REDMOND, OR -- Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) held several town hall meetings in Central Oregon over the weekend. He hosted events in Prineville, Madras and Redmond on Saturday.
At the Deschutes County event, the crowd filled the Ridgeview High School gym in Redmond to talk with the Oregon Democrat about public lands, changes to the Affordable Care Act and proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. Pat Chalstrom, of Bend, wanted to hear Merkley's thoughts on the Trump Presidency. She tells KBND News she's concerned about healthcare. "I'm 54-years-old; we are self-employed. We are facing absolute devastation if this bill - RyanCare, TrumpCare, call it what you will - passes." She adds, "Free market insurance premiums will gobble up approximately 90% of our annual income. We've worked hard; we've always had insurance. I lose sleep every night over this topic."
Merkley also discussed confirmation hearings for Trump's Supreme Court pick, which get underway Monday. Neil Gorsuch, a Federal Appeals judge from Colorado, will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Merkley still bristles that Republicans blocked President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland, and refused to give him a hearing. Merkley also has problems with Gorsuch's stand on certain issues. "The situation of Neil Gorsuch is that he has a number of writings that really concern me, both things that he's written in the press and his opinions." He told the town hall, "But from what I've heard, so far, on the writings and court opinions, this is a man who believes in government by the powerful, not the people. The crowd cheered when he said, "And that's why I'm voting against him." He says he doesn't like Gorsuch's stand against class action lawsuits that aimed to take on predatory lending practices.
Many at the meeting expressed concerns about a possible transfer of federal lands. But, Merkley believes that's unlikely since the new Secretary of the Interior opposes such transfers.