Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley has dedicated his life to public service, and his entire career has been animated by a simple philosophy: that each of us has a responsibility to make the community, the nation, and the planet a better place. In 2008, Oregonians took note of his thoughtful, solutions-oriented policy-making style and made Jeff the first Oregonian to defeat an incumbent U.S. Senator in 40 years, and in 2014 they re-elected him by a margin of nearly 20 points.
During his time in the Senate, Jeff’s primary focus has been fighting to create economic opportunity for working families across America. He led the fight to put an end to the worst abuses on Wall Street as the co-author of the Volcker Rule, which created a firewall between risky hedge-fund style trading and traditional banking. Frustrated by the slow pace of assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure, Jeff put together a comprehensive plan to help underwater families refinance, his innovative solution gaining endorsements from prominent economists. He has been a leading voice calling for an increase in the minimum wage and protecting the safety net from Tea Party and Trump Administration assaults.
A fierce fighter for equality, Jeff was honored when Senator Ted Kennedy passed him the baton as the lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which Jeff successfully shepherded through the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote in 2013. Full equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans has always been a signature priority since his time in the Oregon House. In recent years, Jeff has expanded his fight for equality by introducing the Equality Act, landmark legislation that would extend full non-discrimination protections to LGBTQ Americans in the workplace, housing, public accommodations and more. Jeff has also been a staunch proponent for women’s rights. He was one of the most outspoken defenders of Planned Parenthood when it faced attacks from extremists on the right, has championed equal pay legislation, and wrote a provision that is now law to ensure that breastfeeding moms get the privacy and time to pump at work.
Jeff has been one of the Senate’s top advocates for bold action to take on climate change and jumpstart the transition to a clean-energy economy. In 2015, Jeff introduced the Keep It in the Ground Act, major legislation that would end all new oil, gas and coal leases on federal lands and waters. And in the spring of 2017, Jeff took his fight for the climate one step further, introducing the 100 by ‘50 Act, the first piece of congressional legislation ever to envision a full transition off of fossil fuels and to lay out a roadmap of how the United States can transition to a fully clean and renewable economy by 2050.
He has been a strong voice for a smarter foreign policy that focuses more directly on threats to America and its allies without compromising core American values. Jeff has led efforts to wind down the war in Afghanistan while supporting robust sanctions against Iran and aggressive actions targeting al-Qaeda affiliates. As a newly-appointed member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has stood up against Trump’s reckless actions on the world stage and called out this administration’s dangerous pivot away from our allies and toward authoritarian strongmen like Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
As a champion for ordinary Americans and underdogs, Jeff fights every day to repair our broken democracy that skews the playing field against progressive change. He has gained national prominence leading the fight to reform the Senate and end the secret, silent filibuster. Practicing what he preaches, Jeff made headlines by speaking for nearly 15-1/2 straight hours on the Senate floor in opposition to nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch to fill a stolen Supreme Court seat, the 8th longest filibuster in U.S. history. Jeff has also been one of the most outspoken critics of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and supported various efforts to reduce the corrosive influence of unlimited, anonymous corporate and special interest money in politics.
Jeff’s values were shaped as a working-class kid from rural Oregon. The son of a sawmill worker, Jeff’s parents impressed upon him the importance of honest work, good schools, and strong families. Jeff worked hard, earned scholarships, and became the first in his family to go to college. He attended Stanford University and later earned a Masters in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. Early in his career, Jeff interned for Senator Mark Hatfield and worked for Congress as a national security analyst, before returning to Portland to lead Habitat for Humanity. Jeff then served in the Oregon House as the first Democratic Speaker in sixteen years.
Jeff and his wife, Mary, a nurse, have two children, Jonathan and Brynne, and an Airedale terrier, Sadie.