Wyden, Merkley pledge transparency

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and his former Republican colleague Gordon Smith received loads of positive press for working together on certain bills and even appearing together at some town hall meetings.

With Smith gone and a fellow Democrat, Jeff Merkley, in his place, Oregon’s senators have embarked on an even closer working relationship.

Today, Wyden and Merkley announced they will make all in-state appropriations requests available on their Web sites, giving Oregonians the chance to look over and comment on requests for federal funding.

Applicants will be required to fill out a standardized form. Information from those forms will then be uploaded to the senators’ Web sites.

“We are now experiencing a very difficult economic stretch where tax dollars are extremely scarce at the very time that they are desperately needed to stimulate and stabilize the economy,” Wyden said in a news release. “We believe that a truly transparent, inclusive appropriations process will help restore the public’s confidence in the role of Congress in rebuilding our economy and preserving our communities.”

Merkley said it’s important not only for Oregon’s two senators to work together, but also to handle requests in as transparent a manner as possible.

“I’m proud to join with Senator Wyden on this initiative to bring a new level of openness to funding requests; public scrutiny will help ensure the government invests resources wisely,” Merkley said in the release.

The senators will accept funding requests for the current cycle through Feb. 23.

Meanwhile, Merkley and Wyden said they were disappointed by a partisan vote Tuesday that prevented the addition of $25 billion in infrastructure funding to be added to the stimulus bill being debated in the Senate. The proposal from Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Dianne Feinstein of California would have provided $13 billion for highways, $5 billion for mass transit and $7 billion for water and sewer projects.

Senate Republicans blocked the plan, insisting that any additions to the bill must be matched by deletions elsewhere. Both Wyden and Merkley voted in favor of the proposal.