One of my favorite Senators, Jeff Merkely (D-Ore.) is pushing through actions to vote for the repeal of what has been dubbed as the “Monsanto Protection Act”. The act is in reality a rider that was attached to the stopgap spending bill to avert government shutdown in March. The provisions of the rider allowed sellers of genetically modified seeds, such as Monsanto, to continue selling any previously approved seeds which had sales that were later blocked by court order to be reviewed again. There was a negative reaction throughout the public on both sides of the political spectrum and the rider was dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” for the deregulation of possibly harmful GMO’s.
The rider passed through the Senate and the House without much discussion as the spending bill was an extremely heated argument between the White House and Congress. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) spoke out against the rider on the Senate floor, however the chamber was mostly empty at the time. The bill originated from the Senate and blame for the rider was passed on to the Senate Appropriations Committee and their chair Barbara Mikulski (D- Mar.). The committee is made up of a few of the limelight Republican Senators such as Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S. Car.). Jeff Merkley also sits on the committee and it seems like Tester’s words along with a public outcry moved him to action.
Jeff Merkley is an all-around liked sort of legislator in Oregon. He was endorsed by the Democratic party as well as the Independent party, he’s local and knows his state, and the AFL-CIO gave their support to his work. Merkley believes in smart spending and putting money back into the communities in the form of better education, a rainy day fund to keep those programs from suffering, and more support for marriage equality. I like my Senators to have the gumption to spend a dollar now to save 4 next year.
Since there really aren’t any inspiring videos on Merkley or the extremely exciting machinations of Senate committees, I’ll leave with these two videos from The Daily Show on their coverage of the Monsanto Protection Act.
I’ll also include this bit from Wikipedia on Senator Merkley’s tenure…(Wikipedia)
Merkley has accumulated a progressive record during his Senate career to date. Merkley became the first Democratic member of the Senate to announce that he’d vote against the confirmation of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, citing Bernanke’s failure to “recognize or remedy the factors that paved the road to this dark and difficult recession.” As a member of the Senate Banking Committee, Merkley became a leading force in the effort to pass the Wall Street reform bill. Merkley championed an amendment known as “Merkley-Levin” or the “Volcker rule” which banned high-risk trading inside commercial banking and lending institutions. In 2010, Merkley successfully included the Merkley-Levin amendment in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill during conference committee. Merkley also championed an amendment that banned liar loans, a predatory mortgage practice that played a role in the housing bubble and subsequent financial collapse.
He was a founding signatory of a mid-February 2010 petition to use reconciliation to pass legislation providing for a government-run health insurance program in the Senate. Merkley also championed legislation that provides new mothers with a private space and flexible break times to pump breast milk once they return to work. Merkley’s breastfeeding amendment was included in the health care reform law and signed into law by President Obama in 2010.
In late February 2010, Merkley again made headlines when he unsuccessfully tried to persuade Republican colleague Jim Bunning of Kentucky to drop his objection to passing a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits for jobless Americans. Bunning replied, “Tough shit.” A spokesman for Merkley claimed that the Oregon senator did not hear Bunning’s remark at the time.
In late 2010, Merkley began circulating a proposal to his fellow Senate colleagues about the need to force Senators to filibuster in order to block legislation. In 2011, Merkley introduced a bill to reform the filibuster and help end gridlock in the Senate. He was joined by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.