Thank you for contacting me to express your frustrations with the Democratic party’s messaging and failure to hold Republicans accountable for their inaction on behalf of the American people. It is an honor to serve as your Senator, and I appreciate hearing from you.
I understand and share many of your frustrations, particularly in light of the outcome of the recent elections. Much of the gridlock and inability to address major challenges is the direct result of minority abuse of the filibuster. The unprecedented use of the filibuster on practically every piece of business before the Senate, including what are typically noncontroversial executive and judicial nominations, has subverted the Senate’s original commitment to full and open debate. As you may know, any Senator can simply object to voting on a piece of legislation and, by doing so, require 60 members — and an additional week of the Senate’s calendar — to overcome that objection. Whereas this step used to be taken rarely, it has been used on virtually everything this Congress, leaving critical policy work unfinished and important positions vacant. I ran for public office because I am passionate about improving the lives of Oregonians. I believe Congress would work a lot better if we had more opportunities for open debate of ideas, and spent less time manipulating rules to block action on legislation or avoid tough votes.
I strongly believe the Senate rules need to be reformed and recently circulated a memo to my colleagues with specific ideas for changes to end Senate dysfunction. Additionally, the Senate Committee on Rules & Administration, which has jurisdiction over the Senate rules, has held hearings on the filibuster. Please know that I will take your views into consideration as I work with my colleagues to enact meaningful change.
In addition, I believe that it is important for Democrats to take a strong stand on behalf of ordinary, working Americans. One way to do this is to stand firm and demand that middle class families get tax cuts without being forced to fund bonus tax cuts for millionaires. As you know, Congress passed extensive tax cuts disproportionately benefiting the wealthy, under the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, which expire at the end of this year. I strongly support renewing the tax cuts for middle class families, and pushed for a vote to make these tax levels permanent on income of up to $250,000 per year.
While our nation is running huge deficits, however, I think it is a big mistake to insist on an additional tax cut averaging a whopping $100,000 per year to the very wealthiest Americans. Our country cannot afford to borrow another $800 billion from China for extra tax cuts for people already making so much. I’ve been disappointed that some in Washington are threatening to raise taxes on everyone if the wealthiest do not get additional tax cuts beyond the $4,000 they would get by renewing tax cuts on the first $250,000 of income; and have pushed my colleagues not to give in on this point.
Again, thank you for your input. I hope that you will channel your frustrations into working harder to bring about the sort of change our country needs. Please continue to send your observations and thoughts my way.
Jeffrey A. Merkley
United States Senator