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July 17, 2013
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Other voices: Can ‘lion’ Merkley give us a loud roar?

Many words have been used to describe Sen. Jeff Merkley since the Oregon Democrat was elected to the Senate in 2008. But no one has used the word “lion” to describe Merkley. Until now.

In a recent profile, The New Republic described Merkley as “a liberal lion,” albeit one “with no roar” because of the partisan gridlock that has prohibited the Democratic majority from passing bills or winning confirmation of presidential nominations.

Despite the Senate’s dysfunctionality, the New Republic notes that Merkley has been involved in “every matter of even marginal relevance to progressives, from civil liberties to housing to LGBT rights to agriculture to banking to climate change to the war in Afghanistan.”

The list left out some of Merkley’s issues, but the description is accurate. So is the observation that in another era, one in which an obstructionist minority didn’t impede the public’s business, Merkley might have a list of accomplishments “a mile long.”

Merkley has had some notable successes. They include his work on the Dodd-Frank financial reform package. His legislative proposals on energy efficiency and electric vehicles have been incorporated into the president’s budgets.

The magazine also notes Merkley’s lead role in calling for the repeal of the “Monsanto Protection Act” and Senate passage of his resolutions calling for expedited withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Then there is his high-profile role in questioning the federal government’s sweeping surveillance programs and his “made-for-TV” moment when he brandished his cell phone at the head of the National Security Agency, demanding to know why his data was being tracked.

The article also notes Merkley’s championing of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, gay rights legislation that was handed off to him by Sen. Ted Kennedy before his death.

Kennedy remains the senator most Americans think of when they hear “lion of the Senate.” But Kennedy was a lion with a very loud roar, and that was because he spent most his years in a different Senate, one in which comity and compromise were the norm.

Merkley — the guy really does seem to be everywhere — recently has taken the lead in reforming the Senate’s much-abused filibuster rule, and this change, if he succeeds, could go a long way toward ending the Senate’s dysfunctionality.

Such a Senate could produce another lion with a very loud roar.

The Associated Press provided access to this editorial.


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The News-Review Updated Jul 17, 2013 12:04PM Published Jul 18, 2013 11:36AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.