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.
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?
Q: Do you support imposing spending limits on state level political campaigns?
Would you vote to ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring an annual balanced federal budget?
Q: Do you support using vote-by-mail for all elections?
Source: Oregon State 1998 National Political Awareness Test
, Nov 1, 1998
Voted YES on Congressional pay raise.
Makes appropriations to the Senate for FY2010 for: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.
- expense allowances;
- representation allowances for the Majority and Minority Leaders;
- salaries of specified officers, employees, and committees (including the Committee on Appropriations);
- agency contributions for employee benefits;
- inquiries and investigations;
- the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control;
- the Offices of the Secretary and of the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
- miscellaneous items;
- the Senators' Official Personnel and Office Expense Account; and
- official mail costs.
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;
; vote number 2009-S217
on Jul 6, 2009
Voted YES on providing a US House seat for the District of Columbia.
- The District of Columbia shall be considered a Congressional district for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives.
- DC shall not be considered a State for purposes of representation in the US Senate.
- Reapportionment [census-based House seats] shall apply with respect to DC in the same manner as it applies to a State, except that DC may not receive more than one Member.
- Effective with the 112th Congress, the House of Representatives shall be composed of 437 Members, including the Member representing DC.
- The State of Utah is entitled to one additional Representative pursuant to this reapportionment.
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;
; vote number 2009-S073
on Feb 26, 2009
Require full disclosure of independent campaign expenditures.
Merkley co-sponsored DISCLOSE Act
Wikipedia & OnTheIssue Summary:
- Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act of 2012 or DISCLOSE Act:
- Amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) to add to the definition of "independent expenditure" an expenditure by a person that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, or takes a position on a candidates, qualifications, or fitness for office.
- Expands the period during which certain communications are treated as electioneering communications.
- Prescribes disclosure requirements for corporations, labor organizations, and certain other entities, including a political committee with an account established for the purpose of accepting donations or contributions that do not comply with the contribution limits or source prohibitions under FECA (but only with respect to such accounts).
- Repeals the prohibition against political contributions by individuals age 17 or younger.
- On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, ruled that prohibiting corporations and unions from making independent expenditures in political campaigns was unconstitutional. This ruling is frequently described as permitting corporations and unions to donate to political campaigns, but these claims are incorrect. The ruling did remove the previous ban on corporations and organizations using their funds for direct advocacy, including endorsing for or against specific candidates, actions that were previously prohibited.
The result of Citizens United was that "Super PACs" spent millions on TV ads in the 2012 election, advocating both issues and candidates. The DISCLOSE Act attempts to reduce the negative effect of Citizens United by requiring disclosure of independent expenditures made by advocacy groups.
Source: S3369/HR4010 12-S3369 on Jul 10, 2012
Matching fund for small donors, with debate requirements.
Merkley signed Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act
Congressional Summary:Fair Elections Now Act--Amends 1971 FECA with respect to:
- 500% matching payments to candidates for certain small dollar contributions;
- a public debate requirement;
- establishment of the Fair Elections Fund and of a Fair Elections Oversight Board;
- remission to the Fair Elections Fund of unspent funds after an election civil penalties for violation of contribution and expenditure requirements;
- Requires all designations, statements, and reports required to be filed under FECA to be filed directly with the FEC in electronic form accessible by computers.
Statement of support for corresponding Senate bill: (Sunlight Foundation) Now we bring you the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, a bill that should probably be the least controversial of all. S. 375 would simply require senators and Senate candidates to file their public campaign finance disclosure reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission,
the way House candidates and presidential candidates have been filing for over a decade. A version of the bill has been introduced during every congress starting in 2003 (!) yet it has been blocked repeatedly, a victim of political football.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has introduced the most recent version, which would ensure that paper Senate campaign finance reports are a thing of the past. But even with 50 bipartisan cosponsors, the bill faces an uphill battle. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, has repeatedly prevented the bill from coming to the Senate floor. We won't be deterred--as long as McConnell continues to block the bill, we'll continue to highlight that his intransigence results in delayed disclosure of vital, public campaign finance information, not to mention wasting $500,000 in taxpayer money annually. Eventually, we'll win.
Source: S375/H.R.269 14_S375 on Feb 25, 2013
Statehood for the District of Columbia.
Merkley co-sponsored H.R.317
Congressional Summary: Sets forth procedures for admission into the United States of the state of New Columbia.
- Requires the Mayor of the District of Columbia to submit to the voters propositions for statehood and adoption of a State Constitution, and issue a proclamation for the first elections to Congress of two Senators and one Representative of New Columbia.
- Requires the President to issue a proclamation announcing the results and admitting New Columbia into the Union.
- Provides for conversion of District government offices to state offices.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY: (DCist.com, Sept. 2014): The Argument Against: Congress does not have the authority to grant statehood to D.C.; the 23rd amendment, which gave D.C. three electoral votes, would have to be repealed before statehood was granted. Washington is a wholly urban, one-industry town, dependent on the federal government far in excess of any other state.
Moreover, with Congress no longer having authority over New Columbia but dependent on it, New Columbia could exert influence on the federal government far in excess of any other state.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA: [Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC; the District of Columbia has one representative to Congress and no Senators; Rep. Holmes can introduce bills but her vote does not count]: This 51st state would have no jurisdiction over the federal territory or enclave that now consists of the Washington that Members of Congress and visitors associate with the capital of our country. Those would remain under federal jurisdiction. The New Columbia Admission Act was the first bill I introduced in 1991. Statehood is the only alternative for the citizens of the District of Columbia. To be content with less than statehood is to concede the equality of citizenship that is the birthright of our residents as citizens of the United States.
Source: New Columbia Admission Act 15_H317 on Jan 13, 2015
Public financing of federal campaigns by voter vouchers.
Merkley co-sponsored H.R.20 & S.366
- Allow a refundable tax credit of 50% of cash contributions to congressional House campaigns, to be known as "My Voice Federal" contributions.
- Select three states to operate a voucher pilot program.
- Provide, upon request, a "My Voice Voucher" worth $50.
- Authorizes the individual to submit the My Voice Voucher to qualified federal election candidates, allocating a portion of its value in $5 increments.
- Permits an individual to revoke a My Voice Voucher within two days after submitting it to a candidate.
- Establishes the Freedom From Influence Fund in the Treasury [for 6-to-1 matching funds for the vouchers].
- Allows taxpayers to designate overpayments of tax for contribution to the Freedom From Influence Fund.
Supporters reasons for voting YEA:Rep. Sarbanes: Big money warps Congress' priorities and erodes the public's trust in government. This bold new legislation returns voice and power back to
the American people:
- Empower everyday citizens to fuel Congressional campaigns by providing a My Voice Tax Credit.
- Amplify the voices of everyday Americans through a 6-to-1 match.
- Prevent Super PACs from drowning out small donor-backed candidates.
Opponents reasons for voting NAY:(Bill Moyers, Feb. 19, 2015): This citizen engagement strategy, particularly when used to court small donors, is not without its critics. Small donors, at least in the current system, often tend to be political ideologues. That trend leaves many asking: won't moving to small donors just empower extremists? Sarbanes counters, if Congress changes the political fundraising rules, they will also change the calculus for "the rational small donor who right now isn't going to give $25 because they've figured out that it's not going to matter." The prospect of a 6-to-1 match might very well impact how those less ideologically extreme potential donors think about political giving.
Source: Government By the People Act 15_S366 on Feb 4, 2015
Sponsored bill for election holiday & easier voting access.
Merkley co-sponsored For the People Act of 2019
- This bill expands voter registration and voting access, makes Election Day a federal holiday, and limits removing voters from voter rolls.
- The bill provides for states to establish independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions.
- The bill also sets forth provisions for sharing intelligence information with state election officials, and supporting states in securing their election systems, and establishing the National Commission to Protect U.S. Democratic Institutions.
- This bill addresses campaign spending, by expanding the ban on foreign nationals contributing to or spending on elections; and expanding disclosure rules.
- This bill establishes an alternative campaign funding system [with] federal matching of small contributions for qualified candidates.
- The bill also requires candidates for President and Vice President to submit 10 years of tax returns.
Opposing argument from the Heritage Foundation, 2/1/2019: HR1 federalizes and micromanages
the election process administered by the states, imposing unnecessary mandates on the states and reversing the decentralization of the American election process. What HR1 Would Do:
- Seize the authority of states to regulate the voting process by forcing states to implement early voting, automatic voter registration, same-day registration, online voter registration, and no-fault absentee balloting.
- Make it easier to commit fraud at the polls through same-day registration, as election officials have no time to verify the accuracy of voter registration.
- Degrade the accuracy of registration lists by automatically registering individuals from state databases, such as DMV.
- Cripple the effectiveness of state voter ID laws by allowing individuals to vote without an ID and merely signing a statement in which they claim they are who they say they are.
Legislative outcome: Passed House 234-193-5 on 3/8/19; received with no action in Senate thru 12/31/2019
Source: H.R.1 &S.949 19-S949 on Jan 3, 2019
Voted YES on two articles of impeachment against Trump.
Merkley voted YEA Impeachment of President Trump
RESOLUTION: Impeaching Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors.
ARTICLE I: ABUSE OF POWER: Using the powers of his high office, Pres. Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 US Presidential election. He did so through a course of conduct that includedThese actions were consistent with Pres. Trump's previous invitations of foreign interference in US elections.
- Pres. Trump--acting both directly and through his agents--corruptly solicited the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into a political opponent, former Vice President Joseph Biden; and a discredited theory promoted by Russia alleging that Ukraine--rather than Russia--interfered in the 2016 US Presidential election.
- With the same corrupt motives, Pres. Trump conditioned two official acts on the public announcements that he had requested: (A) the release of $391 million that Congress had appropriated for the purpose of providing vital military and security assistance to Ukraine to oppose Russian aggression; and (B) a head of state meeting at the White House,
which the President of Ukraine sought.
- Faced with the public revelation of his actions, Pres. Trump ultimately released the [funds] to the Government of Ukraine, but has persisted in openly soliciting Ukraine to undertake investigations for his personal political benefit.
ARTICLE II: OBSTRUCTION OF CONGRESS:These actions were consistent with Pres. Trump's previous efforts to undermine US Government investigations into foreign interference in US elections.
Source: Congressional vote ImpeachK on Dec 18, 2019
- Pres. Trump defied a lawful subpoena by withholding the production of documents sought [by Congress];
- defied lawful subpoenas [for] the production of documents and records;
- and directed current and former Executive Branch officials not to cooperate with the Committees.
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Page last updated: Oct 22, 2020