SISTERS, OR -- President Trump wants to send National Guard troops to the southern U.S. border, to crack down on illegal immigration. U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) acknowledges securing the border is important, and has broad support. But, during a stop in Sisters on Wednesday, Merkley said he's opposed to the move, "We have increased our border security enormously over the past 10 years. Before, when we've had the conversations about the National Guard and so forth, they have said that that is not something they are trained for; it's not a mission that's appropriate for them. So, I think it's probably not the best idea." Governor Kate Brown says that if she's asked to send Oregon troops to the border, as Commander of the National Guard, she'll refuse.
Merkley held two town halls in Central Oregon Wednesday; a midday event in Sisters and an evening meeting in Warm Springs. In Deschutes County, he fielded questions on gun control, "Dreamers," education and the growing divide between Democrats and the GOP. Several people asked about the current political climate. Merkley acknowledged partisanship appears to be getting worse and he compared Congress to a dysfunctional marriage where no one is working together.
Susan, from Bend, asked about the spending of tax dollars by several members of the Trump administration, on reportedly frivolous items and travel. While Senator Merkley feigned surprise that there would be problems, given the President's promise to "drain the swamp," he said inappropriate spending has been happening in Washington for decades, and he recounted hearing Senator Kennedy speak on the issue in the 1970s, "So, it's one we have to continue to wrestle with. But, I would think that, maybe instead of having a cabinet meeting where all the cabinet secretaries say, 'supreme leader, how wonderful you are;' you have a cabinet meeting where the president says, 'cut it out and start operating like a normal working American'." He says it's important to continue to draw attention to the issue by reporting improprieties to the Inspector General for investigation.
Merkley was in New Hampshire last month, fueling speculation he's exploring a run for the White House in 2020. He told reporters in Sisters he's keeping his options open, "Mainly, I'm focused on 2018. I'm not up for office this year; I can help my colleagues. I'd like to see the balance of power shift in the Senate, so the issues that effect ordinary working families - of housing, of healthcare, of the cost of education, and living wage jobs - can get fully addressed by the Senate, because they're not being addressed, now."