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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, in central Multnomah County at the eastern side of Portland. From 2007 to 2009 he was Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.

Jeff Merkley
Jeff Merkley, 115th official photo.jpg
United States Senator
from Oregon
Assumed office
January 3, 2009
Serving with Ron Wyden
Preceded byGordon Smith
64th Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 2, 2009
Preceded byKaren Minnis
Succeeded byDave Hunt
Member of the Oregon House of Representatives
from the 47th district
In office
January 3, 1999 – January 2, 2009
Preceded byFrank Shields
Succeeded byJefferson Smith
Personal details
Born
Jeffrey Alan Merkley

(1956-10-24) October 24, 1956 (age 63)
Myrtle Creek, Oregon, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Mary Sorteberg (m. 1992)
Children2
EducationStanford University (BA)
Princeton University (MPA)
WebsiteSenate website

Merkley defeated two-term Republican incumbent Gordon Smith in 2008 and was reelected in 2014, defeating Republican nominee Monica Wehby. He 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 reelection instead.[1]

Early life, education and early careerEdit

Merkley was born in Myrtle Creek, Oregon, the son of Betty Lou (née Collins) and Darrell Philip Merkley.[2] His paternal grandmother was born in Calliope, Queensland, Australia.[3] He attended first grade in Roseburg, Oregon, before moving to Portland with his family.[4]

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.[5][6] 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.[7]

In 1991 Merkley returned to Portland, where he served as executive director of Portland Habitat for Humanity until 1994.[8]

Merkley 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.[9] He also served as Director of Housing Development at Human Solutions, where he worked to make available affordable housing complexes[10] and launched Oregon's first Individual Development Account (IDA) program, which helps low-income families save money to buy homes, attend college, or start businesses.[11]

Merkley was President of the World Affairs Council of Oregon[12] for seven years and continues to serve on the Board of Trustees.[13]

Oregon legislatureEdit

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.[14] In its endorsement, The Oregonian predicted that Merkley was the most likely of several Democrats to "accomplish something positive in the Legislature."[12] Following the 2003 session, he was elected Democratic leader, and after the House Democrats gained a majority in the 2006 Oregon statewide elections, they unanimously elected him Speaker of the House in the 74th Oregon Legislative Assembly.[5]

During Merkley's tenure as Speaker, the Oregon House passed numerous major pieces of legislation: It created a state "rainy day fund" (a savings account to protect public schools against the effects of any future fluctuating economy); increased Oregon public school funding by 14 percent ($1 billion) and state university funding by 18 percent ($1.4 billion); banned junk food in schools; expanded the Oregon commercial 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 rights, immunities, and benefits.[15]

U.S. SenateEdit

2008 electionEdit

 
Merkley campaigning for the Senate

On August 13, 2007, Merkley received the endorsements of Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski and former Democratic Governor Barbara Roberts.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] Merkley was initially thought to have only a moderate chance of unseating Smith, but a July 2008 Rasmussen poll showed him in the lead, albeit within the margin of error.[19] 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%.[20]

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.[21]

On election night the race was too close to call, but media outlets including The Oregonian called it for Merkley on the morning of November 6, and Smith conceded later that morning.[22] Ultimately, Merkley defeated Smith by three percentage points, 49% to 46%. While he carried only eight counties, one of them was his home county of Multnomah County, which he won by 142,000 votes—a deficit that 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.[23] He was sworn as a Senator on January 6, 2009. Upon his swearing-in, Oregon was represented in the Senate by two Democrats (Merkley and Ron Wyden) for the first time since Maurine Brown Neuberger served alongside Morse from 1960 to 1967.

TenureEdit

 
Merkley's first Congressional official photo (111th Congress)

Merkley has a progressive record as a senator. He became the first Democratic member of the Senate to announce that he would 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.[24]

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.[25] Merkley also championed legislation to give new mothers 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.[26]

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 Merkley did not hear Bunning's remark at the time.[27]

In late 2010 Merkley began circulating a proposal about the need to filibuster in order to block legislation.[28] In 2011 he introduced a bill to reform the filibuster. He was joined by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.

Merkley was the only member of the Senate to endorse Bernie Sanders in his 2016 bid for the Democratic nomination for President.[29]

On April 4, 2017, Merkley held the senate floor for 15 hours and 28 minutes in protest of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

In 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 separated from their parents and placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Merkley filmed his attempt to visit a facility in a former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas. He was denied 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.[30]

Committee assignmentsEdit

Source: 2009 Congressional Record, Vol. 155, Page S729

Political positionsEdit

 
Senator Merkley in 2011.

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, 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.[31][32] Speaking about the policy in an interview with Time magazine, Merkley said that "part of this is the dehumanization of people seeking asylum in the U.S."[33] By the end of June, Trump 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."[34] As of July 2018 many children who were separated under the policy still had not been reunited with their parents.

In August 2018 Merkley was one of 17 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 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."[35]

In November 2018 Merkley was one of 11 senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis about "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, urging Mattis to "curb the unprecedented escalation of DOD involvement in immigration enforcement."[36]

In January 2019 Merkley was one of 20 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 except in cases of fraudulent claims, national security issues, or non-immigration-related felonies.[37]

Electronic cigarettesEdit

In April 2019 Merkley was one of 11 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 of its advertising buys and detail the steps it has taken to ensure its advertisements are not seen by people under 21, and asked whether Juul had purchased any social media influencers for product promotion.[38]

Defense and foreign policyEdit

In August 2013 Merkley was one of 23 Democratic senators to sign a letter to the Defense Department warning that some payday lenders were "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."[39]

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 its base budget and $67.9 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) war fund. The bill was a $20.4 billion increase over the fiscal 2018 level.[40]

Afghanistan

In November 2011 Merkley led an effort to urge President Obama to expedite transition of responsibility for military and security operations to the government of Afghanistan.[41] The Senate passed an amendment to the defense authorization bill by voice vote that required Obama to deliver to Congress a timeline for an accelerated transition of all military and security operations to the Afghan government within 90 days of the law's enactment.[42][43] Co-sponsors included Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.[42]

Central America

In April 2019 Merkley was one of 34 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" by 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. by helping to improve conditions there.[44]

Iraq war

Merkley supports the Reid-Feingold Amendment, a plan for removing troops from Iraq,[45] and has his own five-point plan for stability in Iraq:[45]

  • 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 March 2008 Merkley endorsed the Responsible Plan to End the War In Iraq.[46]

Russia

In December 2010 Merkley voted for the ratification of New Start,[47] a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russian Federation obliging both countries to have no more than 1,550 strategic warheads and 700 launchers deployed during the next seven years and to continue on-site inspections that halted when START I expired the previous year. It was the first arms treaty with Russia in eight years.[48]

In February 2017 Merkley was one of 11 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".[49]

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 26 senators to sign a letter expressing concern that the administration was "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 Trump to continue arms negotiations.[50]

Israel

In April 2019, after the Trump administration refused to distribute 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.[51]

Saudi Arabia

In June 2017 Merkley voted for a resolution by Rand Paul and Chris Murphy that would block 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.[52][53]

In March 2018 Merkley voted against tabling a resolution spearheaded by Bernie Sanders, Chris Murphy, and Mike Lee that would have required Trump to withdraw American troops either in or influencing Yemen within the next 30 days unless they were combating Al-Qaeda.[54]

In October 2018 Merkley was one of seven senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying 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 Yemeni civilians and were in compliance with US laws on arms sales, citing their lack of understanding of "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."[55]

Venezuela

On February 28, 2019, Merkley introduced a resolution prohibiting American military intervention in Venezuela without Congress's approval, 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 called Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro "a brutal dictator and incompetent leader" and called for him to resign while new elections are held under an interim government.[56]

Banking regulationEdit

Merkley has focused on Wall Street reform in his position on the Senate Banking Committee. He and Carl Levin led an effort to crack down on proprietary trading at depository banks and other critical financial firms.[57] 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.[58][59] It is intended to prevent high-risk trading that jeopardizes the banking system.[60] 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.[59][61]

InfrastructureEdit

In January 2018 Merkley was one of ten senators to sign a letter to 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, and asserting 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."[62]

In June 2019 Merkley was one of eight senators to sponsor the Made in America Act, legislation that would designate federal programs that had funded infrastructure projects not currently subject to Buy America standards and mandate that materials used in these programs be domestically produced. Bill cosponsor Tammy Baldwin said the bill would strengthen Buy America requirements 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."[63]

Health careEdit

Merkley voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[64] 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.[25] Merkley also championed legislation that gives nursing mothers flexible break times and private space to pump breast milk at work. His breastfeeding amendment was included in the health care reform law and signed into law by Obama in 2010.[65]

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."[66]

In December 2018 Merkley was one of 42 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 preexisting conditions." The senators requested the administration withdraw the policy and "re-engage with stakeholders, states, and Congress."[67]

In February 2019, Merkley was one of 23 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 let all residents of the state 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."[68]

In June 2019 Merkley and 14 other senators introduced the Affordable Medications Act, legislation intended to promote transparency by mandating that 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 preventing 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.[69]

In August 2019 Merkley was one of 19 senators to sign a letter to United States Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar requesting data from the Trump administration in order to help states and Congress understand the potential consequences of the Texas v. United States Affordable Care Act lawsuit, writing that an overhaul of the present health care system would form "an enormous hole in the pocketbooks of the people we serve as well as wreck state budgets".[70]

HousingEdit

As a member of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Merkley has contributed legislation toward 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.[71][72] 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. It also bolsters underwriting standards.[71][73]

To speed the recovery of the housing market, 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.[74] 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 his plan, any homeowner who is current on their mortgage could refinance into a 4% mortgage for 15 years or a 5% mortgage for 30 years.[75][76]

In April 2019 Merkley was one of 41 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 Trump's budget "has slated this program for elimination after decades of successful economic and community development." The senators wrote that they hoped the subcommittee would support continued funding for Section 4 in Fiscal Year 2020.[77]

EnvironmentEdit

Climate changeEdit

In October 2017 Merkley was one of 19 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 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."[78]

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."[79]

In November 2018 Merkley was one of 25 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 support for bold action to address climate change.[80]

In March 2019 Merkley was one of 11 senators to sponsor the Climate Security Act of 2019, legislation forming a new group within the State Department that would develop strategies to integrate climate science and data into national security operations and restore the post of special envoy for the Arctic, which Trump eliminated in 2017. The 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.[81]

EnergyEdit

Merkley has consistently supported policies that promote American energy independence and investment in alternative energy sources.[82] In 2010 he and Senators Tom Carper, Tom Udall, and Michael Bennet introduced the Oil Independence for a Stronger America Act, which set a goal to achieve complete independence from overseas oil by 2030.[83][84] The same senators put forward a similar piece of legislation again in 2011.[85] Merkley supports increasing national fuel economy standards, and advocates for a 6 to 7 percent annual improvement for vehicles over current mileage standards.[86] He has also been a strong supporter of electric vehicles. In 2011 Merkley and Senator Lamar Alexander introduced the Promoting Electric Vehicles Act,[87] a bill designed to provide short-term incentives for the rapid development and production of electric vehicles.[88]

In March 2019, Merkley was an original cosponsor of a bipartisan bill intended to mandate that the Environmental Protection Agency declare per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances hazardous substances that can be addressed with cleanup funds via the EPA Superfund law and require that polluters undertake or pay for remediation within a year of the bill's enaction.[89]

Campaign financeEdit

Merkley supports increased transparency in campaign financing and limits on independent political spending by corporations.[90][91] 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.[92][93] Merkley called the 2012 decision "disturbing and damaging."[93] In response to the Supreme Court decision, in July 2012 Merkley and six other senators sponsored the Disclose Act.[94] Among other provisions, the legislation would require public disclosure of political donors that give $10,000 or more.[94][95]

Senate reformEdit

Merkley has been a leader in trying to reform the rules of the Senate, including those about the filibuster. On January 5, 2011, he and Senators Tom Udall and Tom Harkin introduced a resolution intended to increase debate and accountability in the Senate.[96][97] 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.[98] Upon introducing the resolution, Merkley stated: "The Senate is broken. We are failing to fulfill our legislative responsibilities."[98] On January 27 his "talking filibuster" proposal received 46 Senate votes.[96][98]

Supreme CourtEdit

To protest the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, in April 2017 Merkley staged an all-night protest on the Senate floor. He ended his filibuster speech after 15 hours.[99] "This is a stolen seat," he said in a statement,[100] referring to Senate Republicans' successful attempt to block Obama's appointment of Merrick Garland. "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."

Postal reformEdit

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.[101][102]

Social issuesEdit

Senator Merkley's video contribution to the It Gets Better Project.

Merkley supports same-sex marriage and introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate during the 111th United States Congress as S. 1584.[103] BlueOregon, a progressive Oregon blog, commented on Merkley's suitability to be lead sponsor of ENDA, noting that as Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives he had successfully guided Oregon's state version of ENDA, the Oregon Equality Act, to become law.[104]

In 2010 Merkley cosponsored legislation to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) and allow gay Americans to serve openly in the military. In March 2011 Merkley cosponsored the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA)[105] to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), legislation that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. With 11 other RFMA cosponsors, including fellow Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, Merkley released a video as part of the It Gets Better Project, the anti-bullying initiative aimed at inspiring at-risk LGBT youth.[106]

In May 2014, days before the FCC was scheduled to rewrite its net neutrality rules, Merkley was one of 11 senators to sign a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler charging that Wheeler's proposal would destroy net neutrality and urging 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."[107]

In October 2018 Merkley was one of 20 senators to sign a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to reverse the rolling back of a policy that granted visas to same-sex partners of LGBTQ diplomats who had unions that 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 refusing to let LGBTQ diplomats bring their partners to the US would be equivalent to upholding "the discriminatory policies of many countries around the world."[108]

In December 2018 Merkley voted for the First Step Act, legislation aimed at reducing recidivism rates among federal prisoners by 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."[109]

In June 2019 Merkley was one of 18 senators to sign a letter to Pompeo requesting an explanation of a State Department decision not to issue a statement that year commemorating Pride Month or issue the annual cable outlining activities for embassies commemorating Pride Month. They also asked 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."[110]

AgricultureEdit

In March 2019 Merkley was one of 38 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."[111]

In June 2019 Merkley and 18 other Democratic senators sent a letter to USDA Inspector General (IG) Phyllis K. Fong requesting that the IG investigate USDA instances of retaliation and political decision-making and asserting that not to conduct 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."[112]

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 in 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."[113]

Child careEdit

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 ensured that families making less than 75% 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 changed child care workforce compensation and training to aid both teachers and caregivers.[114]

Drug policyEdit

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."[115]

In December 2016 Merkley was one of 17 senators to sign a letter to 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."[116]

In December 2018 Merkley was one of 21 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."[117]

Gun controlEdit

In January 2019 Merkley and 39 other senators introduced the Background Check Expansion Act, a bill that would require background checks for 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, giving firearms to members of one's immediate family, transferring them as part of an inheritance, or giving a firearm to another person temporarily for immediate self-defense.[118]

In February 2019 Merkley was one of 38 senators to sign a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham calling on him to hold a hearing on universal background checks and noting Graham's statement to the press that he "intended to have the Committee work on ‘red flag’ legislation and potentially also background checks, both actions" the senators supported.[119]

ImmigrationEdit

In July 2019 Merkley and 15 other Senate Democrats introduced the Protecting Sensitive Locations Act, which mandated that ICE agents get approval from a supervisor before engaging in enforcement actions at sensitive locations except in special circumstances and that agents receive annual training in addition to being required to annually report enforcement actions in those locations.[120]

LifelineEdit

In March 2018 Merkley spearheaded a letter signed by 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 when roughly 6.5 million people in poor communities relied on Lifeline for access to high-speed internet, arguing 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 insuring "Lifeline reaches more Americans in need of access to communication services."[121]

Personal lifeEdit

Merkley has competed in and finished ironman triathlons. He has said his workouts help him manage the stress of his job.[122]

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.

Merkley's first cousin's great-granddaughter, Rebecka Ann Carnes, was killed alongside eight others in the 2015 Umpqua Community College shooting.[123][124]

Electoral historyEdit

Oregon House of Representatives 47th district election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Jeff Merkley (incumbent) 14,670 64.11%
Republican Frank Cleys 8,023 35.06%
Write-ins 188 0.82%
Oregon House of Representatives 47th district election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Jeff Merkley (incumbent) 11,106 63.96% –0.15
Republican Bruce McCain 6,192 35.66% +0.60
Write-ins 65 0.37% –0.45
U.S. Senate Democratic primary election in Oregon, 2008
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Jeff Merkley 246,482 45.10%
Democratic Steve Novick 230,889 42.24%
Democratic Candy Neville 38,367 7.02%
Democratic Roger Obrist 12,647 2.31%
Democratic Pavel Goberman 12,056 2.21%
Democratic David Loera 6,127 1.12%
U.S. Senate election in Oregon, 2008
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Jeff Merkley 864,392 48.90% +9.29
Republican Gordon H. Smith (incumbent) 805,159 45.55% –10.66
Constitution Dave Brownlow 92,565 5.24% +3.53
Write-ins 5,388 0.30% +0.19
Democratic gain from Republican Swing
U.S. Senate Democratic primary election in Oregon, 2014
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Jeff Merkley (incumbent) 277,120 93.34% +48.24
Democratic William Bryk 11,330 3.82% N/A
Democratic Pavel Goberman 8,436 2.84% +0.63
U.S. Senate election in Oregon, 2014
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Jeff Merkley (incumbent) 814,537 57.50% +8.60
Republican Monica Wehby 538,847 36.87% –8.68
Libertarian Mike Montchalin 44,916 3.07% N/A
Pacific Green Christina Jean Lugo 32,434 2.22% N/A
Constitution James Leuenberger 24,212 1.66% –3.58
Write-ins 6,672 0.46% +0.16

ReferencesEdit

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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Oregon House of Representatives
Preceded by
Frank Shields
Member of the Oregon House of Representatives
from the 47th district

1999–2009
Succeeded by
Jefferson Smith
Preceded by
Deborah Kafoury
Minority Leader of the Oregon House of Representatives
2003–2007
Succeeded by
Wayne Scott
Political offices
Preceded by
Karen Minnis
Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives
2007–2009
Succeeded by
Dave Hunt
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill Bradbury
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Oregon
(Class 2)

2008, 2014
Most recent
Preceded by
Barbara Boxer
Senate Democratic Chief Deputy Whip
2017–present
Incumbent
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Gordon Smith
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Oregon
2009–present
Served alongside: Ron Wyden
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Jim Risch
United States Senators by seniority
40th
Succeeded by
Michael Bennet