Protesters and counter-protesters flocked to Peace Corner in downtown Bend Tuesday afternoon, standing on both sides of the ongoing walkout by Republican senators in Salem.
“I think if Democracy is going to work, we’ve got to show up, even when things are happening that we don’t like,” said one protester calling for the walkout to end.
“They (Democrats) bypass a whole bunch of pieces of the process to get it quickly placed on the floor and voted on so that it would pass. That is what our Republican senators are standing up against,” said a woman on the other side.
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Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, is one of the senators who have now missed more than 10 days unexcused as part of this walkout. Knopp, the Senate Minority Leader, says he is standing up to what he calls unlawful actions by Senate Democrats and Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego.
The walkout, which began on May 3 ostensibly because bill summaries weren’t written at an eighth-grade level as required by a long-forgotten law, has derailed progress on hundreds of bills, including HB 2002 — a sweeping measure on abortion rights and gender-affirming care that the conservatives particularly object to.
Eileen Kiely ran against Knopp in 2020 and was at the protest Tuesday.
“He’s boosting his name recognition statewide at the expense of the needs of Oregonians. We have important needs here. It’s not just HB 2002 or SJR 33 that he’s protesting against,” said Kiely.
On the other side was retired pediatrician Dr. David Coutin. He stands against HB 2002.
“I would state, categorically, this is the absolute worst bill that I have seen in my whole career. I can’t believe the state believes that they own our children,” he said.
Republicans announced Tuesday they will return on June 25 — the final day of the session — to pass largely bipartisan bills by suspending certain rules, such as the full reading of the bills on the floor.
Knopp said as many as 150 bills could be passed in one day. But hundreds more won’t get a final vote.
Kiely says showing up for just one day isn’t good enough.
“We don’t get to pick and choose the issues that face Oregon. We deal with the issues that are before us. And by running away, all of these important issues that matter to Central Oregonians are dying,” said Kiely.
There may be a reckoning coming for Knopp and the Republicans, plus one independent senator who has racked up 10 unexcused absences.
This year’s standoff has disqualified them from serving as lawmakers in the next term under a ballot measure approved by 68.3% of boycott-weary voters last November. After 10 or more unexcused absences, a lawmaker can’t take office in the Legislature, even if the secretary of state’s elections division allows them on the ballot and they win.
Knopp has said that measure will be challenged in court. That voter-approved bill changes the state constitution, but Knopp argues it violates the U.S. Constitution.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.