WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, as the 117th Congress formally convened in the nation’s capital, Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after being sworn in for his third six-year term serving Oregonians in the U.S. Senate:
“This is one of our nation’s darkest winters. More than 300,000 Americans have lost their lives to this pandemic over the last twelve months. Another twenty million have been sickened, and while many have been fortunate enough to recover, tens of thousands are still fighting for their lives. Businesses have shuttered, and millions of hardworking Americans have lost their livelihoods.
“But amid this darkness, we have the power to turn this new year and Congress into a harbinger of hope—to turn the page and deliver the resources to help our families weather this storm, frontline health workers do their jobs and stay safe, and Main Street businesses stay afloat. I will keep doing all that I can to keep the pressure on Congress to do so, from pressing for more investment in rapid vaccine distribution and personal protective equipment for our dedicated health care heroes, to fighting for utility shut-off moratoriums, stimulus checks, and loans for our businesses.
“While addressing the pandemic must remain our top priority, it would be irresponsible for Congress to simultaneously ignore the other urgent crises that are knocking on our door—attacks on the very heart of our democratic republic, the threat of climate chaos, and the lack of opportunity for working families across the country.
“Between the capturing of our courts, massive sums of dark money in politics, the suppression of votes, the gerrymandering of districts, and an electoral college system that erodes the power of hundreds of millions of Americans’ votes, our government has been hollowed out by powerful special interests dead set on rigging our government to benefit the most powerful and privileged among us. If we really want to deliver for the people—from improving health care, to putting housing and education within reach—we must pass the For the People Act and put the power back in the hands of the American people without delay.
“We must also deliver bold and decisive action to address the climate crisis: the global emergency that has already leveled towns in Oregon, cost countless lives across America, and continues to threaten the security, health, and well-being of our families and economy. But the good news is that we can harness the climate challenge as an opportunity to build a green economy made up of reliable, good-paying jobs, and I’m going to keep a steady drumbeat on the need to pass bills and take bold executive action to pave the way for that transition.
“And we can’t sit idly by as the opportunity crisis—which is rooted in rising costs and stagnating wages, and is keeping countless families from the solid foundations they need to thrive—deepens. No hardworking Oregonian should have to choose between keeping a roof over their head and putting food on the table, be forced to take on crippling debt to get a degree or workforce training, or have to ration their medicines or put off needed health care. That’s why I’m going to keep up the fight for innovative policies to put affordable housing, good-paying jobs, quality health care, and a well-rounded education within reach for Oregonians in every corner of our state.
“Serving the people of Oregon—particularly during this tumultuous and challenging time—is the honor of my lifetime. I am determined to do all that I can to ensure that our ‘We the People’ government is restored, and that it delivers the action and support our families need to survive this pandemic and to thrive in the chapters ahead.”
In his first two terms as a U.S. Senator, Merkley emerged as a national champion for middle-class jobs, consumer and environmental protection, and reform of the U.S. Senate. He also gained a national profile as a leading proponent of LGBTQ civil rights legislation and as a vocal voice for human rights along America’s southern border, as well as in Burma, Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Zone. Merkley also secured a host of local victories for Oregonians in every corner of the state, including drought relief in the Klamath Basin, increased support for Oregon’s small ports, and passage of legislation implementing a major water-sharing agreement in Central Oregon.