The Oregon state Senate closed Saturday after a “possible militia threat” from a right-wing group — amid a broader drama over a walkout by Republican lawmakers over looming climate change legislation.
RIght-wing groups posted their support for the 12 rebel Republicans on Friday, including one group — the Oregon Three Percenters — who joined in an armed takeover of a wildlife refuge in 2016.
On Friday, a spokeswoman for Senate President Peter Courtney told The Associated Press that the Oregon state police “recommended that the Capitol be closed tomorrow due to a possible militia threat.”
Oregon State Police, in a statement, said it has been “monitoring information throughout the day that indicates the safety of legislators, staff and citizen visitors could be compromised if certain threatened behaviors were realized.”
The dramatic scenes came after the Republicans had not only skipped the legislature, but some had even left the state as part of an effort to deny Democrats the votes to take up the bill to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2050. Democrats hold a 18-12 majority, but they need 20 present for a quorum.
Republicans and anti-government groups were planning on protesting on Saturday before the closing of the Senate was announced. The Democrats had upped the ante this week when Gov. Kate Brown authorized the Oregon State Police to track down the rogue members and bring them back to the chamber.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building,” she said in a statement, according to KOIN 6. “They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do.”
Republicans soon fired back.
“Protesting cap-and-trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job,” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., of Grants Pass, said in a statement Thursday. “We have endured threats of arrest, fines and pulling community project funds from the governor, Senate president and majority leader. We will not stand by and be bullied by the majority party any longer.”
Republican Sen. Brian Boquist responded by telling state police to “send bachelors and come heavily armed” if they come and get him.
The bill would limit greenhouse gas emissions and auction pollution allowances for carbon that businesses want to emit, with a lowering cap. The bill would reduce emissions to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80 percent by 2050.
Opponents say it would hurt businesses and exacerbate a divide between the liberal, urban areas and rural parts of the state. Oregon would be the second state after California to adopt such a policy, while nine northeastern states have limited versions of so-called cap-and-trade programs.
Fox News’ Vandana Rambaran and The Associated Press contributed to this report.