Passage of a climate change bill seemed likely last week in Oregon, where Democrats control the Legislature. So the outnumbered Republicans in the State Senate, who deeply oppose the measure but could not make a difference with their votes, decided to hit the road instead, and gum up the works with their absence.
The tactic is called quorum-busting, because it leaves the majority party unable to muster the minimum attendance to hold a vote that it would otherwise be sure to win. Though considered an extreme measure, quorum-busting has a long, colorful history that includes Democrats rooming together at a Comfort Inn and a young state legislator named Abraham Lincoln jumping out a window.
Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon has sent state troopers to try to herd the absent Republicans back to the Capitol, and Democratic lawmakers have vowed to impose fines on their truant colleagues.
They were still AWOL on Tuesday when a top Democrat suddenly changed tack and said that the climate bill did not have enough support to pass in any case. “I would call it dead,” said Senator Ginny Burdick, the leader of the Democratic majority.
Ms. Burdick said it was time for Republican senators to return to the Capitol and get back to work. But after all the partisan rancor of recent weeks, it remained unclear on Tuesday whether the missing Republicans would take her at her word, or would continue to stay away out of concern that her statement was a ruse meant to lure them back for a vote in which the climate bill could still pass.
Over the years, episodes of running from office have included brief walkouts, long stays in the bathroom and lengthy trips across state lines. The tactic has been used by members of everything from a university student government to the United States Senate. Perhaps more than anything else, what it has generally done is cement partisan acrimony. Here are some famous examples.