Jeff Merkley

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Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley is a Democratic member of the United States Senate, representing Oregon.

He is married to Mary Sorteberg.

Merkley/Hatfield relationship

Merkley’s public service began as a 19-year-old intern with Oregon’s former Senator, Mark Hatfield. He was elected as a Democrat to Hatfield's old Senate seat, 33 years later in 2008.[1]

Senator Merkley payed tribute to Senator Mark Hatfield, who passed away in August 2011, in a eulogy to the US Senate. Jeff Merkley described Mark Hatfield, as mentor. In 1976 Merkley went to meet Hatfield aide Jerry Frank to intern for Mark Hatfield. In 2007 Merkley asked Hatfield to swear him in as speaker of the Oregon House. When Merkley came to the US Senate chamber he asked for Senator Hatfield's old desk.[2]

Education/early career

Jeff Merkley studied international relations at Stanford and worked in India and Mexico, including a project to build and operate an environmental camp for Mexican children.

After earning a graduate degree in Public Policy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Merkley worked as a national security analyst at the Pentagon and at the Congressional Budget Office, contributing, he hoped, to the dialogue on responsible management of nuclear weapons.


In 1991 Merkley returned to Oregon to lead Portland’s Habitat for Humanity where he led the neighborhood in shutting down Portland’s worst crack market, developed the Habitat Home Building Center, and launched a pilot project to establish Portland Youthbuilders, a program dedicated to helping gang-affected youth get back on their feet.

Merkley subsequently took his interest in affordable housing to Human Solutions. As Director of Housing Development, Merkley launched Oregon’s first individual development account program (IDA) which helped low-income families buy homes, start businesses and send their children to college.

Merkley later served as President of the Oregon World Affairs Council, expanding the K-12 education program and launching an International Speakers Series that has brought dozens of distinguished leaders to Oregon such as Mikhail Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama.

Political career

Merkley won his first campaign for State Representative in 1998. He was elected Democratic Leader in 2003 and Speaker in 2007.

As Oregon’s House Speaker, Merkley emphasized replacing bitter partisan warfare with a culture of bipartisan problem solving. The result was what many termed the most successful session in decades. The legislature increased education funding, expanded access to affordable prescription drugs, passed landmark environmental and energy legislation, established domestic partnerships, cracked down on predatory payday and title lending, and created Oregon’s first ever Rainy Day fund.


In the US Senate Merkley has released a nationally recognized plan to eliminate overseas oil by 2030 by boosting deployment of electric vehicles, increase travel options and improve infrastructure, develop alternative transportation fuels and reduce the use of oil to heat buildings. To take on the high-risk Wall Street trading that got us into the financial crisis, Merkley worked with Senator Carl Levin of Michigan to include in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act new limits on risky trading by banks. Merkley worked to end deceptive retail mortgage lending practices, and led successful efforts to pass a ban on both hidden steering payments to reward selling consumers high-risk and high-cost home loans, and on prepayment penalties, which locked people into those bad loans. Merkley also successfully included a provision in the 2010 health care reform law that ensures new mothers have the time and space to pump milk at work.

Senator Merkley has the led the charge to make the Senate more functional by reforming Senate rules to prevent gridlock and promote debate. Most recently, Senator Merkley has fought successfully to keep rural post offices open, and sponsored a law that allows for small businesses to raise capital online.

Merkley serves on the Appropriations Committee; the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; the Environment and Public Works Committee; and the Budget Committee.[3]

America's Future Now Conferences

AFN 111.jpg

Jeff Merkley was on the list of speakers at the 2009 America's Future Now conference, which was organized by the Institute for Policy Studies, and Democratic Socialists of America dominated Campaign for America's Future.[4]

Blue Green Alliance

The Blue Green Alliance sponsors the annual Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference. The 2010 conference was held from May. 4-6, 2010.

Conference speakers included:[5]

21st Century Democrats

21st Century Democrats is a political organization that has stood for Progressive causes for over 20 years. Founded in 1986 by Senator Tom Harkin, Texas Agriculture Secretary Jim Hightower, and Congressman Lane Evans, 21st Century Democrats has helped elect progressive politicians such as U.S. Senator Tim Johnson, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. Its three main goals are to help elect progressive candidates, train young people about grassroots organizing, and lastly, to continue to support our elected officials after Election Day "through our comprehensive progressive network".

The mission of 21st Century Democrats is to build a "farm team" of progressive populists who will be the future leaders of the Democratic Party.[6]

The organization supported Merkley in 2008.

J Sreet endorsement

In 2008 Merkley was one of several successful newcomers endorsed by JStreet PAC.

"I was so excited to learn about JStreet during my campaign this year. Coming to Washington now as a Senator, it’s great to know that there’s such strong political support for sensible policies to achieve a secure and peaceful Middle East.”

He received $93, 462.[7]

Endorsing "Progressive" Candidates

On September 23, 2010, Merkley sent an email to supporters in which he requests donations for "six progressive candidates in tough races who aren't afraid to stand up to the big Wall Street banks and the corporate machine." He states that the 2010 election offers a choice "between giving power to extreme radical Republicans, or strengthening progressive voices in the Senate." Also in his email, he states that the candidate that receives the most donations ($5 minimum) will receive the maximum allowed donation from his Opportunity and Renewal PAC. The six candidates for U.S. Senate Merkley is endorsing are:[8]

Vietnam delegation

U.S. Sen. Al Franken is part of a Senate delegation that will travel to Vietnam July 2010.

The group will "look into environmental remediation of dioxin and the joint funding of medical services for people with disabilities, and meet with Vietnamese government officials to discuss education initiatives, labor issues and trade relations."

Other Senators on the Vietnam leg of the trip are: Democratic Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Jeff Merkley of Oregon).[9]

China visit

In 2011, Merkley was part of a bipartisan group of 10 senators that met with China’s senior leadership, including Vice President Xi Jinping, who is widely expected to succeed Hu Jintao next year as China's next President and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister.

Merkley had visited China for the first time 14 years before.

The topics were trade, jobs and economic issues, including U.S. complaints that China is manipulating its currency to make U.S. imports more expensive. Other talks focused on clean energy, international security and human rights.

"The world needs its two largest economies to work together,” Harry Reid said in a statement. “We have to communicate and build mutual trust. Our meetings in China helped improve that relationship."

Merkley said he saw both the promise and the problem that China poses when it comes to economic matters and jobs. Fourteen years ago, he said, you could find dirt roads just beyond the limits of China’s major cities. Today, the roads are both smooth and large, a testament to China’s huge investments in new infrastructure. The county is spending roughly 10 percent of its gross domestic product to build roads and bridges, rail lines and airports. The U.S., but comparison, spends about 2 percent of its GDP.

Wind farms are sprouting in many areas as are gleaming new high rise apartments. All of it build to serve a rapidly expanding middle class.

That is good, Merkley said. “But the jury is still out on if it can be sustained.”

He also noticed a serious effort to develop clean energy, though Merkley said it’s unclear whether the primary reason is for the environmental benefits or the potential that the China can sell products overseas.

Yet another difference from 14 years ago, Merkley said, is how China is liberalizing its rules on religion. Merkley went to Easter service in one of China’s registered churches which have multiplied in recent years. Fourteen years ago, he said, he could not find open churches.

In addition to Merkley and Harry Reid, Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer, Barbara Boxer, Frank Lautenberg and Michael Bennet made the trip along with Republicans Richard Shelby, Mike Enzi, and Johnny Isakson.[10]

Filibuster reform

The Communications Workers of America is to make filibuster reform a top cause and they're trying to bring the rest of the union movement along. The union reiterated that goal in post-election comments.

"The 2012 election makes the reform even more paramount," it said. "Seven Democratic senators-elect - Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) - have all already pledged to Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., to support rules reform. And Maine's Independent candidate, former Gov. Angus King won on a platform included filibuster reform as a major campaign issue.

"The American people want their elected officials to debate and address the major issues of our time and to move past obstruction for obstruction's sake," added CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson.[11]


Planned Parenthood

Merkley received $7500 in lobbying funds from Planned Parenthood in 2008.

Council for a Livable World

The Council for a Livable World, founded in 1962 by long-time socialist activist and alleged Soviet agent, Leo Szilard, is a non-profit advocacy organization that seeks to "reduce the danger of nuclear weapons and increase national security", primarily through supporting progressive, congressional candidates who support their policies. The Council supported Jeff Merkley in his successful 2008 Senate run as candidate for Oregon.[12] He has also been previously supported by the Council.[13]

Council for a Livable World has endorsed Jeff Merkley because he is an electoral winner who is also an expert on nuclear weapons and acutely aware of the dangers. In 1982, Merkley was selected as a Presidential Fellow and served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. There he worked on verification for theater nuclear arms agreements, assisting the U.S. delegation to NATO and coordinating a committee on technology transfer to other countries. His next assignment was at the Congressional Budget Office, where he prepared reports on the Trident II missiles installed on our nuclear-powered submarines and the B-1B bomber program.
For the past decade he has been immersed in Oregon politics but remained involved in national security issues by serving as president and then a board member of the World Affairs Council of Oregon. In the United States Senate, Jeff Merkley will have the knowledge and capability to be a leader on nuclear and national security matters.
Jeff Merkley was born in 1956 in Myrtle Creek, Oregon and now lives in Portland. He was the first member of his family to attend college. He received a BA in international relations from Stanford University and a Master's in public policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. He interned for former Republican Senator Mark Hatfield, a patron saint of arms control. He returned to Oregon in 1991 to become executive director of the local Habitat for Humanity, building low cost homes for the struggling families of Oregon. He then became Director of Housing Development at Human Solutions, where he again focused on affordable housing.

In 1998, he entered politics with a successful campaign for the state House of Representatives. Elected House Democratic Leader in 2003, he became Speaker when the Democrats took control of that body.
Jeff Merkley opposes building a new generation of nuclear weapons and says that he "strongly supports the idea of the United States leading an international effort to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles." He has endorsed the Kissinger-Shultz-Nunn-Perry vision of moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons.
He rejects deployment of National Missile Defense, pointing out that missile defenses "cannot stop either low-tech enemies who have other delivery mechanisms such as suitcase bombs or sophisticated enemies who can overcome expensive and complex sensor and intercept technologies with much simpler countermeasures." He opposes proposals to place weapons in space and instead endorses an international ban on space weapons. Merkley urges the Senate to approve the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to greatly expand nuclear non-proliferation programs.
Merkley opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2002. Just two days after the invasion of Iraq, when public fervor was high, Merkley took a bold stand on the floor of the Oregon House of Representatives in opposition, saying, "I have not been and am not today persuaded that Iraq was a significant threat to the United States or that the war we fight today is the best strategy to fight terrorism or the wisest application of our superpower resources."
Merkley will be an important progressive leader in the Senate. His background on nuclear weapons, his knowledge of national security issues and his political experience clearly indicate that we need him in the U.S. Senate.[14]

CLW fundraiser


Abby Rockefeller and Lee Halprin hosted a party to benefit Council for a Livable World and the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation! Wednesday, October 21, 2009 104 Irving Street • Cambridge, MA 02138

At the party, Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, a nuclear policy expert, and Sarah Sewall of Harvard Kennedy School, a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama, will lead the discussion.[15]

Council for a Livable World, 50th Anniversary

Jeff Merkley, Council for a Livable World

On June 6, 2012, Council for a Livable World, along with its sister organizations Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and Council for a Livable World’s PeacePAC, celebrated the 50th Anniversary of their founding by Leo Szilard in 1962.

An evening celebration was held at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Congressman Barney Frank acted as the Master of Ceremonies and, in the process, received a lifetime achievement award from former Rep. Tom Downey, a member of the Council’s Board of Directors. The Robert F. Drinan Peace and Human Award was presented to former Representative and PeacePAC Chairman David Bonior and the late Edith Wilkie, a longtime advocate and leader for peace and justice.

Six sitting Senators joined CLW in an afternoon national security forum in the U.S. Capitol to speak on the issues Council has been working on for 50 years. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) all spoke eloquently on these pressing issues.[16]

Council for a Livable World has a long and close relationship with each of the Senators. They have all been leading advocates in the Senate for sensible national security policies, such as reducing the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction, reigning in the bloated defense budget, and bringing an end to the War in Afghanistan.
Senator Merkley praised the Council’s work on the New START treaty and advocacy for a swift drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan. Senator Merkley has been a Senate leader on this issue. He focused in particular on his work on Afghanistan, noting that the legislative efforts of those opposed to the war have given space to the President to drawdown troops more quickly than he otherwise might have. Senator Merkley also lamented the extreme abuse of the filibuster, and outlined his efforts with Senator Tom Udall to reform the process.[17]

2014 endorsement

The Council said of Merkley;

In 2007, when Council for a Livable World announced our endorsement of Jeff Merkley in his first Senate run, Council board member and former U.S. Senator Gary Hart (D-CO) had this to say about Merkley:
Senator Merkley has proven his commitment to progressives by being a leader for sensible national security policies, fair wages and the environment.
"Jeff is the kind of Senator Oregon needs - one who is sincere in his opposition to the Iraq war and dedicated to finding a workable solution…He is unwavering in his commitment to ending the fiasco in Iraq, and he understands that far more will be accomplished there through political means, not military force…Jeff took a firm stand against this war from the very beginning. He made his voice heard then and he continues to speak out against it now. We need more of that in the U.S. Senate."
Council supporters rallied behind Merkley’s bid for the Senate, and since his election in November 2008, he has not disappointed. Senator Merkley has consistently earned a perfect 100% rating on Council for a Livable World’s scorecard. In the Senate, Merkley has pushed for expediting troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and coordinated with the Council to gather signatures urging the President and Congress to bring the troops home by the end of 2014. Sen. Merkley also strongly opposes indefinite military detention and was a solid supporter of New START.[18]

Most Valuable "Progressive" senator

Writing in The Nation, John Nichols, named Jeff Merkley to the "The Progressive Honor Roll of 2012", as Most Valuable Senator:

Among the new generation of Democratic senators elected in the past several years, none has been so steadfastly determined to forge progressive solutions as Oregon’s Jeff Merkley. A frequent ally of stalwarts like Sanders and Tom Harkin, Merkley has also been willing to strike out on his own to pick big fights for big reforms.
On the Banking Committee, he has pushed hard for crackdowns on Wall Street abuses and for aid to Americans struggling to keep their homes. As a key member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, he’s battled to increase spending on vital infrastructure projects and worked to prevent the closing of rural post offices.
Above all, Merkley is fighting to “Fix the Senate Now.” Increasingly frustrated by the Republicans’ “fake filibusters,” which have blocked action on popular legislation, Merkley teamed up with Senator Tom Udall to develop a way to end these abuses. Under their plan, the filibuster would be restored as an honest and transparent tool whereby senators who dissent must do so publicly. Think Jefferson Smith, Jimmy Stewart’s iconic character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington—who, much like Merkley, hailed from a Western state and refused to compromise his principles to get along in the Senate.[19]

Filibuster "reform"

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, discussing the fight over filibusters, said the job of senators is "to advise and consent, not defy and extort," as Republican senators have done. "The Constitution does not allow a minority of one house of Congress to hold the other two branches of government hostage."

Trumka discussed the issue at a July 10, 2013 meeting at the Center for American Progress where he spoke alongside Kathleen von Eitzen of Battle Creek, Mich.

Von Eitzen is one of a majority of Pandera workers who want to unionize their firm with the Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers. Without a functioning NLRB, von Eitzen and her co-workers can't seek to start bargaining with Pandera management, despite having won the union representation vote at Pandera more than a year ago by 11 to seven votes. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who also spoke Wedneday at the Center for American Progress meeting with Trumka and von Eitzen, said filling posts at the NLRB is also a key to economic recovery.

"In this past recession, 80 percent of the jobs that were lost were living wage jobs and only 40 percent of those created are living wage jobs," the senator said. "For workers to be able to share in the vast wealth of this nation, they have to be able to come together and bargain, just as von Eitzen and her colleagues want to do. The NLRB is a key piece of that picture."[20]


The following are past and present staff:[21]

External links


  2. Jeff Merkley Pays Tribute to Senator Mark O. Hatfield, Uploaded on Sep 9, 2011
  3. Official Senate bio, accessed May 2013
  4. Confabb website: America's Future Now 2009 Speakers (accessed on July 13, 2010)
  5. Green Jobs Conference website: 2010 Speakers (accessed on Jan. 28, 2011)
  6. 21st Century Democrats FaceBook page, accessed Dec. 21, 2010
  7. J Street 2008 Annual Report
  8. Email from Senator Jeff Merkley to supporters, Sept. 23, 2010
  9. Minn Post.Al Franken to visit Vietnam with Senate group, then head to Laos, By Joe Kimball | 07/01/10
  10. [, Sen. Jeff Merkley confronts China's reality and contradictions during week-long visit, Charles Pope, The Oregonian By Charles Pope, The Oregonian on April 26, 2011]
  11. PW, Momentum grows for ending the filibuster, by: Mark Gruenberg November 12 2012
  12. CLW website: Meet Our Candidates
  13. CLW website: Who We've Helped Elect
  14. website, accessed May 12, 2013
  15. CLW memo, accessed July 2013
  16. Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation website. Council for a Livable World 50th Anniversary Celebration
  17. CLW blog, The Chain Reaction, Summary of the Council’s 50th Anniversary Senators Forum JUN 21, 2012
  18. CLW bio, accessed July 2014
  19. The Nation, The Progressive Honor Roll of 2012, John Nichols, December 19, 2012
  20. PW, Reid, with labor’s support, moves toward “nuclear option” in Senate, by: John Wojcik, July 12 2013
  21. Accessed 12/16/2011