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A state House united to protect security

While legislators faced a clear-cut case for expelling Rep. Mike Nearman from the Oregon House, the vote they took last Thursday was still a difficult one. The historic step of kicking out a House member is a somber milestone that no one should celebrate.

But Nearman, a Republican representing House District 23-Dallas, left legislators no choice. He allowed a crowd of angry protesters, some of whom were armed, to enter the Capitol last December, despite coronavirus restrictions closing the building to the public and as COVID-19 cases surged. He apparently helped plan the break-in, as a video from a few days prior to the breach showed him coaching people through the process. And even as every one of his fellow House Republicans urged him to resign for the good of himself, his caucus and Oregon, he refused to step down. So much for his view of public service.

Oregonians should take great satisfaction that every House Republican other than Nearman joined Democrats in voting to oust him from the chamber. The unanimity of the vote sends a resounding message to Nearman, fellow legislators and the public that this House, often divided on policy and tactics, still stands together against threats to its legitimacy, integrity and security.

This is especially important considering how much partisanship overtakes loyalty to core principles and institutions if it is perceived to advantage the other side. We’ve seen that happen on the federal level, with many congressional Republicans opposing the creation of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack of the U.S. Capitol. We are happy to note that Oregon’s lone Republican congressman, Rep. Cliff Bentz from the 2nd Congressional District, voted in favor of the commission, rightly telling constituents that protecting the Constitution requires examining the breakdowns that allowed the breach, as The East Oregonian reported.

And certainly, many Republicans shared Nearman’s disagreement with the Democratic leadership’s decisions to keep the Capitol building closed to the public, as legislators hashed out business. As counties lower restrictions and vaccinations increase, it’s reasonable to revisit this policy and move quickly to reopen for the final few weeks of the session.

But there is no political, constitutional, moral or ethical argument that would make Nearman’s actions reasonable. The members of the House should all be commended for a vote that makes that clear.