Sen. Merkley Learning The Ropes In D.C.

t’s been about a hundred days since Jeff Merkley was sworn in as Oregon’s U.S. Senator. He’s an experienced legislator at the state level, but new to the scene in Washington D.C. April Baer checks on how Merkley’s doing on the job.

As a Senator, Jeff Merkley isn’t under the same kind of pressure as, say, President Obama to perform in the first hundred days in office.

But Oregonians have had a chance to get a sense of Merkley, as he navigates a minefield of Senate votes. And his committee appointments have given him a front-row seat.

Francis Creighton  “It’s fair to say the Senate Banking Committee is the epicenter of everything that’s going on in the Senate this year.”

Francis Creighton is a vice president for the D.C.-based Mortgage Bankers’ Association, he lobbies the Senate Banking Committee, which Merkley joined in January.

Francis Creighton  “From the auto bailout to what happens with TARP, the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, what happens to the investment banks and other banks—this is an incredibly important committee.”

Senator Merkley agrees his first few months on the job have been eventful.

Jeff Merkley   “I’ll tell you, the decade I spent in the Oregon legislature was very very helpful.  You find out things get done by talking to people.”

But he says it wasn’t tough to transition from being a dealmaker, as Oregon House Speaker, to a junior Senator whose mightiest tool is arguably a single yes or no vote. As an example, he mentions the January vote on releasing additional money for the banking bailout bill.

Jeff Merkley    “I was an adamant opponent of repeating mistakes we made with the Toxic Assets Recovery. I told the administration there was no way, and I told my leadership the same thing, no way it’d receive my vote, unless we got a big chunk of those funds going to working families in trouble with their mortgages.”