Partisan Divide

Who Won the Walkout in the Oregon Legislature?

Republicans in the Oregon Senate missed 43 days in a protest of several bills, on topics including abortion access, gender-affirming care, and gun control.

By Sam Stites June 20, 2023

The Senate chambers in the Oregon State Capitol in Salem are no longer devoid of life. 


This is the first week in more than a month that lawmakers in Salem are back to work following a six-week walkout (the longest in state history) by Oregon Senate Republicans protesting several bills, on topics including expanding protections for reproductive health and gender-affirming care. The question is, who won? 

Senate Republicans used the well-known and effective tactic of denying quorum, or more simply put, not showing up for 43 days, which grinded the legislature’s work to a halt. While a bill dealing with reproductive and transgender care is the main sticking point with Republicans decrying it for stripping parents of their right to have a say in the health care their children receive, a bill putting further restrictions on firearms in Oregon also proved to be a nonstarter for the GOP. (Yes, Oregon's politics aren't so different from Texas and Florida.)

But concessions on both sides led to a deal struck Thursday with just 10 days left until lawmakers must adjourn their 2023 session. Both bills—which were approved by the House more than a month ago and will need to be voted on again due to changes provided by the negotiations—passed Senate votes the same day. 

That also means hundreds of other bills on topics from funding addiction and homeless services to preventing wildfire will also live to see the light of day if lawmakers can overcome the avalanche of work as they cram 53 days work into the final 10. Democrats waived fines levied against absent Republicans to the tune of $325 per day as part of the deal, though several Republican senators and one Independent will be barred from running for reelection due to a law approved by Oregon voters last year that blocks those with more than 10 unexcused absences from seeking another term. The deal also relies on a promise from Republicans to allow the procedural rules be suspended so that the legislature can move bills through quickly with less than two weeks left until adjournment.

So who won? 
Perhaps the most confusing part of the whole saga is identifying the victor. Predictably, both Republicans and Democrats are claiming victory

Republicans say they’ve protected the rule of law, protected parental rights, and protected law-abiding gun owners, all while holding Democrats accountable.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, a Bend Republican, issued a more triumphant statement, praising his party’s efforts as “the last line of defense for parental rights and the rule of law.”

“I am incredibly proud of their steadfast determination to give their constituents a long-overdue seat at the table,” Knopp wrote. “We have said from the very beginning that we cannot allow the Senate to operate in an unlawful, uncompromising, and unconstitutional manner.”

But at least one conservative group doesn’t quite agree with Republicans that the results of their negotiations with Democrats constitute a win. The Oregon Firearms Federation—an organization the advocates for the rights of gun owners—also issued a statement Tuesday characterizing the deal as Republican leadership “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”

“Another disgrace for the people who got hired to protect our rights,” the group said.

Democrats say they’ve protected freedoms that were guaranteed by the recently overturned Roe V. Wade decision, gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary communities, bolstered gun violence prevention, and saved hundreds of bipartisan bills and budget items in the effort.

Senate President Rob Wagner, a Democrat from Lake Oswego, released a statement Thursday that struck more of a kumbaya vibe than victory speech: “I am grateful for all the senators who listened to each other and sought an end to this walkout while protecting Oregon priorities and values,” Wagner wrote.

Judging by reactions on social media, Democratic constituents aren’t exactly pleased by the end result of negotiations either. 

Helpfully, the internet has weighed in most decisively, declaring no clear winner: