Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan are key players in budget deal
Murray is a liberal who has some conservative thoughts on budget issues
She says deal is a compromise, long-term fiscal challenges remain
“We have broken through the partisanship and the gridlock,” Sen. Patty Murray, one of two chief budget negotiators, said of Tuesday’s deal to avoid another government shutdown.
Murray, a Democrat from Washington state serving her fourth term, is considered a steady hand in the Senate who shuns grandstanding and garners respect from both sides of the aisle.
She is a liberal, but can be pragmatic and has some conservative thoughts on budget issues.
As Senate Budget Committee chairman, she is concerned about the deficit, and the deal she struck with her more flashy House Republican counterpart, Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, on Tuesday makes up some ground for the failure of bipartisan talks she helped lead two years ago to reach a grander fiscal bargain.
She said the new agreement was one she would not have put forth alone. It was a compromise, she said at a news conference.
“We need to acknowledge that our nation has serious long-term fiscal challenges” that the proposal “does not address,” Murray said.
Murray and Ryan have spent the last two months working on an agreement that would set government spending levels and replace the next round of deep automatic cuts to avoid another government shutdown, known as the sequester.
Murray assumed the Democratic chairmanship of the budget committee this year, replacing retiring Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota.
She won re-election in 2010 by a slim margin, defeating Republican Dino Rossi, 52% to 48%.
First elected in 1992 after serving four years in the Washington State Senate, Murray has become a powerful player in the upper chamber as chairwoman of the budget committee – leading her party’s voice in fiscal talks – as well as helping Democrats maintain the Senate majority in her role as chairwoman of the campaign committee.
Murray’s father, who was awarded a Purple Heart in World War II, suffered from multiple sclerosis and was disabled. Her family was on food stamps for a time. She points out on her website how the federal government helped her and her brothers and sisters; her mother went back to school under a government program to find a better paying job. She and her siblings attended college on federal grants and student loans.
Like her negotiating partner, Murray loves the outdoors and fishing, something she alluded to as they announced the deal and their ability to find a compromise.
“We do have some major differences,” she said. “We cheer for a different football team, clearly. We catch different fish. We have some differences on policy, but we agree our country needs some certainty.”