Wyden: Democrats ‘feeling very, very good’ about fall elections


Wyden at OSBCTCBEND — U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said Democrats are “feeling very, very good” about winning the presidency and re-taking control of the U.S. Senate this fall—which would put Oregon’s senior senator in a strong position to become chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

Wyden shared his thoughts about the upcoming general  election Aug. 12 at the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council convention. Wyden is up for re-election this year, but he didn’t mention it during his speech. [The Oregon Working Families Party is running a candidate against Wyden because of his support for fast track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Republicans didn’t field a viable candidate.]

Wyden said Democrats are  running “particularly strong” in Illinois and Wisconsin, and the party is opening leads in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Indiana. He said races are close in Ohio and Florida. [AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka announced last month that the labor federation will focus its election efforts on six battleground states—Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, Wisconsin, Florida, and Missouri. In Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, one in five voters will live in a union household, Trumka said.]

“But I don’t want anybody to think this is going to be a walk in the park,” Wyden warned. “We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

If everything falls in to place and Wyden becomes Finance Committee chair in 2017, he vowed to immediately go to work on a major infrastructure bill. Not doing so, he said, “would be legislative malpractice.”

He said it could be paid for by closing a tax deferral loophole that allows corporations to park money overseas.

“It’s the granddaddy of all tax boondoggles. It’s something that costs you  $80 billion, as taxpayers, every year,” Wyden said. “The first thing we’re going to do is roll as much of that back as we can, and use it to create incentives for red, white, and blue jobs — the kind of jobs that people in the building trades do.”

Wyden also would like to expand the Build America Bonds program, a tax credit program that he helped initiate in the Economic Recovery Act of 2009.

Wyden pledged to Building Trades Council delegates that if he is chair of the Finance Committee, “you will be partners with me every single step of the way. You are going to be at the table.”

On free trade agreements

Wyden said both political parties have failed to enforce current trade laws. He told delegates that  he currently is pushing back against Canada, which is “ripping off” the U.S. on softwood lumber. “Canadians subsidize their softwood and basically are dumping it in the United States,” he said. “Too often, both political parties have walked away from it (enforcement). So I told the Obama people, this is the time when we have got to go to the mat on those kinds of issues that relate to family wage jobs.”

Wyden said his trade policy is simple: “Make it in Oregon. Grow it in Oregon. Add value to it in Oregon. And ship it somewhere.”

He said trade-related jobs pay better than non-trade-related jobs. “One out of five jobs in Oregon revolves around international trade, and those jobs pay 18 percent more because they’ve got more value added in it,” he said. “And you’ve got to do it. Ninety-five percent of the consumers are outside the United States, folks.”

On multi-employer pension plans

Wyden says he is fully aware of the problems with underfunded multi-employer pension plans and the financially struggling Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).

“Obviously, we’ve got a lot to do. PBGC is very much under siege. And clearly we have liabilities in industries nobody ever expected,” he said.

Wyden believes Congress  will act on a bill this fall to help the insolvent coal miners pension and health care fund. Then lawmakers will turn their attention to the under-funded Central States Teamsters pension plan.

He said Congress then must tackle the question of how to shore up the entire multi-employer pension system and whether or not it should start looking at alternatives.

On Donald Trump

“Never in my imagination did I think that an American political candidate would appeal to foreign spies to ask for help winning an American election,” Wyden said. “We’re talking about imagination-defying statements,” from the Republican presidential nominee.

However, “Trump has done a lot of smart things over the years. He got out of real estate, which has some risk, and he got into all this branding stuff. He just put his name on buildings and steaks, and bottled water. No down side, lots of up side. So this is not a stupid man. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”


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