) to imply on Wednesday that he would shoot any kill any police officer who came to fetch him.
"Send bachelors and come heavily armed," he told KGW-TV. "I'm not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It's just that simple."
That explosion, combined with other rhetoric about a Democratic dictatorship, seems to have emboldened right-wing militias. But it's unclear what, if anything, they've done other than make claims on social media.
Update, 4:21 pm: The senators are in Idaho.