Live chat with Senator Jeff Merkley

Editor's note: At noon today, Senator Jeff Merkley will be on hand to answer your questions. The live chat will open at 11 a.m. If you're here earlier, feel free to post questions in advance in the comments - and they'll be posted for Senator Merkley during the live chat. He'll be here at noon for roughly 30 minutes.

By Senator Jeff Merkley.

We’ve heard it in town halls across America and in New York’s 26th district two nights ago. Americans have a loud and clear message: They say no to the Republican’s plan to end Medicare.

The Republicans’ plan dismantles Medicare while giving bonus tax cuts to very wealthiest in our country. It’s as simple as that. Instead of seniors going to their doctors to receive the care they need, Republicans will hand them a coupon to purchase private insurance. And if the coupon is not enough, our seniors will be told, “tough luck”.

In fact, Oregon’s seniors would be forced to pay out of pocket more than twice as much as they currently pay – an extra $4740. And that’s just in the first year. So the Republicans are proposing to double health care costs for our seniors, and put insurance companies in charge of the medical care they get. It’s a rare moment indeed that I agree with Newt Gingrich, but as he said, this is “right wing social engineering” that is a “radical change” for the American people.

To rub salt in the wound, the Republicans then plan to plow the savings created by killing Medicare into bonus tax breaks for America’s best off. Their plan would lower the tax rates for those making over $250k from 35 percent to 25 percent; the result is an annual bonus tax break of over $100k for folks earning over a million dollars, and annual bonus breaks of over $1 million for those earning over $10 million a year.

A budget is a statement of priorities – and this budget makes the Republican priorities very clear – end Medicare for our seniors and transfer the savings to those who least need it.

Instead, we need a budget that creates jobs and helps those Americans that are out of work. We need a budget that invests in education and infrastructure, so that our kids have a foundation to succeed in tomorrow’s economy. Those are my priorities as we work to create a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

As you may know, Congressional leadership is ramming through a 4-year extension of the Patriot Act without a thorough debate or amendments. This is unacceptable. The Patriot Act standard for access to our records is simply that the records be “relevant” to an “investigation”. That standard is incredibly weak and interpreted by the government in secret. I doubt the secret interpretation makes it stronger. I and others are trying to force the Senate to debate amendments and I will strongly oppose the extension if this concern and others are not addressed.

I am glad to be back at Blue Oregon and look forward to answering any questions you may have on these or other issues. Please join me at 12:00 p.m.!

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    What plans are in the works to develop a rational budget plan that doesn't give in to the deficit hawk nonsense that would sink the economic recovery?

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    I just got Sen. Merkley's valuable email about supporting a real military withdrawal from Afghanistan--but when I tried to sign up, the link(s) wouldn't work. Has this been fixed yet?

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    Please stop this stealing from one account to pay for something that should not be paid for! Why can't the gas companies get all their tax breaks and benefits removed while they pay the American Citizens some of their billions in profits. Seriously, if BP, Shell, Exxon, etc... paid 25% of their profits into the tax debt - there would be NO tax debt. It's time to stop the monopoly of pricing on petroleum products and start helping America get back financially responsible as a whole.

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    I'm very concerned about unemployment. About those long-term unemployed but also young people (incl my 23 yo son who has cc training in computers) that have no opportunities for meaningful (if any) work. We can't get the economy going when people aren't working, spending money, paying taxes, etc.

    Thanks, Sen. Merkley, you are doing a fantastic job!

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    Please explain how we extend the Oregon Health Plan to include ALL Oregonians, while using the provisions called for by President Obama's Health Care Plan for states.

    <h1>1. Revise Plan D the prescription drug plan, allowing for the use of generics and Canadian products, while cutting BIG PHARMA'S stranglehold on medical care!</h1> <h1>2. Get BIG INSURANCE out of health care! They have failed to produce an equitable product!</h1> <h1>3. Reduce the power of the AMA to limit natural and alternative forms of Medicine!</h1> <h1>4. GET YOUR LAWS OFF MY BODY! PLEASE!!!!</h1>

    Sincerely, Tracy E Cohen, Ashland, Oregon.

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    First, thank you for your consistent voice of reason! Second, please continue to tell Washington that a single-payer healthcare system would provide MORE freedom, not less. Millions of Americans currently depend on employment with big corporations in order to keep healthcare benefits (while millions more are uninsured). I firmly believe that this discourages an entrepreneurial spirit and contributes to a stagnating economy. I am discouraged when I don't hear Democrats speaking this truth clearly. Unfortunately, the plan that passed last year puts all of the burden on the healthcare "consumer" (don't get me started on the usage of that term!). Someday we will prevail!

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    What do you know about this new office that Obama has created..Director of Progressive Media and Online Response?? Isnt his administration staff getting a bit costly already?

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      you really ought to supply facts & figures when you make statements like this. including something to indicate the scale of the issue. otherwise, it's just demagoguery.

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      Seems to me a perfectly reasonable thing in 2011 to have someone in the White House whose job it is to respond to requests from bloggers.

      And, btw, Jesse Lee is a great guy for the job.

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    Thank you to everyone who participated, and to everyone who just hung out and read the Q&A.

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