For observers in Oregon, Texas Democratic lawmakers’ walkout to prevent a quorum in the state House must seem familiar, but in a slightly warped way. Oregon has seen members of its legislature walk out in protest too, but instead of Democrats, those lawmakers were Republicans.
Dirk VanderHart covers politics and government for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He told Texas Standard that legislative walkouts have happened occasionally in Oregon, but 2019 marked a turning point.
“In that year in the Senate, Republicans walked away twice,” VanderHart said. “In both cases, they returned after deals were cut.”
VanderHart says Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (a Democrat) sent state troopers after the missing senators, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (a Republican) has threatened to do in Texas.
In 2020, GOP members of both the Oregon House and Senate walked out in protest of bills they didn’t’ like. VanderHart says that action unraveled the entire legislative session.
“Lawmakers just had to call it and go home,” he said.
This year, Oregon GOP members briefly denied quorum over COVID-19 restrictions they did not like.
“I think that just generally, Republicans have embraced the idea that this is one of their tools,” VanderHart said.
VanderHart says Republican lawmakers in Oregon get pressure from their supporters to walk out in order to block bills the base doesn’t support. Past walkouts have focused on climate change rules, and one potential walkout in 2021 would have been a protest over a gun control proposal.
Oregon Democrats have supported Texas Democrats’ walkout, VanderHart says, even though they have vocally opposed Republicans’ walkouts in their own state. Oregon Republicans, while not supporting the substance of Texas Democrats’ objections to GOP voting bills, do support a minority party’s ability to use walkouts as a means of derailing policies they oppose.
“Everyone in Oregon seems to be somewhat approving of the strategy,” VanderHart said.