Sen. Jeff Merkley in 2014

Sen. Jeff Merkley in 2014

Alan Sylvestre/OPB

Oregon’s Jeff Merkley  became the first senator to endorse Bernie Sanders for president. 

Merkley praised Sanders for “boldly and fiercely” addressing the country’s biggest challenges.

The Portland Democrat lauded his colleague’s opposition to trade deals, attacks on the country’s biggest banks and his willingness to tackle climate change. Merkley announced his endorsement in a column in The New York Times, saying “we need big ideas.”

The Oregon Democrat and Sanders introduced legislation last year that would prohibit new oil and gas leases on federal lands and offshore waters.  The two said the U.S. needed to aggressively move away from fossil fuels to combat climate change.

Editor’s note: Merkley spoke with OPB’s Geoff Norcross on Morning Edition Wednesday. Listen to the full conversation through the audio player at the top of this story.