Oregon Republican senators return to Capitol after scuttling climate bill

(Reuters) – Senate Republicans in Oregon will return to the Capitol in Salem on Saturday, nine days after they departed in a successful bid to scuttle a vote on climate change legislation that opened a bitter partisan divide.

Oregon Senate Republican leader Herman Baertschiger said on Friday that the 11 Senate Republicans who walked out will return to the 30-member chamber after he received assurances from the state’s governor and Senate president, both Democrats, that the legislation would not come up for a vote.

“It was a horrible bill,” he said during a news conference. “We had a bill that we just could not accept. We knew that it would devastate our communities.”

Democrats have been unable to vote on the legislation because state Senate rules require a quorum of at least 20 members to be present for action to be taken on bills.

The bill would have required Oregon to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions below 45 percent of 1990 levels by 2035, according to the text of the legislation.

The approach, called cap and trade, would have capped the state’s total amount of greenhouse gases, forcing companies such as utilities to buy emission allowances.

After talks broke down on June 19, Republican Senators voted to leave the state to deny a quorum. Baertschiger said that he did not support the decision to leave.

A day later, Democratic Governor Kate Brown dispatched the state police to bring back to the Republicans back to the state, an indication of the acrimony that infected negotiations over the bill.

On Saturday, right-wing militia groups staged a small rally at the Capitol building, before it was shut down as a safety precaution, police said. Senate President Peter Courtney also canceled a floor session that day.

Aides in Courtney’s and Brown’s offices were not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by David Gregorio

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