Never-ending reading: Oregon GOP tries to tie up Legislature

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Republicans have forced a clerk in the Oregon Legislature to read aloud every word in nearly every piece of legislation, giving granular details about farm loans, motor vehicle taxes and other government minutiae as the minority party uses the stalling tactic to try to gain leverage.

Democrats have supermajorities in both the state Senate and House, and Republicans are using the strategy to push their own initiatives and weaken Democratic ones. Lawmakers in statehouses and in Congress have a history of turning to delay tactics — sometimes imaginative ones — to stall or kill legislation.

Minority Republicans in Colorado wanted a 2,000-page bill read aloud this year, so Democrats brought in computers to read it at hyperspeed. A judge knocked down the trick, and Democrats said they lacked time to finish everything on their agenda before the session ended this month.

In 2013, GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas spoke on the Senate floor for 21 hours, including reading Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” to oppose President Barack Obama’s health care law. In 2003, Texas Democrats fled to neighboring Oklahoma to deny enough members to vote on a redistricting bill, effectively killing it.

The effort in Oregon has put House reading clerk Lacy Ramirez Gruss in the spotlight as she reads legislation hour after hour, day after day. Lawmakers often chat or work at their desks during the readings, but they applauded after she read a 45-page bill on May 1 for more than two hours without a break.

“It was a little bit wearying. I was ready to talk until I fainted,” she said, laughing.