We at Open Spaces asked Senator Ron Wyden to share his thoughts on principled bipartisanship with us and our readers. We appreciate his willingness to do so. They are presented here.
A phrase that Oregonians attending my town halls in each of our state’s 36 counties each year will often hear is “principled bipartisanship.”
As I have said at my 925-plus town halls since first elected to the U.S. Senate, “principled bipartisanship” is all about taking each other’s good ideas from either party or non-affiliated voters, working to find common ground where possible, and developing long-lasting solutions for challenges facing Oregon and our nation.
Last Congress, for example, I worked with Republicans to finally end the short-sighted practice known as “fire borrowing” that forced our federal forest management agencies to “borrow” from long-term wildfire prevention resources in order to cover short-term firefighting costs; to update and strengthen the Medicare guarantee for seniors: to fight the opioid epidemic and to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In fact, in the case of both wildfire and CHIP, bipartisan history was made by the solutions passed.
I very much appreciate Open Spaces’ offer to share my thoughts on how principled bipartisanship can be used in this new Congress. There is much to choose from in that vein, but here are three proposals that would make a real difference in the lives of Americans.
1) The Forest Management for Rural Stability Act would provide long-lasting and much-needed financial certainty for residents of rural counties to ensure they have the long-term funding needed for schools, road maintenance, law enforcement and other essential services.
This bipartisan bill would replace the financial roller-coaster of current revenue sharing laws and address the expiration of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program with a permanent endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services.
I am proud that SRS generated close to $4 billion for rural Oregon counties since I co-authored the legislation, using principled bipartisanship, two decades ago to help 33 of 36 Oregon counties that host our federal forestlands. But in recent years, SRS funding lapsed, creating massive uncertainty for counties as they budget for basic county services. My Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, written with Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo, would end the uncertainty and provide rural counties, once and for all, with financial security.
2) Members on both side of the aisle agree we need to do more to protect Americans’ privacy. The Consumer Data Protection Act would answer mounting consumer concerns about control of their personal data and assaults on their privacy.
My legislation would allow consumers to control the sale and sharing of their data; and create a national Do Not Track system that lets consumers stop third-party companies from tracking them on the web by sharing data, selling data, or targeting advertisements based on their personal information.
And it would put real teeth into the law by imposing harsh fines for corporations that misuse Americans’ data, and prison terms for executives that lie to the government about their privacy practices.
It’s clear from what I hear at my town halls and in the supermarket aisles throughout Oregon that this is not a partisan issue. All Americans have good reason to worry about how their data is collected, how it’s used and how it’s shared.
My bill would shine a long-overdue spotlight on this shadowy network of information sharing.
3) As the Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, I envision many opportunities in this Congress to work with Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley on bipartisan legislation.
One such opportunity is our growing effort to lower prescription drug prices. Seniors and working families pay too much for their drugs while drug makers pocket billions in profit each year.
We already have one bipartisan bill that would prevent drug makers from manipulating Medicaid to take more profit from misclassified drugs. Our Right Rebate Act is a significant step to hold Big Pharma accountable when drug companies try to fleece taxpayers. The bill would give federal regulators the authority to reclassify a drug, recoup rebates, and go after drug manufacturers when they are suspected of purposely misclassifying brand name drugs as generics. We wrote this bill after we discovered the makers of EpiPen were bilking Medicaid for millions by classifying EpiPen as a generic drug when it was in fact a brand name drug.
There’s a lot more to do to lower drug prices for people at the pharmacy window, but I’m hopeful there’s a bipartisan will with my partner on the Senate Finance Committee to take real action.
The three bills I detailed above are just some of the instances where “principled bipartisanship” can make a real difference in this Congress.
I would very much welcome your ideas for others by attending one of my upcoming town halls for a face-to-face conversation. You may also always reach out through one of my six offices in Oregon or by e-mailing me.
Comments, thoughts or questions? Email us now!