Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, recently spoke out against the “Greater Idaho” movement, which aims to incorporate several conservative counties in eastern Oregon into the state of Idaho. While addressing constituents at a town hall, Merkley acknowledged the issues raised by the movement but expressed skepticism about its chances of success. He emphasized his love for every part of Oregon and his opposition to carving up the state.
Critics argue that any border relocation would require approval from both state legislatures and the U.S. Congress, making it unlikely to happen. However, there is a resolution in the Idaho Legislature that calls for formal talks between the two states’ legislatures regarding the boundary line. The resolution has passed the Idaho House of Representatives, but its fate in the Idaho Senate remains uncertain. It is worth noting that proponents of the movement highlight the support it has garnered from 11 counties in eastern Oregon.
Supporters of “Greater Idaho” assert that the movement aims to uphold traditional values, preserve a certain way of life, and ensure proper representation for those living in more conservative parts of Oregon. They argue that the state’s lawmakers often prioritize a far-left agenda that does not align with the values and needs of eastern Oregon residents. Some even suggest that Idaho would benefit from gaining citizens who share conservative values, an additional congressional seat, and increased economic opportunities.
However, critics of the movement argue that Idaho lawmakers should focus on their own state’s residents and that a Greater Idaho is not a feasible solution. They caution against setting a precedent of dividing communities based on political disagreements. Idaho Senate Minority Leader Melissa Wintrow, a Democrat, believes that a healthy America relies on finding solutions together rather than separating into like-minded enclaves.
Merkley acknowledged the divide between western and eastern Oregon, recognizing the need to address it. He pointed out that different communities exist across the state and elected leaders should strive to understand them better. The senator also expressed concern about how social media and cable news amplify divisions and contribute to the political polarization between the two regions.
While proponents of the movement argue that they have gained momentum and cite potential economic benefits for Idaho, critics raise concerns about the potential added expenses to Idaho taxpayers due to high Medicaid enrollment in Oregon’s sparsely populated areas. Additionally, some question the viability of changing state borders based on ideological differences.
Merkley’s comments coincide with Republican senators in Oregon staging a walkout to protest what they perceive as a far-left legislative agenda. Merkley suggested amending the Oregon Constitution to prevent future walkouts by lowering the quorum requirement after a certain number of session cancellations due to unexcused absences. This proposal aims to address the issue of legislative gridlock caused by walkouts.