Oregon senators lose bid to compel Trump to withdraw fed forces
Oregon's U.S. senators have been rebuffed in their effort to compel President Donald Trump to withdraw federal law enforcement from Portland streets.
The Senate passed the $740 billion military authorization bill (S 4049) on Thursday, July 23, but Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley were among those who voted against the bill. On an 87-13 procedural vote Wednesday, July 22, the Senate voted to cut off debate, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denied Wyden and Merkley from offering an amendment to block the president from deploying federal officers.
Wyden and Merkley sought to attach their amendment to the bill, which is considered must-pass legislation before Congress starts its late-summer recess. They had mustered about 40 sponsors.
The House passed its version of the bill (HR 6395) on Tuesday. They must be reconciled.
News reports specified that federal officers wearing uniforms without identification removed people from Portland streets without probable cause, and put them into unmarked vans. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice — parent agencies of Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Marshals Service — said their officers acted to protect federal buildings and did nothing unlawful.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman heard arguments Wednesday in Portland in a lawsuit filed by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum against the federal agencies, but he issued no decision immediately afterward. The state seeks a temporary restraining order against the federal agencies.
On Thursday, the inspectors general of the two federal agencies agreed with a request by the senators and Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici to investigate the situation in Portland. Blumenauer said in a statement:
"I'm glad that inspectors general ... have granted our request for independent investigations. We need to know how these abuses of power were allowed to happen and what can be done to stop President Trump and his cronies from deploying more federal law enforcement officers across the country."
On Wednesday's procedural vote, Wyden and Merkley were among eight Democrats voting no. They were joined by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who usually votes with Democrats, and four Republicans — Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, both of Utah; Rand Paul of Kentucky and John Kennedy of Louisiana.
Wyden issued this statement after Thursday's vote: "I cannot, in good conscience, vote in support of this bill while federal agents occupy my hometown and put Oregonians at risk, all to sell a lie that liberal cities are overrun by anarchists. These occupying forces have made Portland far more volatile and more dangerous. Federal agents have already shot a protestor in the head with crowd-control munitions, sending him to the hospital with a fractured skull, and abducted demonstrators in unmarked vans without identifying themselves... I will keep fighting in the Senate against Trump's authoritarian tactics in Oregon and across America."
Merkley issued this statement: "After what has happened in Portland in recent days — and Senate Republicans' refusal to do anything about it — opposition to this bill has grown even more urgent.
"President Trump is deploying dangerous authoritarian tactics on our street as a twisted campaign strategy. Americans, being used as props in this campaign, are suffering the consequences — from a protester whose skull was fractured by being shot in the head, to Portlanders who were picked up off the street and swept into unmarked vans, to a Navy veteran whose hand was broken, to the Black community leaders, other people of color, moms, and other peaceful protesters who are being tear gassed nightly.
"We cannot let these secret police tactics and this attack on our democratic freedoms stand."
NOTE: Adds announcement by inspectors general of the two departments that they will investigate the Portland situation.
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