PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — U.S. Senator Ron Wyden is ready for war on Capitol Hill.
On the last leg of an eight-day, 11-city tour, Wyden told his constituents that “this is going to be a battle for Oregon values every single day” of the Trump Administration.
The crowd — combative itself at moments — hollered, stamped its feet and rose in applause many times during the town hall, Wyden’s 800th since he first became a senator in 1996.
Speaking without notes, the 67-year-old Democrat responded to questions for over three hours during the event, which took place at noon on Saturday, Feb. 25 at David Douglas High School in Portland. A police officer estimated the size of the crowd at 3,500.
“I am not going to give an inch on getting an independent, impartial investigation on Russia,” Wyden promised, referring to his spot on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “And I want you to know I will not give an inch in the effort to make sure we do not repeal or hollow out the Affordable Care Act.”
There’s little doubt Wyden is currently riding high, boosted by the wave of liberal outrage that has buoyed opposition politicians across the country. He received laudatory coverage for pressing Trump on Russia in a recent front-page story in Willamette Week, a lefty newspaper that usually takes a dim view of everything.
At the event, Wyden himself said he was a member of the “Whistleblower Caucus,” and encouraged those with government jobs to continue revealing official misconduct to journalists and the public.
After being asked what would trigger his vote to impeach President Donald J. Trump, Wyden silently stared at the podium while members of the crowd chanted “lock him up.” He later noted that only a member of the U.S. House of Representatives can initiate the articles of impeachment, but vowed that “nothing is going off the table.”
“This president has had virtually nothing to say about (Russian President) Vladimir Putin,” he said, sparking more cries of anger.
“Treason! Treason!” some in the room shouted.
The wide-ranging discussion of government policy and civic engagement covered everything from sanctuary states to Wyden’s NBA prospects while in school (admittedly low, he said).
Here are 5 key takeaways:
On the Affordable Care Act: Senator Wyden noted that Republicans like Greg Walden, who represents rural Oregon, are having a tough time currently at town halls.
“The reason that Republicans aren’t having good town meetings above anything else… involves the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “We are going to fight and fight some more, and, as of today, they don’t have the support to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”
On Betsy DeVos: Wyden criticized Trump’s choice for U.S. secretary of education, noting that DeVos misstated the graduation rate of the private schools she has invested in during her Senate confirmation hearings.
“I don’t think we need ‘alternative facts’ brought into the education debate,” Wyden said.
On the Iraq War: Wyden stated that he was one of just 23 senators to vote against the conflict’s authorization in 2002.
“I was against Iraq, and I’m not letting us put boots on the ground in Syria,” he pledged.
On his first town hall ever: The event featured a surprise guest for Wyden, Judge Jeanne Burch, who hosted Wyden’s first-ever town hall in Fossil on Saturday, Feb. 17 in 1996.
“I’m afraid no one out here ever voted for you,” she recalled saying to the senator. “(At the event) some fella said to him, ‘Well, at least you’re not dressed like a cowboy.'”
On his shoes: Wyden was decked out in a plaid shirt, blue jeans and suit jacket at the event, plus a pair of black-and-white Nike kicks. He couldn’t remember the exact style, but told reporters the pair cost $54 at Fred Meyers.