Sen. Patty Murray: Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves

I really, really hope the Washington Post is right about this:

With a low-key style that contrasts with some of the Senate’s camera hogs, Murray may be the most powerful senator a whole lot of people have never heard of outside of the two Washingtons where she lives and works.

As chair of her party’s Senate campaign arm, the architect of surprising Democratic gains and the incoming chair of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, Murray now occupies a place of special influence in the Senate.

And so what Murray has to say about the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect in January, may be of particular importance. In a town consumed by talk of the apocalyptic consequences of failing to resolve the budgeting crisis, Murray has been arguing that missing the deadline for a deal — going over the cliff — could actually make getting a deal easier….

Murray, 62, who holds the Senate’s No. 4 position, has repeatedly been handed jobs no one else wanted by Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.)…

Starting with a speech at the Brookings Institution in July and continuing in a series of interviews last week, Murray, in her typically non-bombastic fashion, has argued that Democrats shouldn’t take a bad deal in December when their political leverage will only increase in the new year.

That’s because next month, tax cuts first enacted under President George W. Bush will expire for everybody. Murray reasons that might make it easier to get Republicans to agree to reinstate the cuts only for the middle class and let the nation’s wealthiest 2 percent pay more toward the reducing the debt, as Democrats desire…

Her perspective is born in part from the last tough task Reid handed her, chairing last year’s bipartisan “supercommittee,” a 12-member panel that tried, but ultimately failed, to come up with a major deficit reduction package acceptable to both parties.

Murray spent long hours behind closed doors with House and Senate Republicans and emerged convinced the GOP was offering only damaging proposals to cut health, education and environmental programs without agreeing to ask the wealthy to pay more in taxes….

The article also credits Murray with “nix[ing] the idea of exposing veterans benefits to automatic domestic and military spending cuts” and “counsel[ing] Democrats in April 2011 to reject a last-minute demand by House Republicans to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood in a spending bill designed to avoid a government shutdown.” Even if some part of this is political Kabuki (Reid to the Repubs: Don’t make me call Murray in, you guys know you don’t want to mess with that lady!) it’s encouraging to believe that the Democrats are negotiating like they control the Oval Office and the Senate, and not from a pre-emptive crouch.

44 replies
  1. 1
    Alex S. says:

    Silent but effective liberal women… Murray, Cantwell, Klobuchar… They will change politics without anyone noticing. It’s also good to have lightning rods like Pelosi, Boxer or Warren, but they can be a target as well as a weapon.

  2. 2
    Jennifer says:

    It’s not as if the idea that the Dems will have more leverage after the cuts expire is anything new. I thought the same thing back at the end of 2010 or 11 or whenever it was that they extended the cuts for everyone. Republicans really don’t want to run in 2014 under a barrage of ads about how they wouldn’t agree to cut taxes for 98% of the country. They wouldn’t have wanted to then, either, though I know the president was able to negotiate an extension for unemployment benefits out the deal.

  3. 3
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Go, Patty! Go, Patty!

  4. 4
    PeakVT says:

    Good for Murray for rejecting at least some of the Beltway consensus.

  5. 5
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The mom in tennis shoes (who removed the vile Slade “Skeletor” Gorton from the Senate, some 20 years ago) is doing some good things.

  6. 6
    hep kitty says:

    @Alex S.: I’m such a sexist bitch because I never expected the women to save me, but boy do I believe it now and I’m so grateful these fine women are in the Senate! They are my new heroes.

  7. 7
    hitchhiker says:

    Love her. She was a nobody state senator until the year women got pissed off over Clarence Thomas . . . and then suddenly she was running for US Senate, and she won.

    The righties have been calling her stupid ever since. Ha ha ha.

  8. 8
    lamh35 says:

    Speakin of the Senate, I was just reading this article from Think Progress on Barney Frank’s appearance on CNN and I was thinking wouldn’t it be awesome if Barney Frank became the Senator from Mass. In my eyes, Barney would probably be the most formidable candidate against Scott Brown. Not knowing Mass politics, though, I never knew if Frank played well state-wide.

    Barney Frank Calls Out Republican Senator: Stop Using ‘Weasel Words’

  9. 9
    Joey Maloney says:

    She is an excellent example of someone who has really learned on the job. I was much less than impressed with her when she first got to Washington; she seemed to have little knowledge of or interest in policy. She didn’t seem to grasp the complexities of big issues, sometimes didn’t even seem to realize they were complex.

    But she’s grown. I still don’t think she’s a big policy wonk, but she has learned how to find and work the levers of power in the Senate and as a loyal Democrat, that’s just as good.

    That said, it was her decision to go straight at the Republicans with abortion and women’s health. and while it seems obvious in retrospect it was a diametric break with thirty-plus years of defensive crouch. It was a smart and gutsy choice.

  10. 10
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Hope Murray and the other liberal Democrats are able to hang tough during the fiscal cliff discussions.

  11. 11
    Balconesfault says:

    @Alex S.: Sorry – Murray will become a target too, with all kinds of vile epithets and allegations, now that her effectiveness is starting to be touted.

    Do you remember any right wing attacks on Harry Reid before he became Senate Majority Leader?

  12. 12
    NonyNony says:

    @Joey Maloney:

    But she’s grown. I still don’t think she’s a big policy wonk, but she has learned how to find and work the levers of power in the Senate and as a loyal Democrat, that’s just as good.

    Honestly? It’s better. The Democratic party is overflowing with policy wonks. Which is not a bad thing, but damn it we need some people who know how to work the system too.

    Policy wonks can help give substance to a vision, but you need the people at the levers to get shit done.

  13. 13
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @hitchhiker:

    Not just the righties. She was characterized by the Villagers as one of the dumbest senators (along with such examples of mental acuity as Alphonse D’Amato) back during the Clinton years.

    She’s obviously grown a great deal, and is now a force to be reckoned with. Much to the dismay, I’m sure, of true fucktards like Inhofe, Demented, and Coburn.

  14. 14
    Gwangung says:

    Not just the righties. She was characterized by the Villagers as one of the dumbest senators (along with such examples of mental acuity as Alphonse D’Amato) back during the Clinton years.

    Which should, once again, tell you about the acuity of the Village.

    First impressions aren’t always right. Things can change as people mature or learn. Always check your assumptions at the door.

  15. 15
    bemused says:

    @Alex S.:

    Amy Klobuchar has a great sense of humor which makes me even happier she is my senator. She has a calm, laid back, confident demeanor which reminds me of Obama’s style.

  16. 16
    Elizabelle says:

    I am glad to see this discussion. You go Patty Murray and Senate grrrls.

    Glibness and conventional wisdom, as purveyed by the Villagers, unexamimed, is going to be the death of us.

    And I really, really wish Barney Frank would run for Senate, in the unlikely event John Kerry gets picked for SoS.

    Even though he’s earned retirement and time with his new husband, duty might call, and Mr. Frank would be exceptionally qualified to help right the ship.

  17. 17
    Emily says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Actually, I think it was Maria Cantwell who defeated Slade Gorton in 2000. Patty Murray was first elected to the Senate in 1992, beating Don Bonkers (who wasn’t, at least by the standard set by today’s Republicans).

  18. 18
    Ann Rynd says:

    Barney is younger than springtime and would be a fine senator.
    OT: Modo is especially idiotic today.

  19. 19
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Emily:

    Oh, could be. My memory is hazy. I knew that someone female tossed the vile Skeletor out of the Senate. Doesn’t matter who, as long as he was tossed.

  20. 20
    Brachiator says:

    Murray has been arguing that missing the deadline for a deal — going over the cliff — could actually make getting a deal easier….

    This is either insanity or political posturing.

    Some deal making has already been done. Otherwise, as many as 30 million people would see a tax increase for 2012, and millions might not be able to file their tax returns until March. It’s just a question of what deal will be done before the Christmas break, and what will be saved for later.

    But for some reason, the myth persists that the fiscal cliff and the issue of the Bush tax cuts only applies to 2013 and beyond. It’s quite funny to see both the media and the public at large stuck into such low information stupidity.

    Maybe one thing lurking behind all this is whether more can get done with a lame duck Congress or wait for a new one. Or the GOP is trying to play another delaying game.

    BTW, California gives a useful example of how messy this stuff can be. Prop 30 raises taxes on upper income people. But this is retroactive for all of 2012. The state has had to re-issue withholding tables for 2013. But because of the complexity of getting the timing right, the state predicts that an unknown number of taxpayers, and not just the wealthy, will not have the correct amount withheld, and so may have larger than expected tax balances next year.

    Variations of this will be played out on the federal level. A lot of average people, and many of the working poor will take the hit as Washington continues to play games. And while this may likely hurt the Republicans politically more than the Democrats, it’s freaking ridiculous that people just trying to get on with their lives will be punished the most.

  21. 21
    the Conster says:

    @Ann Rynd:

    I wish she’d just get good and laid and stop embarrassing herself in public with her need for someone, anyone, to take her seriously. What a fucking shameful mess that column is.

  22. 22
    geg6 says:

    @Balconesfault:

    You are correct. She will be the new Nancy Pelosi, a demonic figure among the congenitally stupid wingers.

    And like Pelosi, she’s no policy wonk. She has taken her time and learned the ins and outs of how to get things done in her house of Congress. She’s taken the shittiest jobs that none of those male prima donnas in the Senate will take. She did an absolutely amazing job at the DSCC, better than anyone could have ever expected. And she’s an unabashed liberal. My John and I watched her on something a few weeks ago and, after watching her, he turned to me and said “I love her.” Well, I do, too.

  23. 23
    Yutsano says:

    @geg6: She’s my Senator and she’s hugely popular here. No way is a Republican going to take her down any time soon. She can have that Senate seat until she decides to retire to grandmadom.

  24. 24
    aimai says:

    @Alex S.:

    Its ridiculous to think that any woman has a choice about whether she is seen as a lightning rod or a “quiet but effective” woman–that is a decision made by the press and by the Republican party. If they see an advantage in demonizing certain women, they will do it, regardless of how that person actually acts in public or in private. Warren is no more polarizing or noisy than any other woman in politics, ditto Pelosi. In fact the entire right wing shtick since Obama and Hillary both were in contention for the Presidency is to argue that it is the person who is divisive, rather than the electorate and the right wing who are divided.

    aimai

  25. 25
    eemom says:

    @the Conster:

    I wish she’d just get good and laid and stop embarrassing herself in public with her need for someone, anyone, to take her seriously.

    Ah. I am pleased to see this concurrence with my age-old theory of what it is that ails MoDo — the razoresque truth that underlies her smoldering resentment of powerful and attractive men she can’t have and powerful and attractive women who are not her.

  26. 26
    ruemara says:

    Glad to hear this. I dosed off thanks to my wonderful pre-breakfast med cocktail and woke up just in time to watch Chuck Schumer say stupid shit.

  27. 27
    the Conster says:

    @eemom:

    She should just write the damn column already she’s always writing anyway. It would be short – “Who will fuck me and not leave me here all alone with my barely sublimated daddy issues?!”

  28. 28
    Laertes says:

    @lamh35:

    Barney [Frank] would probably be the most formidable candidate against Scott Brown

    Brown is going to have to announce a run for office before I’m going to worry about who’d run well against him.

  29. 29
    Jennifer says:

    @Brachiator: I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but you’re wrong.

    A tax cut that stays in effect through the end of 2012 is not going to raise ANYONE’s taxes for income earned in 2012, unless you’re referring to some tweaking to the AMT, which is a separate issue from the Bush tax cuts and their expiration.

    If the cuts expire, rates will be raised on income earned in 2013 and going forward. There’s no retroactivity involved. At least not according to the google, which I checked just to make sure that the assumptions that I (and apparently everyone else) have been operating under all along are correct.

    The reason the media pundits have been all over it is 1) because crisis is their brand and 2) there will be a very real economic impact if everyone’s cuts expire and none of them are reinstated – not only because your average wage earner will be taking home less, but also IIRC because for the past several years employers have been getting a break on payroll taxes. Add those together and you come up with a pretty large amount being siphoned out of the economy.

  30. 30
    Short Bus Bully says:

    I’m a huge fan and have been for a bunch of years. Got to cook for her at a winery luncheon a while ago and got to fanboi up; shake her hand and tell her that she was awesome. My crew had no idea who she was, their loss.

  31. 31
    Yutsano says:

    @Jennifer: Minor correctionm: the payroll tax holiday was only for employees. Employers are still responsible for the full rate.

  32. 32
    Kerry Reid says:

    I’m pretty sure that Luke Russert will be along to let us know that “some people” think she’s too old for the job and should move aside for someone younger. Also male.

  33. 33
    Felonius Monk says:

    @NonyNony:

    but you need the people at the levers to get shit done.

    Well, Murray has proved that she can get shit done. She was largely responsible for the Dems keeping the Senate and increasing their majority this last election.

    But Murray, in the past, has bordered on being a Blue Dog on fiscal matters, so I think it remains to be seen what she will do in the coming months. So far, her public statements have been encouraging, but I will reserve judgement.

  34. 34
    1badbaba3 says:

    @lamh35: This is good. Usually they don’t allow themselves to be in a situation where they can be questioned intelligently and directly. That way they can try to build a fire. But their matches and kindling are always wet so they can’t even make smoke. Pretty obvious to some, but it’s always nice to see the rare occasion it happens in the Lamestream media. Iz our Dems gonna have to choke a Nazi on the teevee?

  35. 35
    Brachiator says:

    @Jennifer:

    A tax cut that stays in effect through the end of 2012 is not going to raise ANYONE’s taxes for income earned in 2012, unless you’re referring to some tweaking to the AMT, which is a separate issue from the Bush tax cuts and their expiration.

    It’s not just tweaking the AMT. Congress MUST act to patch the AMT or else taxes will rise for 30 million taxpayers. They must also act to decide on some tax breaks, such as the deduction for some teacher expenses, that expired at the end of 2012 but which Democrats want to see extended. Discussions on these items impact what might be done about the Bush tax cuts. The IRS commissioner has warned that tax filing might be delayed until March for many taxpayers if these issues are not resolved. And some GOP lawmakers have warned that they are willing to drag these 2012 issues into 2013.

    If the cuts expire, rates will be raised on income earned in 2013 and going forward. There’s no retroactivity involved.

    Let me try to be more clear here. Let’s say that no deal is reached until June. Tax withholding tables will need to be adjusted, but will end up just being wrong for millions of people. The net impact is that taxpayers might end up paying more out of pocket when they file their tax returns. Small businesses won’t know whether tax breaks for them will be extended. If they guess wrong, they are screwed. And if this crap was delayed an entire year, millions of working poor will be screwed.

    Bottom line: the political reasons for delaying a decision on these tax issues ignore practical impact on real people.

    The reason the media pundits have been all over it is 1) because crisis is their brand and 2) there will be a very real economic impact if everyone’s cuts expire and none of them are reinstated – not only because your average wage earner will be taking home less, but also IIRC because for the past several years employers have been getting a break on payroll taxes. Add those together and you come up with a pretty large amount being siphoned out of the economy.

    Employers have not been getting a break on payroll taxes for the past several years. Only employees and the self employed get a break, and the cut has only been in place for two years.

    And the “Bush tax cuts” include a number of tax law provisions, some going back to Bill Clinton, which expire at the end of December. Failure to act on these will hurt a broad range of taxpayers, especially the working poor, who might see a huge pullback of the Earned Income Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

    The media and the public are getting it wrong for a lot of reasons, and not just because anyone wants to manufacture a crisis.

  36. 36
    Brachiator says:

    Correction to earlier post.

    Congress must also act to decide on some tax breaks, such as the deduction for some teacher expenses, that expired at the end of 2011 but which Democrats want to see extended.

  37. 37
    Alex S. says:

    @Balconesfault:

    Well I hope not, I don’t see any obvious vulnerabilities. Pelosi & San Francisco, yes, California, yes we know the drill….but Murray? Are the Republicans still going to argue that she’s out of her league?

  38. 38
    efgoldman says:

    @lamh35:

    I was thinking wouldn’t it be awesome if Barney Frank became the Senator from Mass.

    I love Barney (although I don’t live in MA anymore), but he’s 72, will be 74 in ’14, which means he’d be looking at a being 80 at the end of his first term. I think if he’d wanted to be a senator, he’d have gotten in ahead of Warren. No, I think he’s really retiring.

    ETA: But think of what fun it would be to see Barney and Al Franken debating any number of GOBP windbags.

  39. 39
    merl says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: I voted for her then and every election since

  40. 40
    Jennifer says:

    @Brachiator: Well, my errors aside, the AMT isn’t part of the expiring tax cuts – as I noted, it’s a separate issue; even if the tax cuts were extended for everyone, there would have to be a separate action on the AMT.

    As far as it being a catastrophe if the rates expire Dec 31, I would expect any ongoing negotiations to be wrapped up by the end of February at the latest. You’re projecting something that drags on until June, which I think drastically underestimates the pressure that will be on the Republicans to just go ahead and pass tax cuts for the 98%, and which, the longer it goes on, creates more problems for them in 2014, when every House member stands for re-election. And let’s face it, the House is where the problem is. None of those guys wants to run, as I said earlier, under a barrage of ads about how they voted x number of times to not reduce taxes on working families, and the longer they hold out, the more likely and the more withering that barrage will be.

    The worst case scenario for holding out past December is that the Republicans don’t budge and they send the economy back into recession as a result. In which case, they face the music in the mid-term elections and we end up with a Democratic House. I don’t like the first part of that outcome, but overall I like it better than the one in which Democrats cave (again) to the minority party and either lose seats in 2014 or don’t gain enough for a majority – after allowing the Republicans once again to control the shots, even while being in the minority (which they would be if not for gerrymandering of congressional districts). These guys don’t represent the majority; the majority voted for raising taxes on billionaires. Giving in to them (again) should be removed from the list of acceptable options, no matter what the other outcomes may be.

  41. 41
    SandyC says:

    Patty didn’t defeat Slimy Slade–That was Maria Cantwell. The seat was open in 1992 when she ran against Rod Chandler. Maria defeated Slimy in 2001.

  42. 42
    slag says:

    Here’s hoping Murray’s liberal constituency will keep the pressure on her to wield her power for good instead of evil. She’s a strong senator, but can be a bit too flexible at times.

    Mildly OT: One of my (many) unwarranted claims to self-importance comes from a Senator Murray-President Obama rally. It was held in a college stadium, and the crowd was a little rambunctious. At the time, Murray was up for re-election so Pres. O was stumping for her. After he got done with his speech and introduction for her, I, in my outside voice, started chanting Pat-ty! Pat-ty! Pat-ty!. Next thing I knew, the whole stadium was chanting Pat-ty! Pat-ty! Pat-ty!, and then the President got into it punctuating each Pat-ty! Pat-ty! with his fists. And that’s when I realized that all of our elected officials should have at least two syllables in their first names.

  43. 43
    Brachiator says:

    @Jennifer:

    Well, my errors aside, the AMT isn’t part of the expiring tax cuts – as I noted, it’s a separate issue; even if the tax cuts were extended for everyone, there would have to be a separate action on the AMT.

    As I noted earlier, the AMT patch and other 2011 expiring provisions really need to be addressed before Congress goes on Christmas recess (or as soon as they get back), or else the 2012 tax filing season gets impacted big time. Or people pay higher taxes for 2012. As of right now, the 2012 Form 1040 exists only as a draft version. There are already compromises for AMT relief and other expiring 2011 provisions on the table; Congressional leaders are dragging their feet. And because these provisions affect total revenues and credits, they are being included in the discussions over the so-called Bush tax cuts. It would be nice to say that these items can be considered separately, but it doesn’t quite work that way. GOP leaders are delaying decisions on the AMT patch in order to get what they want on other revenue items, including the Bush tax cuts. This is the same game that they have played earlier. This is in part how these stupid Bush tax cuts got extended before.

    As far as it being a catastrophe if the rates expire Dec 31, I would expect any ongoing negotiations to be wrapped up by the end of February at the latest. You’re projecting something that drags on until June…

    No, the June date was just an example, to show how the delays impact real people. However, I work in the tax industry, and right now, no one has any idea of when a deal might be done or what it might look like. And this includes the professional and trade publications and web sites which sometimes gets hints of how tax committees and legislators are thinking.

    Yes, it is politically dangerous if this gets dragged out too long, and there are current news stories out today that the GOP is signaling that they are willing to compromise on revenues. But this may still be BS; they have yet to yield on increasing tax rates. They keep talking trash about getting rid of deductions and “loopholes.”

    It might not hurt if people send notes and letters to their legislators instructing them to kill the Bush tax cuts and to keep middle class tax relief.

  44. 44
    Comrade Nimrod Humperdink says:

    THAT’S MAH SENATAW! I’ve been a Murray fan forever, she ran her first campaign ON that ‘mom in tennis shoes’ remark, and won. She may not be a rock star, but that woman is key to getting ACA working properly, a functional budget, any number of things on the Senate side, and she’s somebody I respect and trust compared to anybody else in the Congress this side of Bernie Sanders. She looks out for the right people. I wish Cantwell was as good as she is, but compared to what most folks have to put up with from their Senators, folks in the Evergreen state have it good.

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