Jeff Merkley on Government Reform

Democratic Jr Senator (OR)


We the People democracy: extend vote to DC & territories

Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Tom Udall have introduced bills designed to create what Merkley refers to as "We the People" democracy. With Udall, he's proposing a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College and a plan to establish a commission to develop proposals for providing citizens of the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the territories of Guam, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands with full voting representation in Congress.

The latter proposal is vital for a country that began with a revolt against colonialism. It is shocking, at this late stage in the American experiment, that roughly 4 million US citizens are denied voting representation in Congress. Merkley knows there will be pushback from Republicans, and perhaps even from some within his own party. But he reminds us that "we need real, equal representation if we want a government that responds to the big issues impacting working families' lives."

Source: The Nation, "Electoral College," on 2020 Oregon Senate race , Apr 8, 2019

Nuclear option: Allow confirmation of Obama's appointees

Ever since they arrived in the Senate, Jeff Merkley and Tom Udall have had one huge, seemingly insurmountable goal: To change Senate rules on the filibuster. On Thursday, they won.

"This is a terrific vote for the US Senate," said Merkley. "The American people want this institution to function. They want to see it take on the big issues. They don't want to see the entire calendar of the year eaten up by paralyzing process on nominations."

Filibuster reform has long been a marquee issue for Merkley (OR) & Udall (NM), who are part of a new breed of Senate reformers who have never served in the minority. Now, they're looking to expand their change to filibuster rules governing legislation--but that's going to be a much harder sell.

Critics of the two first-term senators say they led a movement they don't even understand--they have only served in the majority, longtime GOP senators charge, and don't appreciate ways that the filibuster has been used to the benefit of the country in the past.

Source: Politico.com coverage of 2014 Oregon Senate race , Nov 21, 2013

Oppose FISA: no immunity for telecomm surveillance

In a post to his DailyKos diary, Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley urged the US Congress to oppose the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The bill, which is supposed to allow for the U.S intelligence community to have flexibility in identifying and targeting foreign threats to American security, was passed by the House on Friday by a 293-129 vote.

Merkley sees controversy in the part of the bill which gives immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in surveillance on domestic citizens. “The bill will force federal district courts to immediately dismiss any cases against telecommunications companies that participated in illegal surveillance,” Merkley wrote. “This is unacceptable. The Constitution of the United States was violated. Over several years telecommunications companies turned over the records of millions of innocent Americans to the federal government without proper oversight and without a warrant.”

Source: Britten Chase on PolitickerOR.com , Jun 23, 2008

Spending limits on campaigns, plus full disclosure

Q: Do you support requiring full and timely disclosure of campaign finance information?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you support imposing spending limits on state level political campaigns?

A: Yes.

Q: Would you vote to ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring an annual balanced federal budget?

A: No.

Q: Do you support using vote-by-mail for all elections?

A: Yes.

Source: Oregon State 1998 National Political Awareness Test , Nov 1, 1998

Voted YES on Congressional pay raise.

Congressional Summary:
    Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for:
  1. expense allowances;
  2. representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
  3. salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
  4. agency contributions for employee benefits;
  5. inquiries and investigations;
  6. the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
  7. the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
  8. miscellaneous items;
  9. the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
  10. official mail costs.
Amends the Legislative Branch Appropriation Act of 1968 to increase by $50,000 the gross compensation paid all employees in the office of a Senator. Increases by $96,000 per year the aggregate amount authorized for the offices of the Majority and Minority Whip.

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D, FL-20): We, as Members of Congress, have responsibility not just for the institution, but for the staff that work for this institution, and to preserve the facilities that help support this institution. We have endeavored to do that responsibly, and I believe we have accomplished that goal.

Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. SCALISE (R, LA-1): It's a sad day when someone attempts to cut spending in a bill that grows government by the size of 7%, and it's not allowed to be debated on this House floor. Some of their Members actually used the term "nonsense" and "foolishness" when describing our amendments to cut spending; they call that a delaying tactic. Well, I think Americans all across this country want more of those types of delaying tactics to slow down this runaway train of massive Federal spending. Every dollar we spend from today all the way through the end of this year is borrowed money. We don't have that money. We need to control what we're spending.

Reference: Legislative Branch Appropriations Act; Bill HR2918&S1294 ; vote number 2009-S217 on Jul 6, 2009

Voted YES on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.

Congressional Summary:

Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Sen. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): I am cosponsoring the legislation to provide a House seat for DC and an additional House seat for Utah. Representation and suffrage are so central to the American system of self-government that America's founders warned that limiting suffrage would risk another revolution and could prevent ratification of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in 1820 that Congress' legislative authority over DC allows taxation of DC. Do opponents of giving DC a House seat believe that DC is suitable for taxation but not for representation?

Opponent's argument to vote No:Sen. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I make a constitutional point of order against this bill on the grounds that it violates article I, section 2, of the Constitution. I appreciate the frustration felt by the residents of DC at the absence of a vote in Congress. According to many experts, DC is not a State, so therefore is not entitled to that representation. Also, one has to raise the obvious question: If DC is entitled to a Representative, why isn't Puerto Rico, which would probably entail 9 or 10 Members of Congress? [With regards to the seat for Utah], this is obviously partisan horse-trading.

Reference: District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act; Bill S.160 ; vote number 2009-S073 on Feb 26, 2009

Require full disclosure of independent campaign expenditures.

Merkley co-sponsored DISCLOSE Act

Congressional Summary:

Wikipedia & OnTheIssue Summary: