Sen. Merkley: ‘We’re going to stop this attack on rural America’

PORTLAND, Ore. — U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, made a point Monday to try and win over President Donald Trump’s strongest base of supporters — rural Americans — by pointing out things in the president’s proposed budget that the senator says may hurt them.

“He wants to cut the Coast Guard; he wants to cut the flexible grants that our small communities use that are called community development block grants, he wants to cut rural airports. The list goes on and on,” he said during a live interview in KATU’s studios. “There’s going to be bipartisan support. I’m going to team up with my colleagues across the aisle, and we’re going to stop this attack on rural America.”

He said there are Republicans who are willing to work with him on these issues.

Merkley made his remarks fresh off a town hall at Woodburn High School, where he said the No. 1 concern among those who attended was the fear that Trump would take away their health care through a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. Other concerns included immigration and partisan gridlock.

“I think it’s very important we can come listen firsthand with no filter and have a conversation,” said Tigard resident Leslie Balakrishnan, on why she attended the town hall.

In the KATU interview, Merkley also discussed Judge Neil Gorsuch, who was sworn in as the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court earlier in the day. The fight was bitter and Republicans went “nuclear” to end a Democratic filibuster by eliminating the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees.

Merkley famously held the Senate floor last week for more than 15 hours. While not technically a filibuster, Merkley used the time to protest Gorsuch’s nomination and argue that the Republicans were stealing the Supreme Court seat from President Barack Obama. Republican senators refused to consider Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, who the former president had picked to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died.

The junior Oregon senator also commented on Trump’s missile strike against Syria last week. He offered tepid support for the limited strike but warned against the president taking a larger military role in the country without congressional consent.

“But certainly any significant additional action has to come back to Congress,” he said.

Oregon’s only Republican member of Congress, Rep. Greg Walden, is holding six town halls this week in Oregon. And on Wednesday, KATU News plans to have an in-depth interview with Walden.

Walden Town Halls

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What: Wasco County Town Hall Meeting

When: 11:00a.m. – 12:00p.m. PDT

Where: Fort Dalles Readiness Center Assembly Hall, 402 E Scenic Drive, The Dalles 97058

What: Hood River County Town Hall Meeting

When: 3:00p.m. – 4:00p.m. PDT

Where: Hood River Middle School Auditorium, 1602 May Street, Hood River 97031

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What: Crook County Town Hall Meeting

When: 8:30a.m. – 9:30a.m. PDT

Where: Crook County High School Auditorium, 1100 SE Lynn Blvd, Prineville 97754

What: Deschutes County Town Hall Meeting

When: 5:00p.m. – 6:00p.m. PDT

Where: Mountain View High School Main Gym, 2755 NE 27th Street, Bend 97701

Friday, April 14, 2017

What: Jackson County Town Hall Meeting

When: 7:30a.m. – 8:30a.m. PDT

Where: North Medford High School Performing Arts Auditorium, 1900 N Keene Way Drive, Medford 97504

What: Josephine County Town Hall Meeting

When: 10:30a.m. – 11:30a.m. PDT

Where: Grants Pass High School Performing Arts Center, 830 NE 9th Street, Grants Pass 97526