Ron Wyden

Ron Wyden

Assumed office 
February 6, 1996
Serving with Jeff Merkley
Preceded by Bob Packwood

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oregon's 3rd district
In office
January 3, 1981 – February 5, 1996
Preceded by Robert B. Duncan
Succeeded by Earl Blumenauer

Born May 3, 1949 (1949-05-03) (age 61)
Wichita, Kansas
Birth name Ronald Lee Wyden
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) (1) Laurie Oseran (divorced)
(2) Nancy Wyden
Children Adam Wyden
Lilly Wyden
Ava Rose Wyden
William Peter Wyden
Residence Portland, Oregon
Alma mater Stanford University (B.A.)
University of Oregon School of Law (J.D.)
Occupation Legal services executive
Religion Judaism

Ronald Lee "Ron" Wyden (born May 3, 1949) is an American politician from Oregon and a member of the Democratic Party. He won a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 1980, and served there until 1996, when he became a U.S. Senator.


Early life and career

Wyden was born Ronald Lee Wyden in Wichita, Kansas, the son of Edith (née Rosenow) and Peter H. Wyden, both of whom were Jewish and had fled Nazi Germany a few years earlier.[1] Wyden grew up in Palo Alto, California, where he was a basketball star for Palo Alto High School.[2] He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara on a basketball scholarship,[3] and later transferred to Stanford University, where he received his B.A. in 1971. He received a J.D. degree from the University of Oregon School of Law in 1974.[4]

While teaching gerontology at several Oregon universities, Wyden founded the Oregon chapter of the Gray Panthers; he led that organization from 1974 to 1980. Wyden is also the former director of the Oregon Legal Services Center for Elderly, a nonprofit law service.

Congressional career

In the 1980 Democratic primary, Wyden, who was just 31 years old at the time, upset incumbent Representative Bob Duncan in Oregon's 3rd congressional district.[5] Later that fall, Wyden easily defeated his Republican opponent, Darrell Conger. Wyden was re-elected to the House in each of the following seven elections.

In January 1996, Wyden narrowly defeated State Senate President Gordon Smith in a special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Bob Packwood; he served briefly as Oregon's junior U.S. Senator alongside Mark Hatfield; Smith was elected later that year when Hatfield retired. Wyden holds the Senate seat once held by the late Wayne Morse, a man for whom Wyden worked in the summer of 1968 when he served as Morse's driver,[6] and whom Wyden calls his mentor.[7] Morse was the last Democrat to represent Oregon in the Senate.

Wyden was elected to a full term in 1998, and in 2004, was re-elected to another full term, receiving 64% of the vote compared to 31% for his main opponent, Republican Al King. As of April 2010, Wyden has an approval rating of 51%, with 35% disapproving.[8]

In the Senate, Wyden serves on the following Committees: Finance; Intelligence; Energy and Natural Resources; Budget and the Special Committee on Aging. He also chairs the Energy Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests.

Issues and voting record

Wyden characterizes himself as an "independent voice for Oregonians and the nation" and emphasizes his positions on health care reform, national security, consumer protection, and political transparency.[7] On the Issues characterizes him as a "Hard-Core Liberal."[9]

Defense and foreign policy

Wyden voted against authorization of the military force in Iraq, but voted for use of military force in Kosovo. He has also voted in favor of expanding NATO into Eastern European former Soviet Bloc countries.[10] Wyden wrote the Stop Arming Iran Act to ban the Defense Department from selling surplus F-14 parts and prohibit buyers who have already acquired surplus Tomcat part from exporting them. Iran is the only nation other than the U.S. to fly the F-14.[11]

Health care

Wyden has stated personal opposition to physician assisted suicide,[12] but has also stated a commitment to defending the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which was twice passed by voter referendum. Wyden successfully blocked Senate attempts to pass legislation interfering with the Act by threatening a filibuster.[13] Wyden has also consistently voted against limitations on the use of the death penalty.[10]

In 2009 Wyden sponsored the Healthy Americans Act, an act that would institute a national system of universal health care through market based private insurance. Despite a voting record in favor of public health care, Wyden was attacked by union interests for advocating replacement of the employer tax exclusion with a tax deduction that would apply to all Americans (not just those who enjoy the good employer benefits provided to many union members).[14][15] Wyden has shown support for increasing Medicare funding, enrolling more of the uninsured in federal programs (although his Healthy Americans Act would eliminate many of these programs including Medicaid and SCHIP and replace them with private insurance), importing lower priced perscriptions from Canada, and negotiating bulk drug purchases for Medicare in order to lower costs.[16]

In 2003 Wyden joined with Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Trent Lott (R-MS) to help pass the Bush Administration's Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act.[17] The Bush Administration is alleged to have forced officials to hide its true cost, which later was triple its original claim.[18] The bill has been criticized as favoring pharmaceutical companies, as it prohibits the federal government form negotiating prescription drug rates.[19]

Not long after Tom Daschle's withdrawal as President Barack Obama's nominee as United States Secretary of Health and Human Services due to a scandal over his failure to pay taxes, The Oregonian reported that Senator Wyden was being touted by many healthcare experts as a likely candidate to succeed Daschle as secretary-designate.[20] Although Wyden was ultimately passed over in favor of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, he took advantage of the interim to reintroduce his Healthy Americans Act, with additional co-sponsorship from Republican senators led by Tennessee's Lamar Alexander and Utah's Bob Bennett as well as from fellow Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.[21][22]

In the early 1990s Ron Wyden, then a member of The House of Representatives, was a prominent critic of the tobacco industry, co-authoring an early proposal to put cigarettes under FDA jurisdiction. In 1995, he was part of the Rose-Wyden "compromise" and announced he was "strongly opposed" to FDA jurisdiction over tobacco.

Trade and business

Wyden mostly supports free trade. While still in the House, he voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has subsequently supported many trade deals in the Senate being one of the very few Democrats to vote in favor of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). He has however voted against free trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, and Oman. In 1996, he voted against the majority of his party to phase out many farm subsidy programs and also to implement welfare reform policies.

The senator has recently voted against restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba and also to end anti-Castro broadcasting to the country. However, in 1998, he supported a proposal that would uphold the status quo of American-Cuban relations.[16]

Social issues

Wyden has opposed most restrictions on abortion. He has voted against proposals to ban partial birth abortions, outlaw abortions on military bases, parental notification for minors who seek an abortion, and laws that prohibit minors from crossing state lines to obtain abortions. He has been rated 100% by the pro-choice NARAL.[23] Wyden has been an advocate of gun control. He voted against limiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers and has voted in favor of increasing background checks.

Wyden has consistently opposed a constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration. He has also publicly announced support for same-sex marriage and was one of 14 Senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.[24] He also voted against the 2006 proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage, and he has cast votes in favor of federal legislation prohibit job discrimination and hate crimes against homosexuals.

In June 2007, Wyden was among the minority of Democrats to vote in favor of declaring English the official language of the United States.[25]

Civil liberty and law

Ron Wyden

On November 10, 2005, Wyden was one of five Senate Democrats who joined 44 Republicans in voting "yes" on Amendment no. 2516, brought to the floor by Republican senator Lindsey Graham, which ruled that enemy combatants did not have the right to Habeas Corpus.

Wyden spoke in favor of John Roberts during his confirmation hearing as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and voted with the Republican majority to confirm him. Wyden has been a passive opponent of the Patriot Act. On March 2, 2006, he was one of 10 senators to vote against renewing the bill.[26] citing concerns about privacy protections.[27]

Wyden voted against the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, a Republican effort to restrict the number of class actions suits against businesses and the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, a bipartisan change in bankruptcy law designed to make it more difficult to file for bankruptcy and to make those in bankruptcy pay more of their debts. However, he voted for the previous Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2001 (S-420, substituted by amendment into H.R. 433)[28] which contained many of the same provisions.

Tax policy

Wyden is critical of the estate tax, which he feels is inefficient, and has voted repeatedly to abolish it. He co-authored the Internet Tax Nondiscrimination Act, which bans internet taxes in the United States. He has also voted with Republicans to lower the capital gains tax, to encourage the study of the flat tax, and to require a 3/5 majority to raise taxes. However, Wyden voted against the Bush tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003. He has also voted against the balanced-budget amendment.


During the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, Wyden voted against the financial bailouts backed by the Bush administration.[29] He did not vote on the automobile industry bailout,[30] though he said he would have voted for cloture if he had been present. Wyden added, "While I continue to have concerns about ensuring that taxpayers are protected if this loan is to occur, I believe that if the President can unwisely provide $750 billion of taxpayer money for the investment banks who took horribly unacceptable risks and helped trigger an economic collapse, we certainly have a duty to attempt to preserve a cornerstone domestic industry and the jobs of hundreds of thousands of working people whose personal actions are in no way responsible for the current economic crisis."[31]

Wyden was among several moderate Democratic senators who in early January 2009 criticized President-elect Barack Obama's stimulus plan, calling for a greater emphasis on "tangible infrastructure investments" and warning that an effort had to be made to differentiate it from the Bush bailouts Wyden had opposed.[32] However, Wyden ultimately voted for the bill and voted mostly with his party on various amendments to the bill.[33]


Wyden is a supporter of environmental protection measures, and was among the minority of senators to vote against confirming the appointment of Gale Norton as Secretary of the Interior. In May 2007, Wyden also opposed the appointment of Lyle Laverty as assistant interior secretary for fish, wildlife and parks (this time on ethical grounds).[34]

Committee assignments

Wyden serves on the following committees and subcommittees:

Source: 2009 Congressional Record, Vol. 155, Page S729 S730, and S7168

Electoral history

Oregon's 3rd congressional district: Results 1980–1994[35]
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1980 Ron Wyden
1982 Ron Wyden
1984 Ron Wyden
1986 Ron Wyden
1988 Ron Wyden
1990 Ron Wyden
1992 Ron Wyden 208,028 77% Al Ritter 50,235 19% Blair Bobier Pacific Green 11,413 4% *
1994 Ron Wyden 161,624 73% Everett Hall 43,211 19% Mark Brunelle Independent 13,550 6% Gene Nanni Libertarian 4,164 2% *
*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1992, minor candidates received 203 votes. In 1994, minor candidates received 273 votes.
Oregon Senator (Class III) results: 1992–2004[35][36]
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1992 Les AuCoin 639,851 46% Bob Packwood ** 717,455 52% Miscellaneous 12,934 1% Write-ins 5,793 <1%
1996 Ron Wyden 571,739 48% Gordon Smith 553,519 47% Karen E. Shilling American Independent 25,597 2% Gene Nanni Libertarian 15,698 1% Vickie Valdez Socialist 7,872 1% Lou Gold Pacific Green 7,225 1%
1998 Ron Wyden 682,425 61% John Lim 377,739 34% Karyn Moskowitz Pacific Green 22,024 2% Jim Brewster Libertarian 18,221 2% Michael A. Campbell Natural Law 8,372 1% Dean M. Braa Socialist 7,553 1%
2004 Ron Wyden 1,128,728 63% Al King 565,254 32% Teresa Keane Pacific Green 43,053 2% Dan Fitzgerald Libertarian 29,582 2% David Brownlow Constitution 12,397 1% Write-ins 1,536 1%
*Write-in and minor candidate notes: In 1998, minor candidates received 1,413 votes. **Packwood resigned in 1995, and the remainder of his term was filled by Wyden. The 1996 election was the January 1996 special election, not the general election in November 1996 (won by Wyden's opponent in the special, Gordon Smith).

Personal life

Ron Wyden and wife Nancy in New York City.

Wyden's home is in Portland, and he has an apartment in Washington, DC. He has two grown children, Adam and Lilly, by his first wife, Laurie. Wyden married his current wife, Nancy Wyden (née Bass), co-owner of New York's Strand Bookstore, on September 24, 2005, in a ceremony performed by Rabbi Ariel Stone of Portland. On October 26, 2007, Nancy gave birth to twins, Ava Rose Wyden and William Peter Wyden.[37]


Specific references:

  1. Entry on, created by Robert Battle (
  2. Simon, Mark (December 11, 1999). "Palo Alto to Honor Local Boy". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 22, 2009. 
  3. Barmeier, Julia (2003-03-03). "Senator speaks out on Iraq, economy". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  4. Ron Wyden (Dem) from The Washington Times
  5. "Five-Term Congressman is Defeated in Oregon". New York Times. May 21, 1980. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  6. One Senator's Solution for Health Care Expansion from an April 2007 story on Morning Edition
  7. 7.0 7.1 Meet Ron Wyden from his official Senate website
  9. Ron Wyden from On the Issues
  10. 10.0 10.1 Ron Wyden on Crime from On the Issues
  11. "Sen. Ron Wyden: Stop Pentagon Sales of Surplus F-14 Parts." Associated Press, January 30, 2007.
  13. "Assisted suicide debate not over?". CBS News. January 18, 2006. 
  14. Will Unions Kill Health Care Reform? Washington Post blogs, May 28, 2009.
  15. Soak the rich, The Economist, July 16, 2009
  16. 16.0 16.1 Ron Wyden from On the Issues
  17. "On the Motion (Motion To Waive CBA RE: H. R. 1 - Conference Report )". United States Senate Legislation and Records. 2003-11-24. Retrieved 2007-09-21. 
  18. Connolly, Ceci and Allen, Mike (2005-02-09). "Medicare Drug Benefit May Cost $1.2 Trillion". Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved 2007-09-22. 
  19. Krugman, Paul (2005-05-06). "A Serious Drug Problem". NY Times. Retrieved 2009-08-11. 
  20. Wyden gains traction as possible health secretary
  21. Wyden, with new allies, reintroduces ambitious health care bill
  22. Senators Identify Key Components of a Successful Health Care Reform Plan
  23. Ron Wyden on Abortion from On the Issues
  24. "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 104th Congress - 2nd Session on Passage of the Bill (h.r.3396 )". United States Senate. Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  26. Stout, David (March 2, 2006). "Senate Approves Renewal of Antiterrorism Bill". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  28. "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2001"
  29. Wyden Issues Statement on Administration Proposal to Address Financial Crisis
  30. A look at the Senate auto bailout vote
  31. Congressional Record: Wyden Statement on Auto Bailout Vote
  32. Doubts arise over Obama stimulus plan
  33. [1]
  34. Sleeth, Peter (May 1, 2007). "Wyden delaying key appointment to Interior agency". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2007-05-01. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  36. "Oregon Special Election Official Results". Oregon Secretary of State. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  37. Mapes, Jeff (October 30, 2007). "Wyden twins head home with parents". Oregonian blog. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 

General references:

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Robert B. Duncan
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oregon's 3rd congressional district

January 3, 1981 – February 5, 1996
Succeeded by
Earl Blumenauer
United States Senate
Preceded by
Bob Packwood
United States Senator (Class 3) from Oregon
February 6, 1996 – present
Served alongside: Mark Hatfield, Gordon Smith, Jeff Merkley
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Jon Kyl
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Sam Brownback
102nd Senate: M. Hatfield | B. Packwood House: L. AuCoin | R. Wyden | R. Smith | P. DeFazio | M. Kopetski
103rd Senate: M. Hatfield | B. Packwood House: R. Wyden | R. Smith | P. DeFazio | M. Kopetski | E. Furse
104th Senate: M. Hatfield | B. Packwood House: R. Wyden | P. DeFazio | E. Furse | J. Bunn | W. Cooley
105th Senate: R. Wyden | G. Smith House: P. DeFazio | R. Smith | E. Furse | E. Blumenauer | D. Hooley
106th Senate: R. Wyden | G. Smith House: P. DeFazio | E. Blumenauer | D. Hooley | G. Walden | D. Wu
107th Senate: R. Wyden | G. Smith House: P. DeFazio | E. Blumenauer | D. Hooley | G. Walden | D. Wu
108th Senate: R. Wyden | G. Smith House: P. DeFazio | E. Blumenauer | D. Hooley | G. Walden | D. Wu
109th Senate: R. Wyden | G. Smith House: P. DeFazio | E. Blumenauer | D. Hooley | G. Walden | D. Wu
110th Senate: R. Wyden | G. Smith House: P. DeFazio | E. Blumenauer | D. Hooley | G. Walden | D. Wu
111th Senate: R. Wyden | J. Merkley House: P. DeFazio | E. Blumenauer | G. Walden | D. Wu | K. Schrader