The political stalemate in the Oregon Senate is showing no signs of breaking in time for a normal conclusion to the 2023 Legislative Session. If anything, leadership is moving further away from resolution by the day.
Republicans announced through a press release on Tuesday that their caucus would return on June 25—the constitutional Sine Die—to pass “lawful, substantially bipartisan budgets and bills.” Democrats responded Wednesday with a press release of their own, calling the walkout unconstitutional and a power grab because it would give Republicans veto power on which bills move forward on the final day of session.
This war through the parties’ press offices points to more than just a partisan problem. It’s a temperament problem. Leaders on both sides are choosing to escalate the rhetoric in public rather than defusing the tension through negotiation.
The idea has even been floated that Democrats could call Sine Die early and clear the table of all pending legislation. This would be disastrous, as priority legislation for Democrats and Republicans alike would be scrapped. It also banks on enticing Republicans to return for a special session to pass the budget, which wouldn’t be guaranteed.
It’s worth noting that the House, with twice as many members and more extreme viewpoints represented in each party, has continued to operate throughout the Senate walkout.
There are more than 150 bills awaiting second reading in the Senate, meaning that even at a record-setting pace of 5 minutes per bill, it would take a full 12-and-a-half-hour day to get through the docket.
There’s still time for Oregon Senate leadership to right the sinking ship. But it will require setting personalities and petty differences aside.