BEND, OR -- U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) hosted a series of town halls, last week, stopping in Madras, Bend and Prineville on Friday. They were his seventh, eighth and ninth town hall meetings of 2019, and 367th, 368th and 369th of his career.
He told the crowd, "Of course, we have the immediate challenge of the government shutdown- a partial shutdown, and how we resolve it." At Mountain View High School in Bend, he told the crowd Democrats have supplied funding for border security, and they're willing to do more, but not for the wall the President wants, "The issue is whether that money is going to be spent in a smart fashion, an effective fashion, not a fourth century concrete wall that even the border guards says would be absolutely horrific." He promised to donate a portion of his salary to show support for the more than 800,000 non-essential employees affected by the shutdown.
Merkley tells KBND News Oregonians across the state have told him the nation's election system needs revamping, "A lot of concern over the corruption in the form of gerrymandering and voter suppression and dark money. We saw a lot of that being deployed on November sixth and it really produces government by and for the powerful rather than by and for the people." He says he'd do away with the Electoral college, calling it no longer necessary with available technology, "Now that we have those tools, and the concept of equal voice, for example, would say that the right thing to have is direct election of a President."
The Oregon Democrat thinks one of the main issues facing average Americans right now is dwindling access to safe, affordable health care, "Every healthcare system has a few flaws, but ours has too many: Too expensive, we don't control drug prices, we're the only citizenry in the developed world that worries about going bankrupt over healthcare." He says President Trump and Republicans have been obstructionists when it comes to healthcare, "Let's have a bipartisan legislative response to the President and say no more deliberate efforts to sabotage America's healthcare system." Merkley wants to improve Obamacare, making it simpler and available to anyone.
He also fielded questions about climate change, the farm bill, wildland fire mitigation, border security and a potential run for the White House. "The question I'm asking myself is, can I be more effective being part of that 2020 Primary discussion, or taking the time and energy I would put into that and putting it equally into the Senate to try to be able to drive that same agenda?" He told the audience he expects to make a decision on a potential presidential run by March. Several people at the meeting encouraged Merkley to stay in the Senate, saying he's been most effective in his current position.