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Senators vote no on spending bill

U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, who represent citizens in Oregon, joined 21 other Democrats in voting against the $1.1 trillion bill to fund government until Sept. 30, 2015.

The funding package was approved Dec. 13 in the Democrat-controlled Senate by a 56-40 margin. In the House, where Republicans hold the majority, it passed Dec. 11 by a 219-206 margin, with the most conservative GOP leaders in opposition.

Following passage of the spending bill just before a partial government shutdown would have taken place, Merkley and Wyden joined other Democrats in opposition to a provision that loosened trading restrictions for big banks.

The bill, backed by the White House, contained a rider that rolled back some of the authority in the Dodd-Frank Act for the federal government to regulate the financial industry.

Merkley, who recently won a second term in office, issued the following written statement after the Senate vote:

“Tonight the Senate voted on final passage of the 2015 spending bill. While there are many positive aspects of the bill, I voted ‘no’ because of my deep opposition to a provision that puts the Wall Street Casino back in business.

“This provision allows big Wall Street banks to get back in the business of making exotic bets with government backing.

“These bets have no place inside a bank, putting our financial system at risk. And they certainly don’t merit government backing.

“Just six years ago, these types of bets melted down our entire economy with great losses in jobs and savings for middle-class Americans. We must not allow this to happen again. We can and must do better.”

Wyden also objected to a rider that raised the maximum amount that donors can give to political parties.

He was also opposed to a provision that blocked the Environmental Protection Agency from pursuing endangered species listing for two species of sage grouse until Sept. 20, 2015, at which time Republicans will control both the House and Senate.

“This bill contained a number of bad provisions, most of which were forced into the legislation by the House,” stated Wyden in a press release.

“For example, it rolls back important pieces of Dodd-Frank while we still have not solved too-big-to-fail; second, it revives the corrupting influence of soft money-style fundraising, creating new avenues for big money in politics. It also brings back the corrupting influence of big money contributions to political party committees, and there are some policies that were never even properly debated.

“Of particular significance to Oregon, a policy rider targeting the sage grouse creates uncertainty for Oregon ranchers and interferes with government efforts to protect an endangered species.”

Many GOP leaders opposed the funding package because it funded Obamacare, which they have vowed to repeal or replace, and contained “too much pork.”

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden is the lone Republican in the Oregon delegation and was the only one to vote in favor of the bill.

He said it was a bipartisan compromise that remained within budget caps for the fourth year, which was the best that could be done until Republicans also become the majority party in the Senate. “While this measure is not perfect, certainly, it does reduce funding for federal agencies to a level on the discretionary side that is below what it was when President Obama took office. And it does keep the government open,” he said.

“This plan continues our efforts to reduce waste, cut out federal red tape where possible and create jobs in Oregon and around the country.”

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