Here's some more info:Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley has formed another left-right coalition aimed at keeping the pressure on the Obama administration to continue winding down U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.
Merkley and fellow Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden joined with moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and two of the chamber's most conservative Republicans -- Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky -- to introduce an amendment that would require the administration to win congressional approval of the security pact the U.S. is negotiating with Afghan leaders.
The odd-bedfellows coalition on Afghanistan is not new with Merkley. He's worked with Lee and Paul before on efforts to speed withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan.- The Oregonian, 11/20/13
Here's the White House's response:The draft agreement didn’t specify troop levels, but Afghan officials told NBC News they hoped 10 to 15 thousand American troops would remain in the country for at least the next decade, though American officials said it would be closer to 7 or 8 thousand. In either case, if signed, the United States would be agreeing to at least a decade-long military commitment in Afghanistan—meaning a 23-year war, at the very least.
But a bipartisan group of Senators—led by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon—is trying to pump the brakes. They have a simple principle: before President Obama agrees to another decade of war, he should consult Congress and the American people.
The Nation has learned that Merkley, along with original co-sponsors Rand Paul, Joe Manchin, Mike Lee, and Ron Wyden, will introduce an amendment to the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act that expresses a sense of the Senate that Obama should seek Congressional approval no later than June 1, 2014 for any extended presence in Afghanistan.
This is how the relevant part of the amendment, which was provided to The Nation, reads:A Senate leadership aide, however, told The Nation that Merkley’s amendment was unlikely to receive a vote before the Senate breaks for Thanksgiving recess and that once the Senate returns, “there will be a priority to wrap up NDAA and vote on a final bill.” The aide did not rule out, however, that a vote on the amendment could still occur after the holiday. - The Nation, 11/20/13
If you want more information, please do contact Senator Merkley's office for more details:White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that any security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan would be consistent with Obama's promises.
"I think that when it comes to this president keeping his word in ending the war in Iraq, winding down and ending the war in Afghanistan, the public knows he's keeping his commitments," Carney said at his daily press briefing.
The press secretary emphasized that the agreement described by NBC on Tuesday was only a draft, and that Obama had not signed off on any joint-security agreement yet. - NBC News, 11/20/13
In other Merkley-related news, the Senator from Oregon is fighting to bring back manufacturing jobs:
And he's been getting praise for his successful efforts to get ENDA passed in the Senate:U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley hit Indow Windows Friday as he introduced the Manufacturing Jobs for America plan. Merkley wants to spur bipartisan support for legislation he believes will update the country's manufacturing sector.
The package includes 40 bills.
“Congress should be focused on creating jobs for our middle class families not fighting about shutting down the government,” Merkley said. “Washington can and should do a lot to expand manufacturing, because if we don’t build things in America, we won’t have a middle class in America.”
Twenty-nine percent of Oregon's gross state product comes from the manufacturing sector, the highest rate in the nation. Manufacturing workers collect 22 percent more in annual pay and benefits than average workers in other industries.
Merkley has written two of the bills he's pushing. The BUILD Career and Technical Education Act would support career and technical education in middle schools and high schools. The Job Creation through Energy Efficient Manufacturing Act would provide grants that back expanded industrial energy efficiency financing programs. - Sustainable Business Oregon, 11/19/13
And a great piece came out calling Merkley the activist's left's favorite Senator:As speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, Jeff Merkley was known as “the Boy Scout.” His attention to detail in counting votes and rounding them up earned him that nickname.
Merkley’s ability to do the hard, old-fashioned business of legislating showed last week when the Senate enacted legislation to ban workplace discrimination against gays. The margin of victory was 64-32, meaning that Merkley gained significant Republican support.
Merkley’s predecessor, former Sen. Gordon Smith, had something to do with one prominent Republican’s “yes” vote. The New York Times reported Friday that Smith personally approached Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. Smith took on that challenge at the invitation of Sen. Merkley. It was a bold move for Merkley to make that request of the man he defeated in 2008, and it was generous of Gordon Smith to plead a case in front of the Utah Republican.
Unfortunately, House Speaker John Boehner has no plans to bring the Senate bill to the House floor for a vote.
Merkley came to the task of managing the anti-discrimination bill at the request of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. This was one of Kennedy’s causes. As a dying man, the Massachusetts senator was concerned about his unfinished business.
Legislating seems like a lost art in Congress. Members are better at posturing for television than they are at counting votes and building coalitions. Speaker Boehner continues to take the easy way out. There is little effort involved in saying no. - The World, 11/20/13
Right wing groups are going to be coming after Merkley next year and it's important he stays in the U.S. Senate. Please do consider donating and getting involved with his campaign:Merkley also makes himself a big presence on the activist circuit. More than almost any other member of Congress, he uses the Moveon.org website to propose petition campaigns to the group's 8 million members. His most popular: Urging support for his attempt to repeal a law that allows Monsanto to skirt a federal court order blocking the sale of some of its genetically modified seeds. That one's garnered 80,000 signatures.
In June, he was a keynote speaker at the annual Netroots Nation conference, where he talked about the "big issues we face as a progressive community." Essentially, he argued, the big problem is that the country is increasingly run "by and for the powerful."
While critics in Oregon may belittle his fight against the filibuster, the issue helped cement the allegiance of the grassroots.
Becky Bond, political director of the activist group Credo, says activists were enamored by Merkley's willingness to "buck the leadership of his own party" and fight to change Senate rules that allowed a minority of 41 senators to block anything of significance from passing.
Along with fellow freshman Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Merkley began talking up filibuster reform shortly after he entered the Senate. But rather than just lobby his colleagues, he made the rounds of outside groups, arguing that the Senate's Republican minority shouldn't be allowed to so easily block the progressive reforms they prize.
"He gets the value of an inside-outside partnership -- of really using pressure from around the country to get Washington, D.C., to pay attention," says Adam Green, who heads the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
In part because of Merkley's influence, more than 70 groups formed the "Fix the Senate Now" coalition under the leadership of the Communications Workers of America to push for scaling back the filibuster. - The Oregonian, 11/16/13