Jeffrey Alan Merkley (born October 24, 1956) is an American politician serving as the junior United States Senator from Oregon since 2009. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Prior to his election to the Senate, Merkley was a five-term member of the Oregon House of Representatives representing the state's 47th district, located in central Multnomah County at the eastern side of Portland. From 2007 to 2009, he served as Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.
|United States Senator|
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2009
Serving with Ron Wyden
|Preceded by||Gordon Smith|
|64th Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives|
January 3, 2007 – January 2, 2009
|Preceded by||Karen Minnis|
|Succeeded by||Dave Hunt|
|Member of the Oregon House of Representatives|
from the 47th district
January 3, 1999 – January 2, 2009
|Preceded by||Frank Shields|
|Succeeded by||Jefferson Smith|
Jeffrey Alan Merkley
October 24, 1956
Myrtle Creek, Oregon, U.S.
Mary Sorteberg (m. 1992)
|Education||Stanford University (BA)|
Princeton University (MPA)
Merkley defeated two-term Republican incumbent Gordon Smith in 2008 and went on to defeat Republican challenger Monica Wehby in his bid for reelection in 2014. Throughout his tenure, Merkley has been a leading progressive voice in the Senate and was the only U.S. Senator to endorse Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries. He was considered a potential candidate for the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 2020, but is running for re-election instead.
Early life, education and early careerEdit
Merkley was born in Myrtle Creek, Oregon, the son of Betty Lou (née Collins) and Darrell Philip Merkley. His paternal grandmother was born in Calliope, Queensland, Australia. He attended first grade in Roseburg, Oregon before moving to Portland with his family.
He graduated from David Douglas High School, received a bachelor of arts degree in International Relations from Stanford University in 1979, and earned a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University in 1982. After completing his master's degree, Merkley was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow, working at the Office of the Secretary of Defense on the security of American military technology. After his fellowship, he worked in the Congressional Budget Office, where he analyzed nuclear weapons policies and programs.
He started the Walk for Humanity, initiated the Journey for Mankind, launched development of the Habitat Home Building Center, and initiated a pilot project for "YouthBuild" in which gang-affected youth built homes in their own neighborhoods.
He served as Director of Housing Development at Human Solutions, where he worked to make available affordable housing complexes and launching Oregon's first Individual Development Account (IDA) program that helps low-income families save money to buy homes, attend college, or start businesses.
In 1998, Merkley was elected as a Democrat to the Oregon House of Representatives from district 16 in east Portland (District 47 after the 2002 redistricting). He succeeded Frank Shields, who moved from the House to the Oregon State Senate due to term limits. In its endorsement, The Oregonian predicted that Merkley was the most likely of several Democrats to "accomplish something positive in the Legislature." Following the 2003 session, he was elected Democratic leader, and after Democrats gained a majority in the Oregon House in the 2006 Oregon statewide elections, he was chosen (in a unanimous vote of the 31 incoming Democrats) to serve as Speaker of the House in the 74th Oregon Legislative Assembly.
During Merkley's tenure as Speaker, the Oregon House passed several pieces of legislation: it created a state "rainy day fund" (a savings account to protect public schools against an unstable economy); increased funding in Oregon public schools by 14 percent ($1 billion) and by 18 percent ($1.4 billion) in state universities; banned junk food in schools (effective 2009); expanded the Oregon indoor smoking ban; revised the Oregon Bottle Bill; outlawed discrimination by sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and in the workplace; and gave same-sex couples state-granted rights, immunities, and benefits.
On August 13, 2007, Merkley received the endorsements of Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski and former Democratic Governor Barbara Roberts. He was endorsed in December 2007 by the Oregon AFL-CIO, the state's largest labor federation. The union federation's leaders cited Merkley's 97% record of voting in the interests of working families, and his electability in a general election against the incumbent senator Gordon Smith. Merkley was the first federal candidate to be cross-nominated by the Independent Party of Oregon.
Merkley won the Democratic nomination to challenge Smith in 2008, narrowly defeating activist Steve Novick and four others in the Democratic primary. Given the difficulty of running against an incumbent senator, Merkley was initially thought to have only a moderate chance of unseating Smith. But in July 2008, a Rasmussen poll showed Merkley with a lead over Smith, albeit within the margin of error. By August, after strongly negative campaigning on both sides, Rasmussen reported that Merkley's support had deteriorated, with Smith taking a strong lead in the polls. Merkley's favorable rating was at 42%, while his unfavorable rating had risen to 45%.
Polls taken shortly before the election indicated that Merkley's standing had once again improved, with Merkley's 12-point deficit turning into a slight lead.
On election night, the Merkley-Smith race was too close to call, but media outlets including The Oregonian called the race for Merkley on the morning of November 6, and Smith conceded later that morning. Ultimately, Merkley defeated Smith by three percentage points, 49% to 46%. While Merkley only carried eight counties, one of them was his home county of Multnomah County, which he won by a staggering 142,000-vote margin—a deficit which proved too much for Smith to overcome. Merkley thus became the first person to unseat an incumbent Oregon senator since Bob Packwood's defeat of Wayne Morse in 1968.
Merkley formally resigned his seat in the Oregon House in a letter to Secretary of State Bill Bradbury on January 2, 2009. He was sworn as a Senator on January 6, 2009. Upon his swearing-in, Oregon was represented in the Senate by two Democrats for the first time since Maurine Brown Neuberger served alongside Morse from 1960 to 1967.
Merkley has accumulated a progressive record during his Senate career to date. Merkley became the first Democratic member of the Senate to announce that he'd vote against the confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, citing Bernanke's failure to "recognize or remedy the factors that paved the road to this dark and difficult recession." As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, Merkley became a leading force in the effort to pass the Wall Street reform bill. Along with Michigan Senator Carl Levin, he successfully added an amendment, usually called the Volcker Rule, to the Dodd–Frank Wall Street reform bill, which banned high-risk trading inside commercial banking and lending institutions. Merkley also championed an amendment that banned liar loans, a predatory mortgage practice that played a role in the housing bubble and subsequent financial collapse.
He was a founding signatory of a mid-February 2010 petition to use reconciliation to pass legislation providing for a government-run health insurance program in the Senate. Merkley also championed legislation that provides new mothers with a private space and flexible break times to pump breast milk once they return to work. Merkley's breastfeeding amendment was included in the health care reform law and signed into law by President Obama in 2010.
In late February 2010, Merkley again made headlines when he unsuccessfully tried to persuade Republican colleague Jim Bunning of Kentucky to drop his objection to passing a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits for jobless Americans. Bunning replied, "Tough shit." A spokesman for Merkley said that the Oregon senator did not hear Bunning's remark at the time.
In late 2010, Merkley began circulating a proposal to his fellow Senate colleagues about the need to force Senators to filibuster in order to block legislation. In 2011, Merkley introduced a bill to reform the filibuster and help end gridlock in the Senate. He was joined by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.
On April 4, 2017, Merkley held the senate floor for 15 hours 28 minutes in protest of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
In early June 2018, Merkley received national attention when he attempted to visit a facility holding the children of jailed adults who had attempted to cross the border to seek asylum. Children were removed from their parents and placed in the custody the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Merkley filmed his attempt to visit a facility located in a former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas. He was refused entrance and the police were called and arrived as he continued to try to speak with the facility administrator. He commented in the film, "I think it's unacceptable that a member of Congress is not being admitted to see what is happening to children whose families are applying for asylum. I decided to come out here, go up to the door and ask to be let in." By midday the video had garnered more than one million viewers.
- Committee on Appropriations
- Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Ranking Member)
- Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
- Subcommittee on Legislative Branch
- Committee on Foreign Relations
- Committee on the Budget
- Committee on Environment and Public Works
Asylum and immigrationEdit
Merkley has been noted for his opposition to the Trump administration's immigration policies. In June 2018, he attempted to enter the Casa Padre processing facility in Brownsville, Texas, where children separated from their parents were being detained as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. Merkley was not permitted to enter the facility, and eventually the police were called and he was asked to leave the premises. Video of the event went viral on social media, drawing greater attention to the policy in traditional media and among the public. Speaking about the policy in an interview with Time magazine, Merkley stated his belief that "[a] part of this is the dehumanization of people seeking asylum in the U.S." By the end of June, Trump had signed an executive order modifying the policy to replace family separation with family detention. Merkley has continued to oppose the administration's policy, dubbing it "handcuffs for all." As of July 2018, many children who had been separated under the policy still have not been reunited with their parents.
In August 2018, Merkley was one of seventeen senators to sign a letter spearheaded by Kamala Harris to United States Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen demanding that the Trump administration take immediate action in attempting to reunite 539 migrant children with their families, citing each passing day of inaction as intensifying "trauma that this administration has needlessly caused for children and their families seeking humanitarian protection."
In November 2018, Merkley was one of eleven senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis concerning "the overt politicization of the military" with the Trump administration's deployment of 5,800 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and requesting a briefing and written justification from the U.S. Northern Command for troop deployment while urging Mattis to "curb the unprecedented escalation of DOD involvement in immigration enforcement."
In January 2019, Merkley was one of twenty senators to sponsor the Dreamer Confidentiality Act, a bill imposing a ban on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from passing information collected on DACA recipients to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Department of Justice, or any other law enforcement agency with exceptions in the case of fraudulent claims, national security issues, or non-immigration related felonies being investigated.
In April 2019, Merkley was one of eleven senators to sign a letter to Juul CEO Kevin Burns asserting that the company had "lost what little remaining credibility the company had when it claimed to care about the public health" and that they would not rest until Juul's "dangerous products are out of the hands of our nation’s children." The senators requested Juul list each one of its advertising buys and detail the steps the company has taken to ensure its advertisements are not seen by people under 21 in addition to asking if Juul had purchased any social media influencers for product promotion.
Defense and foreign policyEdit
In August 2013, Merkley was one of twenty-three Democratic senators to sign a letter to the Defense Department warning of some payday lenders "offering predatory loan products to service members at exorbitant triple digit effective interest rates and loan products that do not include the additional protections envisioned by the law" and asserting that service members along with their families "deserve the strongest possible protections and swift action to ensure that all forms of credit offered to members of our armed forces are safe and sound."
On June 28, 2018, Merkley was the only member of the Senate Appropriations Committee to vote against the 675 billion Pentagon spending bill for fiscal 2019 providing 607.1 billion for the base budget of the Pentagon along with 67.9 billion for the war fund Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO). The spending bill was a 20.4 billion increase over the Pentagon’s fiscal 2018 enacted level.
Merkley led an effort in November 2011 to urge President Barack Obama to expedite transition of responsibility for military and security operations to the government of Afghanistan. The Senate passed an amendment to the defense authorization bill by voice vote that required the President to deliver to Congress a timeline for an accelerated transition of all military and security operations to the Government of Afghanistan within 90 days of the law's enactment. The measure had bipartisan support. Co-sponsors included Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
- Central America
In April 2019, Merkley was one of thirty-four senators to sign a letter to President Trump encouraging him "to listen to members of your own Administration and reverse a decision that will damage our national security and aggravate conditions inside Central America", asserting that Trump had "consistently expressed a flawed understanding of U.S. foreign assistance" since becoming president and that he was "personally undermining efforts to promote U.S. national security and economic prosperity" through preventing the use of Fiscal Year 2018 national security funding. The senators argued that foreign assistance to Central American countries created less migration to the U.S., citing the funding's helping to improve conditions in those countries.
- Iraq war
- Removing all combat troops starting right away and completing the redeployment in six to 12 months
- Eliminating permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq
- Engaging Iraq's neighbors in a diplomatic effort to secure the peace, particularly Turkey, Iran and Syria
- Removing all American contractors from the country and replacing them with Iraqi contractors, and
- Directing our attention toward stronger engagement with the Iraqi Parliament and Courts
In December 2010, Merkley voted for the ratification of New Start, a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russian Federation obliging both countries to have no more than 1,550 strategic warheads as well as 700 launchers deployed during the next seven years along with providing a continuation of on-site inspections that halted when START I expired the previous year. It was the first arms treaty with Russia in eight years.
In February 2017, Merkley was one of eleven senators to sign a letter to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressing their concern "about credible allegations that the Trump campaign, transition team, and Administration has colluded with the Russian government, including most recently the events leading to the resignation of Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser." The senators requested the creation of "an independent Special Counsel to investigate collusion with the Russian government by General Flynn and other Trump campaign, transition and Administrative officials" in order to maintain "the confidence, credibility and impartiality of the Department of Justice".
In December 2018, after United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the Trump administration was suspending its obligations in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 60 days in the event that Russia continued to violate the treaty, Merkley was one of twenty-six senators to sign a letter expressing concern over the administration "now abandoning generations of bipartisan U.S. leadership around the paired goals of reducing the global role and number of nuclear weapons and ensuring strategic stability with America's nuclear-armed adversaries" and calling on President Trump to continue arms negotiations.
In April 2019, following the Trump administration not distributing money to West Bank and Gaza "because of perceived intransigence on peace talks by the Palestinians and payments to the families of those who have attacked Israelis", Merkley was one of six Democratic senators to introduce a resolution restoring US humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
- Saudi Arabia
In June 2017, Merkley voted for a resolution by Rand Paul and Chris Murphy that would block President Trump's $510 million sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia that made up a portion of the $110 billion arms sale Trump announced during his visit to Saudi Arabia the previous year.
In March 2018, Merkley voted against tabling a resolution spearheaded by Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy, and Mike Lee that would have required President Trump to withdraw American troops either in or influencing Yemen within the next 30 days unless they were combating Al-Qaeda.
In October 2018, Merkley was one of seven senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing that they found it "difficult to reconcile known facts with at least two" of the Trump administration's certifications that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were attempting to protect Yemen civilians and were in compliance with US laws on arms sales, citing their lack of understanding for "a certification that the Saudi and Emirati governments are complying with applicable agreements and laws regulating defense articles when the [memo] explicitly states that, in certain instances, they have not done so."
On February 28, 2019, Merkley introduced a resolution prohibiting American military intervention in Venezuela without the approval of Congress, adding that it was "critical that the Venezuelan people are the ones to determine their own future, and that the U.S. does not repeat a failed strategy of military intervention in Latin America." Merkley referred to President of Venezuela Nicholas Maduro as "a brutal dictator and incompetent leader" and called for him to resign while new elections are held under the lead of an interim government.
Merkley has focused on Wall Street reform in his position on the Senate Banking Committee. Merkley and Carl Levin have led an effort to crack down on proprietary trading at depository banks and other critical financial firms. The Dodd-Frank Act included the Merkley-Levin amendment to implement the Volcker Rule. The rule is premised on the notion that banks should not make risky, speculative bets while enjoying government deposit insurance. It is intended to prevent high-risk trading that jeopardizes the banking system. A $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in May 2012 prompted Merkley and Levin to push regulators to stiffen their draft language on the Volcker Rule provisions.
In January 2018, Merkley was one of ten senators to sign a letter to President Trump encouraging him "to not only protect existing ‘Buy America’ laws, but to work with Congress to expand these protections and address coverage gaps" while the administration's infrastructure proposal was being drafted in addition to the assertion that "no infrastructure proposal should allow circumvention of current requirements in federal law that ensure our public infrastructure is built with American-made iron, steel, and manufactured materials by workers who are paid a fair wage."
In June 2019, Merkley was one of eight senators to sponsor the Made in America Act, legislation that would designate federal programs which had funded infrastructure projects not currently subject to Buy America standards and mandate the materials used in these federal programs were domestically produced. Bill cosponsor Tammy Baldwin said the bill would strengthen Buy America requirements of the federal government and that she was hopeful both Democrats and Republicans would support "this effort to make sure our government is buying American products and supporting American workers."
Merkley voted yes on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He was a founding signatory of a mid-February 2010 petition to use reconciliation to pass legislation providing for a government-run health insurance program in the Senate. Merkley also championed legislation that provides nursing mothers with flexible break times and private space to pump breast milk at work. Merkley's breastfeeding amendment was included in the health care reform law and signed into law by President Obama in 2010.
In December 2016, Merkley was one of five senators to vote against the Obama administration-supported 21st Century Cures Act, legislation increasing funding for disease research while addressing flaws in the American mental health systems and altering drugs and medical devices' regulatory system."
In December 2018, Merkley was one of forty-two senators to sign a letter to Trump administration officials Alex Azar, Seema Verma, and Steve Mnuchin arguing that the administration was improperly using Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act to authorize states to "increase health care costs for millions of consumers while weakening protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions." The senators requested the administration withdraw the policy and "re-engage with stakeholders, states, and Congress."
In February 2019, Merkley was one of twenty-three Democratic senators to introduce the State Public Option Act, a bill that would authorize states to form a Medicaid buy-in program for all residents and thereby grant all denizens of the state the ability to buy into a state-driven Medicaid health insurance plan if they wished. Brian Schatz, a bill cosponsor, said the legislation would "unlock each state’s Medicaid program to anyone who wants it, giving people a high-quality, low-cost public health insurance option" and that its goal was "to make sure that every single American has comprehensive health care coverage."
In June 2019, Merkley and fourteen other senators introduced the Affordable Medications Act, legislation intended to promote transparency through mandating pharmaceutical companies disclose the amount of money going toward research and development in addition to both marketing and executives' salaries. The bill also abolished the restriction that stopped the federal Medicare program from using its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices for beneficiaries and hinder drug company monopoly practices used to keep prices high and disable less expensive generics entering the market.
As a member of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Merkley has contributed legislation towards fixing the subprime mortgage crisis. The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act contained an amendment by Merkley and Senator Amy Klobuchar protecting consumers from deceptive mortgage lending practices. The amendment prohibits mortgage lenders from receiving hidden payments when they sell high-cost loans and prohibits brokers from receiving higher pay for selling riskier or higher-fee loans. The amendment also bolsters underwriting standards.
To speed the recovery of the housing market, Senator Merkley supports aggressive efforts to create refinancing alternatives to costly and time-consuming foreclosures, including allowing federal bankruptcy judges to modify existing mortgages so they can keep their home under new terms.  In July 2012, Merkley proposed a broad new refinancing plan for homeowners who owe more than their houses are worth and therefore cannot refinance. Under Merkley's plan, any homeowner who is current on his or her mortgage could refinance into a 4% mortgage for 15 years or a 5% mortgage for 30 years.
In April 2019, Merkley was one of forty-one senators to sign a bipartisan letter to the housing subcommittee praising the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 4 Capacity Building program as authorizing "HUD to partner with national nonprofit community development organizations to provide education, training, and financial support to local community development corporations (CDCs) across the country" and expressing disappointment that President Trump's budget "has slated this program for elimination after decades of successful economic and community development." The senators wrote of their hope that the subcommittee would support continued funding for Section 4 in Fiscal Year 2020.
In October 2017, Merkley was one of nineteen senators to sign a letter to Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt questioning Pruitt's decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan, asserting that the repeal's proposal used "mathematical sleights of hand to over-state the costs of industry compliance with the 2015 Rule and understate the benefits that will be lost if the 2017 repeal is finalized" and science denying and math fabricating would fail to "satisfy the requirements of the law, nor will it slow the increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, the inexorable rise in sea levels, or the other dire effects of global warming that our planet is already experiencing."
In September 2018, Merkley was one of eight senators to sponsor the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, a bill described by cosponsor Elizabeth Warren as using "market forces to speed up the transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy — reducing the odds of an environmental and financial disaster without spending a dime of taxpayer money."
In November 2018, Merkley was one of twenty-five Democratic senators to cosponsor a resolution specifying key findings of the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change report and National Climate Assessment. The resolution affirmed the senators' acceptance of the findings and their support for bold action toward addressing climate change.
In March 2019, Merkley was one of eleven senators to sponsor the Climate Security Act of 2019, legislation forming a new group within the State Department that would have the responsibility for developing strategies to integrate climate science and data into operations of national security as well as restoring the post of special envoy for the Arctic, which had been dismantled by President Trump in 2017. The proposed envoy would advise the president and the administration on the potential effects of climate on national security and be responsible for facilitating all interagency communication between federal science and security agencies.
Merkley has consistently supported policies that promote American energy independence and investment in alternative energy sources. In 2010, Merkley and Senators Tom Carper, Tom Udall, and Michael Bennet introduced the Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act, which set a goal for achieving complete independence from overseas oil by 2030. A similar piece of legislation was put forward by the same senators again in 2011. Merkley supports increasing national fuel economy standards, and advocates for a 6 to 7 percent annual improvement for vehicles over current mileage standards. Merkley has also been a strong supporter of electric vehicles. In 2011, Merkley and Senator Lamar Alexander introduced the Promoting Electric Vehicles Act. The bill was designed to provide short-term incentives for the rapid development and production of electric vehicles.
Merkley supports increased transparency in campaign financing and limits on independent political spending by corporations. Merkley has been critical of both the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and of the court's decision in 2012 not to revisit this case. Merkley called the 2012 decision "disturbing and damaging." In response to the Supreme Court decision, in July 2012 Merkley and six other senators sponsored the Disclose Act. Among other provisions, the legislation would require public disclosure of political donors that give $10,000 or more.
Merkley has been a leader in trying to reform the rules of the Senate itself, including those concerning the filibuster. On January 5, 2011, Merkley and Senators Tom Udall and Tom Harkin introduced a resolution intended to increase genuine debate and accountability in the Senate. The resolution proposed to eliminate the filibuster on motions to proceed, eliminate secret holds, guarantee consideration of amendments for both majority and minority, require a "talking filibuster" in which senators opposed to holding a straight up-or-down vote must continuously debate on the Senate floor, and expedite the nominations process. Upon introducing the resolution, Merkley stated: "The Senate is broken. We are failing to fulfill our legislative responsibilities." On January 27, Merkley's "talking filibuster" proposal received 46 votes in the Senate.
To protest the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, Merkley in April 2017 staged an all-night protest on the Senate floor. He ended his filibuster speech after 15 hours. "This is a stolen seat," he said in a statement, referring to Senate Republicans successful attempt to block Democrats from appointing Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. "This is the first time in American history that one party has blockaded a nominee for almost a year in order to deliver a seat to a President of their own party."
During the Postal Reform Act debate in the Senate in April 2012, Merkley led the effort to pass an amendment that would impose a one-year moratorium on the closure of most rural post offices. After that, the bill would prohibit the closure of post offices more than 10 miles from another post office and impose conditions limiting the closure of others. Twenty rural post offices in Oregon face closure because of the postal service's financial problems.
Merkley has publicly announced support for same-sex marriage and introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate during the 111th United States Congress as S. 1584. BlueOregon, a progressive Oregon blog, commented on the suitability of Sen. Merkley to be lead sponsor of ENDA, noting that as Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives Merkley had successfully guided Oregon's state version of ENDA, the Oregon Equality Act, to become law.
In 2010, Merkley cosponsored legislation to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), and allow gay Americans to serve in the military openly. In March 2011, Merkley cosponsored the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), legislation that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. With eleven other RFMA cosponsors, including fellow Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Merkley released a video as part of the It Gets Better Project, the anti-bullying initiative aimed at inspiring at-risk LGBT youth.
In May 2014, days before the FCC was scheduled to rewrite its net neutrality rules, Merkley was one of eleven senators to sign a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler charging Wheeler's proposal with destroying net neutrality instead of preserving it and urged the FCC to "consider reclassifying Internet providers to make them more like traditional phone companies, over which the agency has clear authority to regulate more broadly."
In October 2018, Merkley was one of twenty senators to sign a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging Pompeo to reverse the rolling back of a policy that granted visas to same-sex partners of LGBTQ diplomats who had unions which were not recognized by their home countries, writing that too many places around the world have seen LGBTQ individuals "subjected to discrimination and unspeakable violence, and receive little or no protection from the law or local authorities" and that the US refusing to let LGBTQ diplomats bring their partners to the US would be equivalent of America upholding "the discriminatory policies of many countries around the world."
In December 2018, Merkley voted for the First Step Act, legislation aimed at reducing recidivism rates among federal prisoners through expanding job training and other programs in addition to forming an expansion of early-release programs and modifications on sentencing laws such as mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, "to more equitably punish drug offenders."
In June 2019, Merkley was one of eighteen senators to sign a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo requesting an explanation of a decision by the State Department to not issue an official statement that year commemorating Pride Month nor issue the annual cable outlining activities for embassies commemorating Pride Month. They also questioned why the LGBTI special envoy position had remained vacant and asserted that "preventing the official flying of rainbow flags and limiting public messages celebrating Pride Month signals to the international community that the United States is abandoning the advancement of LGBTI rights as a foreign policy priority."
In March 2019, Merkley was one of thirty-eight senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue warning that dairy farmers "have continued to face market instability and are struggling to survive the fourth year of sustained low prices" and urging his department to "strongly encourage these farmers to consider the Dairy Margin Coverage program."
In June 2019, Merkley and eighteen other Democratic senators sent a letter to USDA Inspector General (IG) Phyllis K. Fong with the request that the IG investigate USDA instances of retaliation and political decision-making and asserted that not conducting an investigation would mean these "actions could be perceived as a part of this administration’s broader pattern of not only discounting the value of federal employees, but suppressing, undermining, discounting, and wholesale ignoring scientific data produced by their own qualified scientists."
In July 2019, Merkley was one of eight senators to introduce the Agricultural Trucking Relief Act, a bill that would alter the definition of an agricultural commodity to include both horticultural and aquacultural products and promote a larger consistency in regulation through both federal and state agencies as part of an attempt to ease regulatory burdens on trucking and the agri-community. Merkley said the bill "is a necessary step forward in clarifying trucking rules, to make sure businesses in every sector of Oregon’s agriculture industry have the same ability to deliver their products while they’re still fresh."
In 2019, Merkley and 34 other senators introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act, a bill that created 770,000 new child care jobs and that ensured families under 75 percent of the state median income did not pay for child care with higher earning families having to pay "their fair share for care on a sliding scale, regardless of the number of children they have." The legislation also supported universal access to high-quality preschool programs for all 3 and 4-year-olds and gave the child care workforce a changed compensation and training to aid both teachers and caregivers.
In July 2015, Merkley was one of eight senators to sign a letter to U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue requesting the chamber stop lobbying against anti-smoking regulations on the grounds that "its international clout to fight so ardently against regulations of dangerous tobacco products is contrary to United States foreign policy and global health goals."
In December 2016, Merkley was one of 17 senators to sign a letter to President-elect Trump asking him to fulfill a campaign pledge to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, stating their willingness "to advance measures to achieve this goal", and calling on Trump "to partner with Republicans and Democrats alike to take meaningful steps to address the high cost of prescription drugs through bold administrative and legislative actions."
In December 2018, Merkley was one of twenty-one senators to sign a letter to Commissioner of Food and Drugs Scott Gottlieb stating their approval of the actions of the Food and Drugs Administration to hinder youth access to e-cigarettes and urging the FDA "to take additional, stronger steps to prevent and reduce e-cigarette use among youth."
In January 2019, Merkley and 39 other senators introduced the Background Check Expansion Act, a bill that would require background checks for either the sale or transfer of all firearms including all unlicensed sellers. Exceptions to the bill's background check requirement included transfers between members of law enforcement, loaning firearms for either hunting or sporting events on a temporary basis, providing firearms as gifts to members of one's immediate family, firearms being transferred as part of an inheritance, or giving a firearm to another person temporarily for immediate self-defense.
In February 2019, Merkley was one of thirty-eight senators to sign a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham calling on him to "hold a hearing" on universal background checks and noted Graham's statement in the press that he "intended to have the Committee work on ‘red flag’ legislation and potentially also background checks, both actions" the senators indicated their support for.
In July 2019, Merkley and fifteen other Senate Democrats introduced the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act which mandated that ICE agents get approval from a supervisor ahead of engaging in enforcement actions at sensitive locations with the exception of special circumstances and that agents receive annual training in addition to being required to report annually regarding enforcement actions in those locations.
In March 2018, Merkley spearheaded a letter signed by himself and nine other senators lambasting a proposal from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that would curb the scope of benefits from the Lifeline program during a period where roughly 6.5 million people in poor communities relied on Lifeline to receive access to high-speed internet, citing that it was Pai's "obligation to the American public, as the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to improve the Lifeline program and ensure that more Americans can afford access, and have means of access, to broadband and phone service." The senators also advocated for insuring "Lifeline reaches more Americans in need of access to communication services."
Merkley has competed in and finished ironman triathlons. Merkley says his workouts help him manage the stress of his job.
Merkley and his wife, Mary Sorteberg, have two children, Jonathan and Brynne. Brynne appeared with Merkley in several campaign ads in the 2008 campaign. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
|Democratic||Jeff Merkley (incumbent)||14,670||64.11%|
|Democratic||Jeff Merkley (incumbent)||11,106||63.96%||–0.15|
|Republican||Gordon H. Smith (incumbent)||805,159||45.55%||–10.66|
|Democratic gain from Republican||Swing|
|Democratic||Jeff Merkley (incumbent)||277,120||93.34%||+48.24|
|Democratic||Jeff Merkley (incumbent)||814,537||57.50%||+8.60|
|Pacific Green||Christina Jean Lugo||32,434||2.22%||N/A|
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As speaker of Oregon's state house [...] Merkley was able to [...] approve some of the nation's most aggressive policies to encourage development of renewable sources of energy.'
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Merkley supports gay marriage.
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In one of this Congress’s final acts, every Democrat and all but 12 Republicans voted in favor of the legislation — an outcome that looked highly unlikely this month amid skepticism from Republican leaders.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jeff Merkley.|
|Oregon House of Representatives|
| Member of the Oregon House of Representatives
from the 47th district
| Minority Leader of the Oregon House of Representatives
| Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Oregon
| Senate Democratic Chief Deputy Whip
| U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Oregon
Served alongside: Ron Wyden
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Senators by seniority