Opinion: Hermiston turns out for Jeff Merkley

Earlier this month U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, attracted a large, vocal crowd in Hermiston for a town hall meeting. By my count, more than 130 people took the time to listen and talk their senator at the event. It was an impressive turnout by Umatilla County residents

Health care dominated the conversation. That’s important because Sen. Merkley is a member of the health, education, labor and pensions (HELP) committee, one of two critical panels that will determine the policy that eventually emerges from the Senate.

At one point Sen. Merkley asked for a show of hands on three different options for health care. A small number of those in attendance – roughly a half-dozen or so – supported a public health care system. A slightly larger number – about a dozen – supported the current private system of insurers. By far the largest response supported giving citizens a choice on which system they want to use.

Today, Sen. Merkley joined a majority of his colleagues on the HELP committee to approve health care legislation today. The bill includes two provisions authored by Sen. Merkley: one to increase options and lower health care costs for small businesses and the other to assist nursing mothers.