Sen. Jeff Merkley *82. (Photo: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress)

The U.S. Senate’s recent debate over the use of filibusters placed Sen. Jeff Merkley *82 in the spotlight. Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon and Woodrow Wilson School MPA graduate, has been a leading voice on the issue, working with fellow Democrat Tom Udall of New Mexico to call for reforms that would prevent lawmakers from stalling nominations from the executive branch. The cause eventually won support from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, setting up this week’s showdown between Democrats and Republicans. The two parties reached a compromise that allowed most pending nominees to proceed but did not make changes to the filibuster rules. While his push for reforms fell short, Merkley told The New York Times that the agreement on nominees was “a milestone on the path to restoring the functionality of the Senate.”

The day before that agreement was reached, Merkley had insisted that the proposed reform was not a ploy to handicap Republicans, telling The Washington Post that he would support it even if his party were in the minority. “It’s very important that we not have a situation where a minority of the Senate can essentially impair the functioning of the other two branches of government,” Merkley said. “That’s not advise and consent. It’s obstruct and destroy. Those who care about good government — about making government work better — should want to make these sorts of changes.”

Merkley, a first-term senator elected in 2008, was recently the subject of a New Republic profile that noted his leadership in the campaign against filibusters as well as other issues, including financial reform, climate issues, and gay rights.

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