Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley appointed to Senate Democratic leadership going into 2017

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley will have a more powerful role in Congress next year, as chief deputy whip for the Senate Democratic caucus.

Party whips and their deputies work to line up votes. Although Democrats will be in the minority in 2017, they still have the ability to push back against Republican priorities, for example by filibustering legislation or some of President-elect Donald Trump’s nominees.

Merkley was also appointed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His office announced the appointments in a press release on Monday.

Merkley has focused on issues dear to the left wing of the Democratic Party, and on Monday he highlighted his relationships with “grassroots progressive groups.” 

 “I am honored to join the leadership team and help carry the fight for good living wage jobs, a secure retirement, and opportunity for all Americans,” Merkley said in a statement, listing issues Senate Democrats might hope will appeal to more voters going forward.

Merkley’s staff pointed out in the press release that as minority leader in the Oregon House in 2006, he “engineered a Democratic takeover” and became the state’s first Democratic House speaker in 16 years.

Merkley was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008, when he unseated Republican incumbent Gordon Smith. He won re-election in 2014, against Republican Monica Wehby.