PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The coronavirus has everyone’s attention, including Sen. Jeff Merkley.
The Oregon Democrat told KOIN 6 News he expected a major funding bill to be passed that will support testing, vaccination and the supply chain necessary to help test and contain the coronavirus.
CBS News reports House and Senate negotiators have reached a deal on an $8.3 billion supplemental package to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, lawmakers said Wednesday. The amount is far higher than the $2.5 billion originally requested by President Trump, and in line with the $8 billion proposed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Merkley said the coronavirus is a serious issue and the federal government needs to “take fundamental actions” to help stop the spread of the disease.
For people who stay home when they’re sick, Merkley said he’s encouraging employers to pay the wages of their employees while they’re out. And he echoed what health experts said: wash your hands and avoid shaking hands — do an elbow bump instead.
This weekend he’ll be in Marion and Clackamas counties for town halls. Merkley said anyone who doesn’t want to mingle with a big crowd can joing the town halls on his Facebook page. He expects coronavirus to be a topic of conversation along with health care, housing and good paying jobs.
Super Tuesday reaction
In 2016, Merkley was the first sitting senator to endorse Bernie Sanders for President, but so far this cycle he hasn’t endorsed anyone. Asked if he wanted to make news with an endorsement now, Merkley chuckled.
“Thanks for that opportunity, but I’m not planning to endorse anyone at this time.”
He sees the primary battle so far — and what increasingly looks to be a 2-man race between Sanders and Joe Biden — as being very productive with “a robust discussion” on a wide range of topics.
Asked if he’s still confident the Democratic nominee will defeat President Trump in November, Merkley didn’t hesitate.
“I’m quite confident that will be the outcome.”