The Oregon House is likely to fast track a vote to expel Republican state Rep. Mike Nearman, holding a rare evening session on Thursday to consider ejecting one of its own for the first time in state history.
Following revelations last week that Nearman plotted with supporters before allowing an incursion of the state Capitol on Dec. 21, lawmakers have been negotiating how best to proceed quickly.
As of late morning Thursday, three sources said it was likely that would take the form of a 7:30 p.m. floor session to consider a resolution formally expelling Nearman, a four-term Republican from Polk County. The Special Committee on Dec. 21, 2020, is scheduled to hold a public hearing and work session on that resolution, House Resolution 3, at 3 p.m. Thursday.
The fast tracking of the expulsion measure, which was introduced Monday, is indicative of just how quickly sentiment toward Nearman has shifted in the statehouse.
House Republicans had been largely silent on Nearman’s actions since January, when footage of him allowing the Capitol incursion came to light. To the extent that any GOP members discussed the matter, it was to insist that Nearman deserved due process and a full airing of facts, even as Democrats and their allies roundly called for the lawmaker’s resignation or expulsion.
In the last week, that situation has fundamentally changed. Faced with evidence that Nearman gave supporters his cell phone number so they could tell him which door to open as lawmakers met in special session, all of Nearman’s House Republican colleagues have called on him to resign.
“I did not believe that he would do something like that on purpose,” House Republican Leader Christine Drazan told OPB’s “Think Out Loud” on Thursday. “I thought that it was just an error in judgment. He went out a door and did not foresee what would happen next.”
State Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, had been one of the most vocal members calling for due process. But Post joined in asking for Nearman’s resignation this week, he said, because he felt lied to.
“About five weeks ago, as one of the closest colleagues he has in the Capitol, I asked ‘is there ANY further video or other evidence?’” Post wrote on his personal website. “He said ‘no.’ That is the crux of the problem: he lied. To me personally and to the Republican caucus.”
Asked Wednesday whether Nearman had ever offered any assurances about his actual intent on Dec. 21, as opposed to saying there was no evidence of it, Post said the lawmaker “was always vague on that.”
Both Drazan and Post shared the concerns many Democrats have been expressing for months: that the incursion of protesters, some armed, could have been much more serious than it ultimately turned out to be.
After Nearman allowed the group into the Capitol on Dec. 21, some scuffled with police, and one man allegedly used bear mace on officers. But the group was contained to a vestibule just off the building’s rotunda, and ultimately allowed to leave following a handful of arrests.
Lawmakers have offered accounts of that day from their perspective, saying they watched in horror from their offices as some demonstrators shattered glass doors, assaulted journalists and issued verbal threats.
“The level of exposure that [Nearman] put people inside this building to, there could have easily been a death on that day,” Drazan said. “There wasn’t. I’m grateful.”
Drazan told “Think Out Loud” that she agrees with Nearman on principle that the state Capitol should not be completely closed to the public. She even said she might have supported the lawmaker’s actions if he had been more discriminating about who he allowed inside.
“This is not a situation where someone said, ‘I’m going to support and encourage peaceful protest. I’m going to sneak some little old ladies in through the basement, and they’re going to come to the rotunda with signs, and then they’re going to be peacefully led out by our public safety officers,’’’ Drazan said. “He could have done that, and that would have been civil disobedience. And I would have fully supported that.”
Nearman has not answered repeated inquiries from OPB in recent months. But the lawmaker told conservative radio host Lars Larson this week that he anticipates House members will vote to expel him, a decision that requires a two-thirds vote by the chamber.
Drazan, for her part, told OPB Thursday she was not ready to talk about how she will vote, saying she was still urging Nearman to resign.
“I think an expulsion vote on the floor of the house would be a dramatic loss for our state. And I am focused on doing everything I can to avoid the expulsion vote on the floor of the House by encouraging Representative Nearman to do the right thing and to resign from the building,” Drazan said. “A vote is not in front of me today, and I need to have my member know that resignation is the best path forward at this time.”
If Nearman is expelled on Thursday, he would become the first member of the House in state history to be ejected from the body. But his potential consequences won’t end there. He is also facing two misdemeanor charges in Marion County Circuit Court stemming from the Dec. 21 incident.