• School Libraries, Summer Lunch, Summer Learning

    Hunger doesn’t take the summer off and learning shouldn’t either. That’s why over the Fourth of July week Ron visited summer learning sites in Oregon. OregonASK (Oregon Afterschool Network), National Summer Learning Association, and their partners work with local schools to provide lunch and access to books and activities to Oregon kids in the summer. Low-income students more likely to experience the “summer slide” since they often lack the opportunities to keep learning over the summer.

    Ron stopped by three of the twenty-six School Libraries, Summer Lunch, Summer Learning sites. The first was Nellie Muir Elementary School in Woodburn where he read to students participating in the program. He also answered their questions including what it means to be a senator and what he does for Oregon.

    At Grant School in Salem and Guy Lee Park in Springfield, Senator Wyden helped to serve lunch, read with students and participated in a roundtable of Oregon educators and officials to discuss how to provide more kids with access to Summer Lunch, Summer Learning programs.

    During the week Ron also held his annual Curry and Coos County town halls, stopped at Ninkasi Brewing on the way, and marched in one of the best parades in Oregon – the Fourth of July parade in Ashland.

    After visiting the summer learning sites, Ron vowed to help efforts like these that make sure no kid goes hungry or experiences learning loss just because school’s out for the summer.

  • Eugene High School Graduate Testifies to Senate Finance Committee

    Eighteen-year-old Amber Lee, a graduate of Willamette High School in Eugene, Ore., testified Tuesday in front of Ron Wyden and the Senate Finance Committee, discussing how a difficult upbringing – and daunting student loans – hasn’t deterred her from her dreams of becoming a physician.

    But when Amber – who lives in a low-income, single-parent household – and her mother investigated their options for financing her higher education, nobody told them about the resources available in the tax code to help her lower her debt burden from the start.

    Watch Amber's conversation with Senator Wyden about her experience testifying:

    Amber, a diligent student who participated in extra-curricular activities throughout high school, will attend the honors program at Portland State University in the fall. But despite scholarships, grants and government loans, she still owes PSU nearly $10,000 in tuition for this year alone. Living paycheck-to-paycheck and struggling just to open a bank account because of low credit, Amber and her mother were unable to save for higher education. Amber is working at a local Dairy Queen over the summer in hopes of putting a dent in her education costs.

    It is absolutely appalling to me that students experience so many disheartening financial setbacks just for trying to further their post high school education,” Amber said. “We are immersed in a culture that supports the freedom to challenge ourselves, to search for new knowledge, and to gain meaningful careers, but we are constantly refused the opportunity to do so through the lack of options we have when it comes to paying for education. The idea of a college education has become only possible for the privileged, and that needs to change now.”

    Wyden called on the committee to make education tax incentives more accessible for all Americans by simplifying them so they are user-friendly and get students and families the help they need.

    Watch Amber's full testimony:

    The best tweets from Amber's testimony:

  • Listening to Oregonians: from National Guard soldiers to small business owners to students

    Senator Wyden spent Memorial Day honoring the fallen at the Central Point Fallen War Heroes Memorial and Eagle Point National Cemetery. Memorial Day is also the opportunity to recommit to America’s veterans who returned home and soldiers who are serving today. In Idaho, Ron met with Oregon National Guard Soldiers at Gowen Field training for their deployment to Afghanistan – a reminder of the continued sacrifices of our service-members and their families.

    Across the state he visited with Oregon small businesses including Tap and Growler in Eugene, The Thicket in Ukiah, and the 142-year-old Butte Creek Mill in Eagle Point. And larger Oregon businesses too – like Johnson Crushers International where Senator Wyden talked about creating Oregon manufacturing jobs and the urgent need to find a long-term solution to fund America’s highways – especially important in Oregon where roads and ports are key to the economy.

    At the Multnomah County Library, Ron was honored to accept the Oregon Library Association’s 2014 Intellectual Freedom Champion of the Year award for his fight against mass surveillance and to preserve a free and open Internet. Afterwards, Senator Wyden held a discussion on privacy and the importance of net neutrality – the freedom to compete online – for Oregon businesses like Strapworks that he visited in Eugene last week.

    Ron also held his annual Harney, Grant, Umatilla and Morrow County town halls and continued his #ListeningToTheFuture tour hearing from students Bridlemile Elementary and Riverdale High School.

    Click through the map below to see photos and learn more!

  • Putting a Cork in Overregulation

    While the name may be a little odd, the practice by Oregon’s breweries and ranchers of “brew to moo” certainly is not. The byproduct of beer-making, called spent grain, is often given or sold by breweries to ranchers to use as animal feed. Together, Oregon’s breweries and Senator Wyden successfully fought back the FDA’s attempt to overregulate this process, which would’ve cost brewers millions and forced tons of spent grain to go to waste.  The fight took Senator Wyden across Oregon to meet with local brewers at Widmer Brother Brewing in Portland  and with Southern Oregon brewers at Caldera Brewing in Ashland.

    And the trip wasn’t just about beer.  Oregonians can now fill wine growlers and enjoy Oregon’s world-renowned wines at home! Recently the federal government issued rules conflicting with Oregon’s own laws that allow wine growlers. Wineries, wine collectives, and restaurants joined forces with Senator Wyden to ensure that the federal law didn’t override Oregon’s. Senator Wyden and Congressman Earl Blumenauer went to the SE Wine Collective in Portland to help fill the first legal wine growler – full of Oregon’s Heiloterra Pinot Noir.

    ;

    In between fighting for wine growlers and “brew to moo,” Senator Wyden joined Senator Merkley, Governor Kitzhaber and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to celebrate the signing of the Klamath Basin Agreement.  He also heard from Oregonians at his annual Hood River, Wasco, Gilliam, Sherman, Klamath and Lake county town halls. He also held his 700th (!) town hall in Fossil in Wheeler County. Ron also participated in the openings of the Fort Dalles Readiness & Workforce Innovations Center, the new solar and geothermal energy project at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, and the Grants Pass Veterans Outpatient Clinic as well as the groundbreaking of a veterans clinic in Eugene.

    If there’s one thing the past couple of weeks showed, is that when Oregonians come together we can do big things.

  • 700 Town Halls

  • 21st Century Trade Policy Must Give All Americans a Chance to Get Ahead

    As delivered by Senator Wyden at the American Apparel & Footwear Association Conference on April 10, 2014.

    Today I want to talk about how trade in the 21st century can create good middle-class jobs and expand what I call the winners’ circle in our country.

    It starts with the fact that American trade policy has always been a story of adaptation and change. Fifty-two years ago, President John Kennedy went before Congress to deliver an address on his vision for international trade. The historical context of that period is apparent throughout the speech.

    President Kennedy rightly saw international trade as more than something that was just an isolated economic matter. To President Kennedy, trade was in effect an inextricable aspect of foreign policy and an important front in the clash between free nations and communism. What President Kennedy was seeking to do was to promote the strength and unity of the West and fortify the relationship between the United States and the European Common Market. Of course those were days when that was a powerful economic force that was growing. President Kennedy knew American businesses and workers had a great chance to benefit from Europe’s growth, and that would create new jobs at home. It was President Kennedy’s judgment, and a correct one in my view that required adaptability and in order to have that American trade policy had to be nimble, and it had to reflect those times. I thought the president summarized it very well when he said, “A new American trade initiative is needed to meet the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world economy.”

    Today’s challenges and opportunities, more than any other time in my lifetime, come down to creating more good-paying, middle-class jobs. It’s my view that every trade discussion, every single trade discussion, must now focus on how trade policy can be a springboard to high-skill, high-wage American jobs. Jobs in innovative fields that didn’t exist before the digital era. Jobs in high-tech manufacturing that can’t be easily outsourced. Jobs that give Americans a ladder into the middle class. Here’s the reality folks, or the one that I hear at every town meeting - I have another coming up in a week or so - millions of middle-class Americans simply don’t believe trade can help them get ahead, or they worry their voices aren’t being heard. A 21st century trade policy has to meet the needs of those who are middle class today and those who aspire to be middle class tomorrow. On my watch, I can tell you, those voices are not going to get short shrift in the Senate Finance Committee.

    My basic philosophy with respect to trade is I want to see Americans grow and make things here, innovate and add value to them here, and ship them somewhere, whether in containers, on airplanes, or in electronic bits and bytes. 

    My view is there are opportunities for the U.S. to do that in trade agreements with nations across the Pacific and in Europe, but it is going to take fresh policies – adapted to the times – to make those trade agreements work for all Americans.                                                       

    I want to be very clear: only trade agreements that include several ironclad protections based on today’s great challenges can pass through Congress. I am not going to accept or advance anything less.

    First, trade agreements must be enforceable, and not just in name only. The United States has to follow through on enforcement at home and around the world. If it doesn’t, trade agreements will not deliver on their job-creating potential and the economic winners’ circle, instead of expanding, could actually shrink.

    A World Trade Organization ruling that came out just last week showed a great example of enforcement done right. China’s restrictions on rare earth mineral exports have done real damage to American businesses and consumers and could cost our country jobs across a wide array of industries.

    Manufacturers of rechargeable batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles, MRI machines, night-vision goggles and many others took a hit. My friend Leo Gerard from the United Steelworkers will tell you the impact China’s restrictions have had on his members’ jobs.  So the U.S. stood up and challenged China in the WTO, and the WTO ruled in America’s favor – making clear that as a member of the global trading system, the Chinese have to play by the rules.

    With American jobs on the line, all trade agreements ought to be enforced with that kind of vigor. Enforcement has to happen without hesitation over politics or other kinds of secondary considerations.

    Right now, for example, Customs often appears to focus on security at the expense of its trade mission. Fake NIKE shoes and counterfeit computer chips with a fake Intel logo too often make their way past America’s border agents unnoticed. Foreign companies have evaded the trade remedy laws that protect American workers, like those in the solar and steel industries. A 21st century trade policy can’t work if the cops at the border aren’t doing an adequate job on the beat.

    Second, trade agreements must promote digital trade and help foster innovation in areas where America leads, like cloud computing. When President Kennedy made his pitch for a modern trade policy to Congress five decades ago, nobody could have imagined what the digital world would become, or how important the Internet would be to the global economy. Even when the North American Free Trade Agreement entered into force in 1994, a lot of trusted economic thinkers had doubts about how big a role the Internet would play in people’s lives.

    Fortunately, our country today enjoys a major trade surplus in digital trade that fuels the growth of high-quality, high-skill jobs. Twenty-first century trade agreements have to preserve this American advantage. They must prevent unnecessary restrictions on data flows or requirements to localize data and servers. Make no mistake about it, these NSA policies have harmed the American brand in parts of this debate and it’s something that I’m going to focus on changing, not just from the Finance Committee, but from the Intelligence Committee as well. They must include assurances that Internet companies have no more legal liability in foreign markets than they do in the U.S.  There is a reason that America is home to the leading technology and Internet companies: our legal framework promotes innovation and the digital economy.

    Preserving this legal framework at home, and promoting it abroad, protects and preserves good paying jobs -- and not just jobs at big technology companies like Google or Intel or IBM. It helps the self-employed: the craftsmen on Etsy and collectors on Ebay, and it helps auto workers, farmers, ranchers, and healthcare providers. Why? Because all of these industries, every one of them, rely on an open global Internet that connects them with foreign consumers and suppliers of digital goods and digital services.

    Similarly, provisions like the PIPA and SOPA bill that would do so much damage to the Internet or result in its censorship have no place in trade agreements. I want everyone to know that I’ll do everything in my power on the Finance Committee to keep them out of future agreements. I welcomed Ambassador Froman’s statement in February that he is committed to keeping them out of TPP. It’s as simple as this: the Internet, which is really the shipping lane of the 21st century has to be kept open and free.

    Third, trade agreements must combat the new breed of predatory practices that distort trade and investment and cost American jobs. Chinese state-owned enterprises, for example, don’t have the risk or borrowing costs that their American competitors do.

    China’s indigenous innovation policies too often undermine American innovators by requiring them to relocate intellectual property. And currency manipulation undercuts American autoworkers and a number of our manufacturers here at home. Again, these are practices that cost good American jobs. They have the same harmful effects on American exports as any other trade barrier, so modern agreements – including the TPP – have to give our country the tools to level the playing field.

    Fourth, some nations simply don’t share America’s commitment to labor and the environment, so when the U.S. doesn’t lead the way with strong standards and enforcement, trade agreements fall short. Commitments on these issues have to be core parts of trade agreements, rather than something like a side deal that’s just coasting along for the ride. This is one area where the U.S. has made progress. Twenty years ago, many considered including any labor or environmental rules in trade agreements to be unreasonable. Today, it is widely recognized that including strong disciplines on both – with equally strong enforcement – is an imperative. People on all sides of the trade debate should more openly acknowledge the progress in these areas and the hard work that went into getting those reforms. But as the situation in Colombia shows, there’s more work to be done. Under my watch, TPP will be much, much different than older agreements in these areas.

    When the United States leads on trade, it is my view it can raise the bar for labor in ways that improve conditions for millions of workers around the world. The TPP is an opportunity to establish improved labor rights in places like Vietnam and Malaysia, but it’s going to take strong enforcement.

    Just like with labor, trade agreements also have to do more to promote environmental protections. By setting and enforcing high standards, the U.S. can protect American jobs from countries that take a hands-off approach to environmental protection. The Trans-Pacific Partnership must put an end to subsidized and illegal fishing that threatens our oceans and stop trade in stolen timber and wood products in countries like Malaysia and Vietnam. The TPP also has to target illegal trafficking in wildlife. When it comes to environment, strong enforcement is a prerequisite for a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that can pass Congress.

    Finally, agreements must be ambitious, opening foreign markets and helping U.S. workers, farmers, manufacturers and service providers increase exports. And trade agreements need to be equally ambitious on footwear and apparel. They need to reflect those industries as they are in this century – not as they were in the last one.

    Trade agreements also need to be part of a broader framework, including Trade Adjustment Assistance, that moves exports more efficiently to foreign markets and gives more Americans a chance to climb the economic ladder. There are people who argue that the benefits of trade deals have only gone to some. I argue that if we work to get better, more modern agreements that reflect the lessons of history, we can get trade deals that expand the winners’ circle and help revitalize the middle class.

    So you’ve just gotten a short summary of what I think a modern trade deal should look like. I want to wrap up with a couple of comments about how all of this should move through Congress, what negotiations should look like and the issues I think are also very much on your mind with respect to what’s ahead.

    When it comes to trade talks, in my town hall meetings, people want to know what’s being negotiated. In my view the public has a right to know what the policy choices are. For its part, Congress has a constitutional responsibility to tell the President and the U.S. Trade Representative what they need to accomplish in trade deals, which it has traditionally done by passing trade promotion authority, or “fast-track.” I believe what’s needed to accomplish these things is different from a fast-track, or a “no-track,” and this afternoon I’d like to call it a “smart-track.”

    A smart-track will hold trade negotiators more accountable to the Congress, more accountable to the American people, and help ensure that trade agreements respond to their concerns of our people and their priorities, and not just to special interest groups. It will include procedures to get high-standard agreements through Congress, and procedures that enable Congress to right the ship if trade negotiators get off course. But to get better trade agreements, there must be more transparency in negotiations. The Congress cannot fulfill its constitutional duty on trade if the public doesn’t know what’s at stake or how to weigh in.        

    The public needs to know that somebody at USTR is committed to shedding more light on trade negotiations and ensuring that the American people have a strong voice in trade policy – a voice that is actually heard.

    Going forward in the days and weeks ahead, I am going to work with my colleagues and stakeholders on a proposal that accomplishes these goals and attracts more bipartisan support. As far as I’m concerned, substance is going to drive the timeline.          

    Some would like to lay blame for lack of support for the TPA proposal recently introduced in Congress at the doorstep of the White House.  The president and Ambassador Froman are, frankly, having a difficult time selling a product that members are not thrilled about. Policy matters, and arbitrary timelines won’t work. Instead of casting blame, our time would be better spent rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on policies that expand the winners’ circle for our people. Expanding the winner’s circle is going to mean that Americans see a trade agreement that they actually want to pass. That will build more bipartisan support for the president’s trade priorities.

    I’ve been the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee for 22 working days. You’ve got almost all the answers that have been around for 22 working days. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks listening to what committee members have to say about trade and their priorities. They’ve been sharing their views and suffice it to say there are some strong feelings. I can tell you what unites members of the Finance Committee is a strong desire to strengthen our economy, increasing our competitiveness in tough global markets, creating more good-paying jobs, and in a phrase you’ll hear me talk a lot about because it applies to trade, it applies to tax policy: economics policy that gives everybody in America a chance to get ahead. That’s my view of what trade and our economic policy ought to be about and when done right, trade policy can accomplish that. I’m sure everybody in this room shares that view.

  • March in Oregon

    In March, Ron traveled across Oregon holding town halls and hearing from Oregonians. Click through the map below to see photos and learn more!

  • Four Years Ago

    I’m looking back at this letter that I sent to Attorney General Holder four years ago today. It laid out my opposition to the dragnet surveillance of innocent Americans, and my deep concern that the public was being badly misled about the Patriot Act.

    At the time, the mass surveillance of millions of Americans had been underway for years, and it wasn’t about to stop anytime soon. I was frustrated and I was angry – as I know many Americans were when they found out about these programs. Bulk collection of Americans’ phone and email records is grossly intrusive, unconstitutional, and, as the public has now learned, ineffective at stopping terrorism.  Yet for all that it was happening, and the American people (and most members of Congress) had no idea.

    So I wrote to Attorney General Holder and laid out my deep concern that “the level of secrecy surrounding the official interpretation of the law violates the trust that the American people place in their government.” I believed it was “both unacceptable and untenable” to continue to hide from the public the fact that the government had secretly reinterpreted the law to allow collection of the phone and email records of millions of law-abiding Americans.

    As the past nine months have shown, I was right about it being untenable. Because in America the truth always comes out. 

    Four years after I sent that letter, the beginning of the end of dragnet surveillance of Americans is happening. This week the President announced that the government will stop indiscriminately collecting the phone records of Americans. It happened because the public debate that should have occurred years ago finally took place. It happened because millions of Americans spoke up and let their government know that mass surveillance is unacceptable.

    There are a lot of surveillance reforms that I and other reformers want to make. But for me, ending bulk collection is undeniably the biggest, and the fact that it’s happening is worth celebrating. And in the coming weeks and months I’m going keep working with my colleagues in Congress to enact both this and other major reforms into law, so that a future president can’t undo them. That’s going to take support from the same people who have raised their voices to end bulk collection – with that support we can ensure that changes to the law are real and meaningful. With that support these reforms will truly protect Americans’ rights and liberties, and respect the public’s right to know – which is so indispensable in our democracy. 

    You can read my March 26, 2010 letter to Attorney General Holder here.

    Wyden lays out his concerns about mass surveillance in 2010

  • Wyden Speaks on National Security and Civil Liberties at Wayne Morse Legacy Series

    Senator Wyden spoke on national security and civil liberties at the first event in the Wayne Morse Legacy Series. His remarks can be listened to here.

    Wyden Speech at Wayne Morse Legacy Series by Senator Ron Wyden

  • Cleaning Up Hanford

    While in Portland this past weekend, Ron held a press conference on the alarming revelations from his most recent Hanford investigation.

    Senator Wyden’s investigation revealed an undisclosed Energy Department July 2013 safety report which found that six of the newer, double-shelled nuclear waste storage tanks share construction flaws with a tank that has already begun to leak. The report also indicated that as many as 19 tanks may have elevated levels of risk.

    At his press conference, Senator Wyden called on the Department of Energy to stop making excuses and start presenting real solutions to clean-up Hanford. Ron has watchdogged safety issues at Hanford for more than 20 years, pushing for transparency about the full scope of the problems there, and a focus on long-term solutions. 

    Ron also held three town halls this past weekend. The first was in Multnomah County kicked off by Madeline and Willow, Girl Scouts and 4th graders from Maplewood Elementary School leading the Pledge of Allegiance.  At his annual Polk County town hall, Ron answered Oregonians’ questions on the farm bill, timber and net neutrality. Ron then met with Yamhill County residents at Chemeketa Community College for his 690th town hall to date.

    In addition to hearing from Oregonians at his town halls, Ron met with the Wild Salmon Center, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office River Patrol, and sat down for an interview with KGW Straight Talk.