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MURRAY: “The situation will not be any different three months from now—we will just be three months closer to a crisis, and three months behind on the bipartisan work we should be doing now.”

 

(Washington, D.C.)—Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, called on Republicans in a speech at the Annual BakerHostetler Legislative Seminar to stop pushing their partisan spending bills that have no chance of becoming law, and instead begin negotiations on a bipartisan budget agreement that would help middle class families and the economy. Senator Murray highlighted the 2013 budget deal she reached with Congressman Paul Ryan, and urged the GOP to come to the table to begin negotiations as quickly as possible and not lurch closer to another unnecessary budget crisis.

 

She also outlined four principles that she believes should guide the work building on the Murray-Ryan deal with another bipartisan budget deal, including:

 

1. “We don’t need to aim for a big deal… if we can’t find a path to another small deal, we are not going to discover the way to a big one.”

2.“The automatic cuts need to be rolled back evenly across defense and non-defense investments.”

3. “The replacement should consist of a responsible mix of spending cuts and new revenue.”

4. “We should keep the focus on growing the economy, helping the middle class, and making sure our economic recovery continues.”

 

At the end of 2013, Senator Murray worked with Republicans to pass the two-year Bipartisan Budget Act, which prevented another government shutdown and restored investments in education, research, defense jobs and other Washington state priorities. Her budget deal expires at the end of this fiscal year.

 

Read excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks below:

 

“Chairman Ryan and I came in with very different budgets, very different ideologies, and very different values and priorities. But we also came ready to listen to each other, put partisanship aside, and work toward a solution. And I am very proud that we came out of that room with a bipartisan agreement.”

 

“Their [the GOP’s] budget—a budget that aims nearly two-thirds of its spending cuts at programs that combat poverty—that cuts roughly a trillion dollars from Medicare and Medicaid—that calls for a total of $5 trillion in spending cuts—couldn’t find even a single penny to go toward rolling back automatic cuts both sides agree need to be fixed.  Just to put that in perspective, the budget agreement I reached with Chairman Ryan found $85 billion in savings to pay for sequester relief over two years.”

 

“Right now, Republicans are moving spending bills through the Committee that have absolutely no chance of becoming law.  President Obama has said unequivocally that he would veto any spending bills at sequester levels. And Senate Democrats strongly support that—because we believe these cuts are bad for families, bad for the economy—and unsustainable.”

 

“Democrats should not be complicit in allowing this charade to continue on the Senate floor.  And we believe that standing up and stating this loud and clear now, while we still have months to go before a government shutdown, is the best thing we can do to encourage Republicans to join us at the table now—and avoid cruising toward a crisis.”

 

“Because honestly, this doesn’t have to be this difficult.  Working across the aisle to set topline budget numbers, and then working together to fill that budget out with spending bills is pretty much the least we should be able to do here in Congress. And if we can get that done, then there is so much more we should be able to – and really must – address.”

 

“But, the choice is in Republican leaders’ hands.  Work together now and avoid a crisis—or work together later while we’re in a crisis.  It’s up to Republican leaders—and all that Democrats, families, and businesses across the country can do is keep the pressure on and hope that they make the right decision.”

 

Read Senator Murray’s full remarks below:

 

Thank you so much Lucy for that introduction.  I want to thank BakerHostetler, the Federal Policy Group, and the Yale Club for inviting me to speak here today. And all of you in this room for the work you do every day, and for coming together to discuss some of the key issues facing our nation.

 

Today I want to spend a few minutes talking about an issue that many of us were hoping wouldn’t have to be a part of the agenda today—the potential for a completely avoidable slide back toward budget gridlock and crisis in the coming months.

 

I will lay out a path that I believe will allow us to avoid this. And I will run through some of the issues we could be working on together in Congress if we can avoid another round of budget dysfunction.

 

But first, I want to go back to make sure we all remember how we got to this point—because I think the history is important here.

 

As all of you in this room know, Congress spent far too much time since 2010 lurching from crisis to crisis, stumbling from one artificial deadline to the next, and too often, engaging in petty partisan bickering instead of solving problems.

 

From debt limit scares, to fiscal cliffs, to a government shutdown—a minority of members of Congress were causing gridlock and dysfunction that was rattling the markets, hurting workers and businesses, and slowing down our economic recovery.

 

That is why when I sat down with Chairman Ryan at the end of 2013, it was about more than just finding an agreement on a budget.

 

It was really about whether Congress could find a way to work at all. Whether we were going to help solve problems—or keep creating them. Whether those who fought against any bipartisanship at all would win the day, those who tried to convince people that “compromise” was a dirty word and that the highest ideal here in D.C. was to shout from your partisan corners and try to get as much attention as possible. Or if those of us who came here to help people, solve problems, and get things done for our constituents would prevail.

 

So Chairman Ryan and I got in a room, talked through what we could put on the table and what we couldn’t. We each looked for common ground and made some compromises. We worked to build up trust—and neither of us used what we discussed in that room to score political points or negotiate through the press.

 

Chairman Ryan and I came in with very different budgets, very different ideologies, and very different values and priorities. But we also came ready to listen to each other, put partisanship aside, and work toward a solution. And I am very proud that we came out of that room with a bipartisan agreement.

 

That two-year deal, the Bipartisan Budget Act, prevented another government shutdown and set bipartisan spending levels through the end of this year.  It rolled back the automatic cuts to defense and non-defense investments evenly. And it did that with a mix of responsible spending cuts and new revenue.

 

It wasn’t exactly what I would have written on my own. And I know it’s not what Chairman Ryan would have written on his own. But it was an important step in the right direction—it allowed the Appropriations Committees to do their work for two budget cycles—and it provided a model for continued bipartisan work.

 

Which brings me to where we are today. Because the Bipartisan Budget Act was a two year deal, it only set budget levels for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015—though the end of September of this year.  But after that, we revert back to the levels in the Budget Control Act.  And not the bipartisan levels—the post-sequester levels that significantly cut investments in domestic and defense discretionary spending.  As a reminder, these are the automatic cuts that Democrats and Republicans have spent years saying were never intended to actually be implemented. Automatic cuts that were put into law only to push both sides to the table to find smarter savings, that even Republicans have called “stupid” and “catastrophic,” that budget experts agree wouldn’t seriously address the actual problems we have with our long-term deficit and debt, and that Democrats and Republicans found a way to work together to replace for these past two years.

 

So I was hoping that at the beginning of this year, once the budget process started moving, Republicans would join us at the table ready to work on another bipartisan budget deal.  But instead, they decided to go in a very different direction. Instead of working with us to build on our bipartisan budget deal, they pretended it didn’t even happen. Instead of a realistic budget that could actually be implemented in a divided government, they put forward a highly partisan budget that punted on one of the most pressing budget issue of the year – sequestration.  

 

Their budget—a budget that aims nearly two-thirds of its spending cuts at programs that combat poverty—that cuts roughly a trillion dollars from Medicare and Medicaid—that calls for a total of $5 trillion in spending cuts—couldn’t find even a single penny to go toward rolling back automatic cuts both sides agree need to be fixed.  Just to put that in perspective, the budget agreement I reached with Chairman Ryan found $85 billion in savings to pay for sequester relief over two years. That’s less than 2 percent of the total savings the Republican budget claims to have in it—but they still left this problem unsolved.

 

Instead of addressing the issue, their budget uses a gimmick to pretend sequestration doesn’t exist on the defense side. They propose using overseas contingency operations funding to fund the additional defense spending in their budget. A funding stream intended to be used for emergency spending on wars—and a pot of money that offers no certainty and no ability for the military to plan from one year to the next. 

 

That would be like one of your business divisions trying to get around their budget allocation by saying that were going to count all office supplies as emergency spending.  It may give them an excuse to spend more—but nobody would say that’s the best way to run a budget. 

 

So Republicans accept that sequestration needs to be addressed on the defense side at least—but they are unwilling to do the work needed to get this done right: working with Democrats to replace the cuts and restore investments to both sides of the budget.

 

And, of course, the defense-only gimmick does nothing to help with the cuts to research, education, job training, health care, and so much more.

 

So I was disappointed that Republicans went in this direction with their budget—and I was even more disappointed that they continued this partisan, dead-end path in the Appropriations Committee.

 

Right now, Republicans are moving spending bills through the Committee that have absolutely no chance of becoming law.  President Obama has said unequivocally that he would veto any spending bills at sequester levels. And Senate Democrats strongly support that—because we believe these cuts are bad for families, bad for the economy—and unsustainable.

 

So Republicans have a choice, and it’s the same choice they faced in 2013. They can either work with us early on a bipartisan budget deal that will set the topline budget levels and allow the Appropriations Committee to work on bills that can be signed into law. Or, they can wait until we reach a crisis, until we approach or hit another completely unnecessary government shutdown—and work with us then. That’s the simple truth in our divided government.

 

In 2013, Republicans made the choice to push the country into a shutdown before they would come to the table—this year, I am hoping they choose to join us much sooner.  Because there is truly no reason to wait.  The situation will not be any different three months from now—we will just be three months closer to a crisis, and three months behind on the bipartisan work we should be doing now.

 

That is why I strongly support Senator Mikulski, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, in her plan to block Republican efforts to continue walking into this box canyon.

 

Democrats should not be complicit in allowing this charade to continue on the Senate floor.  And we believe that standing up and stating this loud and clear now, while we still have months to go before a government shutdown, is the best thing we can do to encourage Republicans to join us at the table now—and avoid cruising toward a crisis.

 

Once Republicans step away from this partisan path, we are waiting at the table—and there is no reason we can’t get something done. 

 

Because we have a model for a deal—the Bipartisan Budget Act we agreed to less than two years ago. And here are some principles for how we can build on that deal using that model that worked for us last time.

 

First, we don’t need to aim for a big deal. Sure, it would be great to work together to address some of the big challenges we face when it comes to our long-term budget challenges—but if we can’t find a path to another small deal, we are not going to discover the way to a big one.

 

Second, the automatic cuts need to be rolled back evenly across defense and non-defense investments. This is non-negotiable. The cuts were packaged together to motivate members on both sides of the aisle to work together to replace them—and any solution will have to address both sides equally, dollar for dollar.

 

Third, the replacement should consist of a responsible mix of spending cuts and new revenue.  Of course, I have some ideas about where that revenue should come from.  Surely we can find one or two of the most egregious and wasteful tax loopholes to close to pay for these important investments. But as Democrats demonstrated in 2013, if they can’t agree to close a single wasteful loophole then we are open to Republican ideas about where that revenue can come from—as long as the deal is truly fair for our constituents.

 

Fourth, we should keep the focus on growing the economy, helping the middle class, and making sure our economic recovery continues.  That is what we did in the Bipartisan Budget Act.  Not only did we replace the automatic cuts with more responsible savings—but we pushed those savings deeper into the ten-year window to give the economy time to get back on its feet.

 

Those four principles are what guided me as we worked toward a deal in 2013—and I am confident that we can use them to guide us to another one.

 

Because honestly, this doesn’t have to be this difficult.  Working across the aisle to set topline budget numbers, and then working together to fill that budget out with spending bills is pretty much the least we should be able to do here in Congress. And if we can get that done, then there is so much more we should be able to – and really must – address.

 

From reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, to reaching an agreement on a long-term transportation bill, to reforming our broken tax code—and so much more—there is a long list of issues families and businesses across the country are looking to Congress to address.  And if we can put a stop to this absolutely unnecessary slide toward a budget crisis—if we can break this absurd cycle of lurching from one crisis to the next—then we will have the space we need to get to work.

 

But, the choice is in Republican leaders’ hands.  Work together now and avoid a crisis—or work together later while we’re in a crisis.  It’s up to Republican leaders—and all that Democrats, families, and businesses across the country can do is keep the pressure on and hope that they make the right decision.

 

So, before I close, I want to ask for your help with this. I am asking as someone who believes—like all of you in this room—that Congress should be solving problems, not creating them.  Democrat, Republican. Liberal, conservative, libertarian—you are business owners and advocates who understand how the economy works, who are here because you believe government has a role to play in setting policy, and who are engaged in the political process because you care about our great country and want families and businesses across the country to succeed.

 

Your voices carry weight in the halls of Congress—and you can help members of Congress understand that another year ending with crisis and uncertainty is the last thing our economy needs right now.

 

So again, thank you for being here today to discuss these important issues. I am going to keep working to break through the gridlock and dysfunction, build on our bipartisan budget deal, and work with anyone—Democrat or Republican—to tackle the big challenges facing our country. And I am hoping we can start with a bipartisan budget deal—and avoid another crisis.

 

Thank you.