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Union-affiliated group backs senator's re-election.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has been endorsed by another national group, the Alliance for Retired Americans, which praises the Oregon Democrat’s record on behalf of older Americans.

The group’s executive director, Richard Fiesta, was as critical of Merkley’s Republican opponent as he was in support of Merkley’s bid for a second term.

Merkley voted against a 2011 budget, which passed the Republican-controlled House but died in the Democratic-led Senate, that would have balanced federal spending with revenues over a decade. It also would have converted Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older, into a voucher program to enable seniors to obtain their own insurance coverage.

Merkley says the intent of the GOP budget’s architect, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, was to hold Medicare spending constant so that such a voucher would buy less over time.

Meanwhile, Merkley’s campaign has criticized Republican Monica Wehby for her endorsement of an even more austere budget, which would bring spending down to 18 percent of the gross domestic product, than the one voted down by the Senate in 2011. Merkley says such a plan would force deep cuts in almost all federal spending, whether Social Security is exempt or not.

“In the Oregon Senate race, there’s only one candidate seniors can trust to protect their retirement benefits,” Fiesta says. “That is Jeff Merkley, and we’re going to work to make sure he remains our senator.”

Wehby, a physician from Portland making her first bid for public office, argues that continued spending will compound the national debt. She advocates and Merkley has voted against a constitutional requirement for a balanced federal budget; both House and Senate have failed to pass proposed constitutional amendments in 2011.

The alliance, which has 4.3 million members nationally, was formed in 2001. It has affiliations with several unions, including the AFL-CIO labor federation.

Merkley toured several Oregon cities earlier this month with Max Richtman, president and chief executive of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which also endorsed Merkley for re-election.

Merkley has proposed legislation to give Social Security recipients an increase beyond their annual cost-of-living adjustments, and to change the Older Americans Act to extend some of Oregon’s innovations in home- and community-based care to the rest of the nation.

[email protected]ribune.com

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