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Story by James Daniels - The Oregon Herald
Published on Friday December 17, 2010 - 1:24 PM
 
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PORTLAND, Oregon – Senator Ron Wyden has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The 61-year-old democrate said the cancer is in its early stage, diagnosed after an annual physical examination a couple weeks ago. Surgery is scheduled for Monday at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Democrats will likely feel Wyden's absence next week as they try to get enough votes to pass the START Treaty, which requires the support of two-thirds of the Senate for ratification.

"It appears that I will be missing votes tomorrow and possibly next week," Wyden said in a statement.

"I scheduled the surgery for the Monday before Christmas anticipating that the Senate would have recessed by that time and that there would be no disruption to my work in Oregon or Washington," said Wyden in his original statement.

Reid's office released a statement Thursday evening saying that "we look forward to welcoming him back here in the Senate soon so he can continue fighting for the people of Oregon."

Wyden said he expects to return full time to the Senate in January.

"Thanks to routine screening, this was diagnosed very early and I expect a full and speedy recovery," said Wyden.

The three-term Democrat said his diagnosis was the result of his annual physical in late November.

Since his days as co-director of the Oregon Gray Panthers, Senator Wyden has been one of the nation's leading voices on health care. He authored the first federal law to protect seniors from unscrupulous Medicare insurance scams, and during a 1994 congressional hearing, Wyden's tough questioning exposed the tobacco industry's willingness to lie about the addictiveness of their products.

In late 2006, Senator Wyden proposed the first major bipartisan health care reform legislation in more than a decade, the Healthy Americans Act (HAA), which guaranteed quality, affordable, portable health coverage for every single American. Insurance companies would no longer have been able to deny or cancel coverage due to illness or injury, and according to an independent, non-partisan analysis, the HAA would have cut health costs by more than $1.48 trillion over the next decade. Senator Wyden reintroduced the Healthy Americans Act in February of 2009. Although the bill did not become law, important elements of it were included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including Section 1332, Senator Wyden's "Waiver for State Innovation" Amendment.

Recognizing the economic, environmental and security repercussions of America's reliance on foreign oil, Senator Wyden has been an adamant supporter of legislation that would reduce and eliminate the country's dependence on fossil fuels. Senator Wyden supports the development of bio-fuels made from woody biomass and has introduced legislation to allow for this resource to be harvested from federal lands. He has supported increases in the CAFE standards that require better fuel economy from the nation's fleet of automobiles. Wyden has also supported measures to enourage Americans to purchase more fuel efficient cars and trucks, along with encouraging businesses and consumers to buy and install recharging and refueling equipment for plug-in electric vehicles and cars and trucks that use alternative fuel sources.

Senator Wyden has introduced a package of energy related bills that take a market-based approach to green energy by focusing on ways to make alternative energy more competitive with fossil fuels. Senator Wyden's proposals combine lchanges in federal motor fuel standards with alternative fuel infrastructure planning and federal tax incentives for renewable energy technology to lay the groundwork for a comprehensive system of clean, efficient energy use. These proposals do not promote one specific technology solution over another, but allow a variety of different alternative energy technologies to compete on a level playing field in the energy marketplace.

On behalf of Oregonians, Senator Wyden has often taken on tough fights alone. For example, Senator Wyden kept the leadership of the U.S. Senate from overturning Oregon's twice-passed ballot measure legalizing physician-assisted suicide and led the fight against government intrusion in the Terri Schiavo case.

In 2000, he authored what became known as the county payments law, which has provided a stable source of revenue for rural schools and counties that were historically dependent on funds from the harvest of timber on federal lands. The law brought more than $1.6 billion to Oregon counties, and he successfully led the fight for a multi-year extension of the program in 2008.

Senator Wyden shares Oregonians' love of our natural treasures and chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests. In 2000, he successfully negotiated the addition of 172,000 acres of wilderness area to what is now known as the Steens Mountain Cooperative Mountain and Protection Area. In January 2009, he was successful in including seven pieces of legislation to the Omnibus Public Land Management Act that permanently protected many of Oregon's natural resources including almost 127,000 acres of additional wilderness on Mount Hood and in the Columbia River Gorge.

And when Senator Wyden learned in late 2006 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had proposed a rule that would allow Oregon and the Northwest to continue to have exceedingly high levels of benzene -- a known carcinogen in our gas -- he blocked the confirmation of a high level EPA nominee until the agency agreed to cap benzene levels at an acceptable level in Oregon and the rest of the nation.