Senator weighs in on Schiavo, oil, war during Seaside visitSEASIDE - U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden would support a bill regulating the safety of liquefied natural gas terminals, but does not want to help decide whether there should be a terminal in Warrenton.
"I'm not convinced this is a federal issue," the senator told an audience of about 60 Monday. He cautioned that if the federal government becomes involved in local matters, so will federal energy lobbyists.
The meeting was part of Wyden's campaign pledge in 1995 to visit each Oregon county every year if elected. "This is what I think the founding fathers wanted to have done," he said at the close of the meeting, which took place at Seaside City Hall. It took an hour and a half for Wyden to take one question from everyone who wanted to speak. Topics ranged from the Terri Schiavo case to the war in Iraq.
Wyden said the federal government became overly involved in the Schiavo case.
Wyden resisted a bill allowing Schiavo's parents to appeal the court-ordered removal of her feeding tube until the Senate made it clear that the bill was only for that individual case. The bill that was passed states: "Nothing in this act shall be construed to confer additional jurisdiction on any court to consider any claim related (1) to assisting suicide, or (2) a state law regarding assisting suicide."
He said the original bill was another example of Congress taking on powers he said the Constitution clearly assigned to the states. "Congress would have been playing medical czar to thousands of cases across the country," he said. "A lot of senators weren't really aware of the implications."
Wyden is a supporter of Oregon's assisted-suicide law, and used a filibuster to defeat a challenge to that law in 2000. He opposes proposals aimed at ending the use of the filibuster in Congress.
Fuel needs came under discussion when an audience member said energy needs are the reason for the push for LNG terminals and for the war. Wyden responded that he supports renewable energy, noting that gas companies don't have enough competition. "The oil lobbies basically just drain the competitive juices out of the oil market," he said.
Wyden sympathized with Brian Petersen, a fisherman from Astoria who displayed a February diesel fuel bill for $7,200. He said some of the money for gas that goes to OPEC members funds terrorism. "It's bad for you from a national security standpoint," he said.
While Wyden voted against the war, he said it is important to support the troops. He said National Guard and reserve forces need building up.
"It is outrageous the way these people are getting pushed," Wyden said, citing delayed leave as an example. "It really is a back-door draft." He said he opposes a draft, but if conditions aren't improved so people volunteer for the guard or reserves, there will be strong push for one.
Wyden is in favor of reforming Medicare, increasing veterans' aid, supporting mass transit, reforming campaign finance and creating a paper trail for ballots. He opposes Social Security privatization and tax breaks for everyone. He said a tax decrease across the board would unfairly benefit rich people.
"There is no doubt that elections have consequences," Wyden said. While he feels the current administration unfairly supports the wealthy, Wyden believes in working with everyone, regardless of political affiliation. "I work with people, Democratic or Republican, who are going to help me get good ideas passed," he said.
Wyden accepted thanks from a representative of the Tongue Point Job Corps for helping to acquire funding. He said the training program produces good citizens who contribute to society and pay their taxes.
"Dollar for dollar, one of the best investments we make is Job Corps," he said.