Oregon GOP Mulling Walkout After Democratic House Speaker Retracts Terms for Redistricting

House Republicans in Oregon are considering a possible walkout this week after the Speaker of the House withdrew her offer of a power-sharing deal for the redistricting process.

Lawmakers would lack a quorum without Republicans present on the chamber floor, effectively putting a stop to proceedings

House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat, had offered to evenly split the House Redistricting Committee in exchange for GOP lawmakers to stop blocking bills during the 2021 legislative session. The move would have given House Republicans the power to veto any of the proposed redistricting maps.

But Kotek announced Monday that she was backtracking from the deal, sparking outrage among the Republicans and lending the Democrats a strong advantage in drawing new district lines. The redistricting would likely lead to five of the House seats going to Democrats, and just one for Republicans.

"She lied and broke her promise not just to us but to Oregonians," Christine Drazan, the Oregon House Minority Leader, said in a statement on Kotek.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Oregon State Capitol Building
House Republicans in Oregon are weighing a potential walkout after the state's House Speaker backtracked on a power-sharing deal for redistricting. Workers cover ground floor windows with plywood at the state Capitol building on January 15, 2021 in Salem, Oregon. Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Stakes are high as Oregon gained a new, sixth U.S. House seat following the latest census.

Lawmakers were told the House would reconvene in Salem Wednesday morning following news Tuesday that someone in the building had tested positive for COVID-19. But House Speaker Tina Kotek now says the chamber won't convene until Saturday to give time for those exposed to the coronavirus case to be tested and receive results.

Democrats say their entire caucus in the House has been vaccinated. The number of Oregon's vaccinated Republican lawmakers was not immediately available.

When the House reconvenes on Saturday lawmakers will have just two days to vote on and pass new political boundaries before a Sept. 27 deadline. If congressional maps are not passed by that deadline, the task will fall to a panel of five retired judges appointed by the Oregon Supreme Court.

But who will return to the Capitol when the House doors reopen remains in question.

In a statement, Kotek said she was "disappointed that after many months of work, House Republicans did not engage constructively despite many attempts to address their concerns" and lead to her decision to void the standing deal.

Both parties have used walkouts — a tool made available by the Oregon Constitution — in the past, with Republicans relying on it in recent years. Most notably in 2019, when Republicans used it to stop a cap-and-trade bill.

The Senate passed maps on Saturday, without Republican support. Those maps also need to be voted on in the House.

In addition to the six congressional districts, lawmakers are also responsible for passing 90 legislative districts which determines how voters pick state representatives and state senators.

If the legislative maps are not passed by Monday, the task will fall to Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a progressive Democrat who few Republicans would want to see in charge of that process.

Oregon Capitol Building
House Republicans in Oregon are considering a possible walkout this week after the House Speaker withdrew her offer of a power-sharing deal for the redistricting process. Workers cover ground floor windows with plywood at the state Capitol building on January 15, 2021 in Salem, Oregon. Nathan Howard/Getty Images