Merkley, Wyden roundup on budget, Patriot Act, and energy issues

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

There's been an awful lot of news coming from our two U.S. Senators, so I thought I'd do a quick round-up for you.

But first, a little advance notice: At noon, Senator Jeff Merkley will be on-hand to do a live chat with BlueOregon readers. He'll be on hand largely to discuss today's budget votes, though I'm sure he'll be happy to take questions of all sorts.

In the last few hours, the Senate voted on four budget plans. The Medicare-privatizing budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), which passed the House, was defeated on a vote of 40 to 57. Another right-wing budget, proposed by former Club for Growth president Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), was defeated 42 to 55. And a third even-more-ridiculous budget, proposed by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was defeated on a vote of 7 to 90. President Obama's budget was defeated 0 to 97, as a new budget plan is being developed in negotiations led by Vice President Biden. Unsurprisingly, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley voted against all four budgets.

The USA PATRIOT Act is due for reauthorization, as three provisions will sunset this week without congressional action. On Monday, Senator Merkley cast what he described as "a protest vote" against bringing the measure up for a vote, just one of eight senators to do so. From the O's Charlie Pope:

"I was casting a protest vote that a four-year extension is going to be offered without the chance to debate amendments," he said in an interview Tuesday. "I have a lot of concern about that."

Merkley's biggest reservations center on the broad and poorly defined ability to collect records. He wants that authority more precisely defined and for the government to publicly explain the legal basis for collecting such data.

Meanwhile, Senator Wyden - a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee - told Wired Magazine that there's a "secret interpretation" of the Patriot Act that the public is not privy to; and one that he largely can't discuss without violating the law himself:

“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden tells [Wired's] Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. “When you’ve got that kind of a gap, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.” ...

“It is fair to say that the business-records provision is a part of the Patriot Act that I am extremely interested in reforming,” Wyden says. “I know a fair amount about how it’s interpreted, and I am going to keep pushing, as I have, to get more information about how the Patriot Act is being interpreted declassified. I think the public has a right to public debate about it.”

Senator Wyden is also blasting the Department of Energy's plan to store more nuclear waste at Hanford. From KEPR-TV in Pasco, Washington:

DOE has been working on Hanford cleanup for more than 20 years, and at best, they probably have another 35 years to go. I think it’s time to point out the obvious -- Hanford cannot be cleaned up by adding more waste. Hanford, with its 40 miles of unlined trenches, sits along 50 miles of the Columbia River, which is the lifeline of the Pacific Northwest economy. That is a formula for disaster. Bringing more radioactive waste from across the country to Hanford is only going to increase the odds of that disaster or, at worst, make it inevitable.

Senator Merkley continues to shop around the electric vehicle legislation he's developed with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) - and picked up critical support from a White House advisor on energy. Among the bill's many provisions, it would jumpstart the deployment of electric-car plug-in facilities. From The Hill:

“A lot of the [Merkley-Alexander] bill has great ideas in it and we are hopeful that it could serve as the underpinning for a broader package that could move through Congress,” said Zichal, the deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change.

Discuss -- and don't forget tomorrow's live chat with Senator Merkley at noon.

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    Full disclosure: My firm built campaign websites for Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden. I speak only for myself.

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    I won't be able to participate in the live chat, but the questions I'd ask if I could:

    • Is there any support in the Senate for saving money by reducing the scope of the military deployed overseas?

    • Do you think Medicare and Social Security require reform to remain financially viable in the long term, and if so what reforms would you favor?

    Finally, not a question but a request. The Ryan plan is down, but please don't stop kicking it.

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    At the risk of making a comment that Kari deems "not on topic" I applaud Senator Wyden for his efforts to warn Americans that a National Security State is afoot.

    Again, with a sincere apology to Kari for potentially straying off- topic, I would add that in Texas the House voted unanimously to restrict TSA from committing sexual assaults. The Senate was warned by Homeland Security and former FBI agent and current TSA administrator Pistole that the Federal Government would shut down all air traffic in Texas....a clear act of terrorism.

    Finally, and with a sincere apology to Kari, I applaud the citizens of NY District 26 for electing Kathy Hochul and for defending Medicare. Hmmmm. Is there a representative in Oregon who supports the Ryan, aka Ayn Rand plan. Yep. Greg Walden. I am so sorry to be completely off topic, Kari.

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    So, all the budget plans got voted down. Where is the solution? I vote for the Rand Paul plan to get this monster under control before I retire in about 12 years or so. The way it stands now, there will be NO Medicare or SS by then. There is NO money left to pay for it, it has all been stolen for something else, like bailouts to other countries and big banks and big corporations like GM and GE. I don't want to know what you voted down, I want to know what you are going to do about it, lets see a plan. I want it balanced within 5 years. Just get rid of the EPA, which you just said was dumping waste in Oregon, how is that good for the environment. Ethanol was proven worse for the environment and still is subsidized, what's up with that. Using all our food for fuel when we have plenty of fuel. Where are we going to get the electricity to run all these electric car power plants? We have rolling blackouts in parts of the country now. Are they going to be solar power plants? Not going to work very well in Oregon when you have to travel more than the car will go one way to work. We don't need the Patriot Act either, it is a grave invasion of privacy. And we don't need more of the Feds charging into a farmers place because he sold raw milk. It's already out of hand. What is the commercial going to look like when there is no more Medicare and SS....grandma in a gas chamber. You need to fix it NOW.

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      All of those plans were terrible. Now the Senate needs to get to work on a rational plan that doesn't allow deficit fear talk to undermine the economic recovery.

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    Interesting, lest we forget, ten years ago we were looking at record budget surpluses, after 8 years of the Clinton tax rates with a booming economy under the Clinton economic and fiscal policies. Then came the Bush years, tax cuts for the wealthy, two wards on the credit card, a Medicare drug benefit, on the credit card. Suddenly we can't afford Medicare because we need more tax cuts for wealthy people. That's the GOP plan for America. Kill Medicare and Medicaid, make wealthy people wealthier. Such a deal!

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