Senator Murray joined The Atlantic for a conversation on the budget, the future of the economy, and her experiences as a politician, wife, and mother in Washington. As the first female chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Murray is at the forefront of the issues surrounding the current sequester and post-recession economic growth. The Senator discussed life on and off Capitol Hill and shared her insights on what needs to be done to build a sustainable, healthy American economy. The conversation was moderated by MSNBC's Karen Finney, host of “Disrupt with Karen Finney.” Now in its fourth consecutive year, The Atlantic’s Women of Washington event series brings together eminent women leaders for one-on-one conversations.
KEFFER: Thank you. It's hard to get a large audience of mostly women quiet, isn't it? I'm happy about that though.
Welcome. Thank you for being here. My name is Elizabeth Baker Keffer and I'm Vice President of the Atlantic. And on behalf of the Atlantic and ExxonMobil, I wanted to welcome you to Women of Washington and also wanted to welcome the viewers we have on www.theatlantic.com, our live stream, as well C-SPAN. We're happy to have a larger audience outside of this room here with us today as well.
As many of you know, the Atlantic covers women and family issues and women professional issues in the pages of the magazine with articles like Anne-Marie Slaughter, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All", and Hanna Rosin, "The End of Men". And on our website, there's a channel called the Sexist that covers a lot of these issues.
So, I thought I would bring your attention to our latest issue that has some stories on education, including one icon that's particularly interesting as a mother of three called "My Daughter's Homework is Killing Me". And this is about a father who decides to do his daughter's homework for a week and he reports in a piece that she typically have three hours to four hours of homework a night and sleep six and a half hours. So, not necessarily a good thing we're doing to our teens and twins (ph).
What we also trying to do is bring women's issues to life in our event programs, and in particular, through the women of Washington, which we've done now in partnership with ExxonMobil for four years. This is actually the fourth program that we've had this year so far following on Senior Advisor of the President, Valerie Jarrett, Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, and the Chief of Staff to the First Lady, Tina Tchen.
With these programs, what we're trying to do is shine the spot light on the career of some women who've really done well in Washington, and to hear their personal stories and to hear their career stories as well.
So, today, we're very pleased to welcome Senator Patty Murray as our guest, who's Chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee.
And before I invite Patty to the stage, I wanted to give a special thank you to ExxonMobil. As I've mentioned, ExxonMobil, and then particularly, Terri Fariello, had been our partners on these programs since the beginning. We, I think, came up with the idea together to try to bring together a community of women leaders in Washington to hear these stories, and ExxonMobil has supported the program since the outset.
Our partner in particular has been Terri Fariello, who is Vice President and is the leader of the Washington Office for ExxonMobil, which is responsible for Exxon's federal, legislative, and state government relation. She joined the firm in 2001, having, prior to that, then Deputy Assistant Secretary for the National Energy Policy of the Department of Energy. So many thanks to Terri and to Judith Batty also from ExxonMobil.
A few housekeeping rules, we encourage you all to be part of the conversation in a couple of ways. You can tweet your comments using hashtag AtlanticWOW, for Women of Washington, that's hashtag AtlanticWOW. And follow us on Twitter at Atlantic_Live. We'll also have an opportunity for Q&A at the end. So, if we (inaudible) my concern to you, if you don't mind giving us your name and organization before you offer your question.
And for that reason, because we are taping and live streaming, we'd asked you to silence your cellphones please.
So now, I'm very happy to introduce Senator Patty Murray, who's Chairwomen of the Senate Budget Committee. Senator Murray was born and raised in Bothell, Washington. She never imagined a career in politics. She actually got into it as a mom. She was advocating for one of her children on some tips to what's happening in local educations and made a trip to Olympia, Washington and was told that she couldn't make a difference so she turned around and formed a grassroots coalition of 13,000 parents who did indeed make a difference and we're able to reverse those cuts.
Senator Murray went on to serve on the Shoreline School Board, and in 1988 was elected to Washington State Senate.
In 1992, she ran for the U.S. Senate versus a 10-year veteran, and again, through big grassroots effort of friends and family, was able to defeat him and was elected as Senator from Washington. She was re-elected in 1998, 2004, and 2010.
In addition to being the first female senator from Washington State, she has served as the first female Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and she's also the first female Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.
Serving as a member of the Senate Democratic Leaderships since 2007, Senator Murray has established herself as an effective leader on education, transportation, budget issues, port security, health care, women, and veteran issues.
So, welcome, Senator Murray.
MURRAY: Thank you.
KEFFER: Interviewing Senator Murray will be Karen Finney. Karen is new to the seat recently vacated by Linda Douglass, her colleague, who left Atlantic Media to move to Italy with her husband as he's been a doctor there. So, Karen, thank you for doing this and welcome.
Many of you will know Karen from what is now a full-time role at MSNBC. She launched her own show which is Disrupt with Karen Finney that launched in June and is on air on Saturdays and Sundays on MSNBC.
She's had a long career in Washington, in politics, working on four presidential campaigns and working (inaudible) White House and working at a New York Senate race. She was also the first African-American spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee. And she's been a commentator in the Hills. She's ran her own business too in communications and brand in public affairs.
So, again, many thanks, Karen Finney and Senator Patty Murray.
FINNEY: OK. Thank you.
MURRAY: Thank you.
FINNEY: So, I thought that we would start with the story about the school is one I know some folks have heard before, but the other thing that I read about you that -- and was happy (ph), I remember myself at that time, and then I read that part of what inspired you was the Anita Hill hearing.
And one of the things that I think is remarkable this year, and probably why I wanted to start there, is if, you know, when you look at the hearings his year on military sexual assault, to see so many women there asking questions and to compare that to that picture of Anita Hill being questioned by all of these man, it really, to me, felt like we've come such a long way. So, I wanted to put that as a good place to start because you've been such a part of that.
MURRAY: Yes, absolutely. Well, thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you to everybody for being here. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts and comments as well. But, Karen, thanks.
Yes, I remember, it was like yesterday. It was back in 1992 when the U.S. Senate to me was like this fine (ph) thing on the other end of the country. I was a State Legislator. And working passionately on the issues I cared about, preschool education, which got me into politics to start with, the issues around my family and fighting for things I cared about. And I kept getting frustrated because I felt like my country wasn't doing the things that I needed to do as a mom and as a member of my community to make sure we are strong in the future.
And I remember all of a sudden hearing about the Clarence Thomas nomination back here in the nation's capital when the entire nation all of a sudden was keyed in to what was happening here in Washington D.C. And I, like everybody else in the nation's time, turned on my television to watch the United State Senate Committee interrogate this poor woman named Anita Hill. And my -- I just kept looking at this committee going -- God, who's saying what I would say if I was there. There is -- I mean, all men, not saying what I would say, I just felt so disoriented.
And I went to, actually, a dinner that night with some friends of ours and (inaudible) everybody was talking about the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearing. And I said, "You know what, I'm going to have to run for the Senate because I didn't hear anybody say what I'd say." And they laughed just like you did but, you know, it sort of just came from that because I just felt so passionately that you consider (inaudible) complain about what is going on, but sometimes, the only way to change it is to say, "OK, I'll do it."
And it went from there and I ran for the Senate in 1992 and no one gave me a chance. I was out there, three to one. I literally was the kind of quotation of the end of every article about who might be running for the Senate and no one believed me.
And what happened was women at that time really stood up and were counted and felt like they did, that we -- they needed somebody who would be their voice in the United State Senate. So, I came in and there'd been two women ahead of us. I came in year of the women...
FINNEY: Yes, (inaudible).
MURRAY: And it was, you know, it was a change for the country and the responsibilities of being part of that. But fast forward now to the hearings now where every single committee has a woman on it. So I don't ever have to go (inaudible) and say what I'd say.
And I have, you know, I can see my voice being reflected time and time again and I think that that is -- that's a great piece of progress for our country, there's more to go, but I think it's one of the things that -- or has really changed our country and (inaudible).
FINNEY: And one of the things that's notable is not just that we have 20 women senators but there are women senators who are in positions of power who are heads of very important committees like yourself.
MURRAY: Yes. Well, you know, you don't come here and become (inaudible) position, you kind of be here a while to work your way up the ranks. And the wonderful thing about women today is that we've been here in the Senate long enough to do that, and you look at the United States Senate now, today, where Dianne Feinstein is Chair of the Intelligence Committee and Debbie Stabenow is Chair of the Agriculture Committee.
Now, people are saying, "Women's issue." Well, OK. Women's issue, intelligence, agriculture, I'm Chair of Budget Committee, Barbara Boxer, Environment and Public Works, you know, we are now in position for we're not just are a voice but we are the key person as a player, making sure that the passions (ph) that we care about, the priorities that we care about, the voice that we care about is actually writings (ph) from the nation's legislation. And that's a huge difference.
FINNEY: So we're going to talk a little bit later about the drama that's unfolding things to the fellows on the Hill. Is that...
Everybody's got to have their moment. But I want -- but, you know, Senator Durbin is a friend of mine. And one of things that I think has been so interesting, or story that sort of come out, is how the women senators from both sides of the aisle come together and have dinner and kind of -- as he described it to me, "Sometimes we just need to get away from the testosterone and get some things done."
I want you to talk just a little bit about, you know, that process and how women's leadership had changed the way things are working on us, Senator.
MURRAY: Well, let me tell you how the women of the Senate dinners came about. Like I told you, when I came here, there were six historic -- six women, and we all felt really -- the weight of doing a good job, not for ourselves, but for other women so that they too would run for the Senate and be in politics and do our job.
And we found if we talk to each other that we were -- are each other's staff supporters in being good role models, and could share things that, you know, the work into the office, to share it with. Barbara Mikulski, who was sort of our team leader and captain and been here forever, brought us together really for the first one.
And we just felt camaraderie between all of us as women to be able to say, you know, "Shoot first the dry cleaners," or, "You know, I'm trying to work on this legislation for women in Rwanda and I don't quite know how to do it," or, "I've got an issue going on at home and I don't -- and I need to know how to get this done." And we were on our best (inaudible) best supporters, Republican and Democrat.
We have continued that tradition of getting together for bipartisan, women, Senate, dinners since that time. So, it's now for 20 years. And we welcome new women from both parties. We had a dinner last night, actually, at one of our homes. And we really do go in and do everything from talking about somebody's new grandchild or, you know, where the, you know, best place to get fast food is when you're late at night, or really about how we can solve this budget crisis, because, certainly, those guide marks (ph).
And we have every one of those successions and I think it's been really helpful to us and I think our goal still remains the same, is, "If we can help each other be successful, other women will be able to do our job."
FINNEY: Well, there's a lot of talking about how, you know, (inaudible) Washington has become (inaudible), and it strikes me that these group of women that gets together -- I mean, when you hear stories from, you know, back in the day, it was, "Oh, people went to dinner together. They knew each other. There was a personal relationship." And I think like really it's the women who are carrying on that tradition and (inaudible)...
MURRAY: Well, even natural women, anyway.
FINNEY: Well, yes. (inaudible).
MURRAY: I mean, really, you know. When your kids are at school, you find other parents with kids in their school and you find common ground and you solve problems at the school, I mean we do the same thing at Senate.
FINNEY: Now, there was a dinner that you all had with President Obama, that I think we're all curious to hear a little bit about.
MURRAY: Well, actually, it was one of my favorite memories of this year because he invited all 20 women to the White House to have dinner with him. And we sat at a big table, all of us around it. And (inaudible), well, you know, we're looking out on the White House lawn here, we don't -- in the White House. And we shared everything.
We talked about foreign policy. We talked about how we all are committed to finding a solution to this budget crisis. I mean Democrats and Republicans alike. We talked about small issues. We talked about big issues. Really, a great conversation.
And sort of towards the end of it, Senator Barbara Boxer said, "You know, I'm sitting here looking at this table and outside the window of the White House, and I'm thinking, 100 years ago, when women were fighting for the right to vote, they sit outside that window and were arrested because they were trying to get the right to vote."
She said, "I'm pretty sure that the 20 women around this table would have been those 20 women who were standing outside and got arrested." And without pausing, President Obama said, "I would have been serving dinner inside."
So, you know, but I loved that, is because it reminds us a time when we get so frustrated with the political process and think, "God, this isn't working and it is so hard." But a lot of progress has been made. Our country has changed dynamically in a lot of ways. The solutions are never easy. We've got to fight for what we believe in. But we are a country that has the capacity to make great change, and we need to embrace them.
FINNEY: So, speaking of the need for great change and then (inaudible) think that's a little bit of a drama unfolding on the Hill. And for those who don't know, maybe you can kind of bring us up to speed in terms of Senator Cruz, as most of you know, last night, for the last 21 hours, I believe, a non-filibuster filibuster to slow down this process. Maybe you can tell us where we go from here.
MURRAY: Well, he didn't slow down the process.
MURRAY: He used the time that was available. Obviously, he needed to let everybody know who he was. And that's fine. I don't care. I don't -- I mean I went home and went to bed.
Look, here is where we are. And this is the broader question. We all know that finding a solution to our nation's budget is probably the top priority for all of us right now. We need to make a determination about what our priorities for (ph) this country and how we're going to fund it.
And going from crisis to crisis to crisis and, you know, not having any stability or continuity or not knowing what's going to happen or how we're going to deal with the deficit. It's really the challenge of our time domestically, and we all know it needs to be solved.
So, we wrote our budget last March, passed it out of the Senate, the House passed theirs. And normally, you would go to a conference committee, right, and work out the differences. Well, surprisingly, after being taunted for years, we're not having a budget, so we can -- could go through that process.
The minute we did, the Senate Republicans led by Cruz objected to us going to conference and wouldn't allow us to go work it out. And I said consistently from that time, "You're going to put as into a crisis in the fall, where we're days away from the shut down, and, you know, good decision is what we need. And everybody is going to be upset and we'll do something that, you know, that just keeps us running." Well, here we are.
So, that's where we are right now and it really is unfortunate because the real answer is the same thing that when I chaired the super committee, Democrats and Republicans have got to sit down at the same table and give. And it doesn't matter if it's five minutes before midnight, Monday, or, you know, two weeks from now, that has to be done and our nation deserves that solution.
FINNEY: But how is that going to happen when -- I mean, you know, it strikes me that, over the summer, we saw Ted Cruz sort of just build up and you have some Republicans saying, "It will never happen. It will never happen. But we're just going to let him keep doing his things."
And now, we seem to be at the very testosterone-filled moment, (inaudible) what it feels like, where, "Yes, something will be passed out of the Senate and we'll go back to the House," and then there's this sort of ping pong between House and Senate but no real sense. I mean you're already hearing about House members potentially having a list of demands for increasing the debt ceiling.
So, how is that going to get us out of this crisis-to-crisis mode where, as you point out, when we're talking about it, continue resolution, right? We have been talking about a budget, right?
MURRAY: Yes, when we're talking about small little thing, let's keep running so that everything functions while we make the bigger decision. So that's exactly...
FINNEY: But how is that breaking possible (inaudible).
MURRAY: Well, look, the House passes over a bill that is completely unacceptable. We're just not going to take away the progress we've made on providing health care in this country. They knew that one. They've send it over. We're going to take it out in the Senate. It will be sent back to the House as a clean resolution.
And I think it's really important to remember, we're just talking about a few weeks to keeping the government open while we decide the bigger issues. This is not the big Kahuna. This is just how do we manage ourselves. And they've decided to make this big temper tantrum about that. So it's a little weird. But that's who they are. That feeling is sort of the next (inaudible) that we're going to do.
Let me tell you. I just cannot believe that the Republicans would use that feeling right now to throw our country into economic turmoil when we know we're all just beginning to feel stable again. We're all just beginning to feel like we can go to work and we're not going to get a pink slip.
We're going to go to, you know, that we know what our world is going to look like, that Wall Street isn't going to collapse, that, you know, we're starting to get back on track and they're going to pull the plug and turn the country into turmoil. I just cannot believe that they would do that.
And, by the way, the President (inaudible) negotiating on that. So the rationale things to do if there were a group of women in charge would be that we would keep the government running for the next several weeks and we would say, the debt ceiling, we're going to pay our bills, and now, let's do what we need to do and sit down and solve our budget problems (inaudible) just as the super committee with council, just the things involved, has recommended to us, you know, and not those exact words, but that kind of framework. And that will take the leaders of both parties come in together and giving, which is what, by the way, democracy.
FINNEY: But how -- but who are the leaders on the Republican side who can make that happen, because, you know, we've seen -- or even within his own party, a lot of frustration with John Boehner's ability to negotiate, and he tries to negotiate, and then it seems he get undercut by his own party.
It does seem that Mitch McConnell has been less willing to be out there in part because he's worried, from his right flank, that he is being primary, you know, back in his home city and talking. So, you've got all these dynamics playing. But who do we -- who are we even negotiating with?
MURRAY: Well, I think that's a legitimate question. I think the problem right now really is that the Republicans here are in the House of Representative for sure and more and more in the Senate being controlled by the Tea Party part of their group.
Well, and their philosophy recognize what it is that they really don't want our democracy to function the way it is. They really have a very, you know, (inaudible) uses the word anarchy. I don't know if I go that far, but it seems like. If they just -- they came here to vote no. It is extremely hard when you're in the majority to have all your members only vote no.
How do you function? And that's what Speaker Boehner is dealing with right now. So, you're right. Who do we deal with? Who do we bargain with? How do we (inaudible)? Well, I'll tell you that the thing that helps me sleep at night is that more and more Republicans are saying to me personally that they feel very strongly that their party has to stand up to that faction, and I agree with that.
Look, I'm a Democrat. I want Democrats to be in the majority. I want the policies I believe in to be the ones that run this country. But in order to be a good country, we need a strong Republican party who can negotiate with us, who I have to sit down and then say, "OK, I will give on that if you give on this." And we don't have that functioning right now. But I forgive (ph) that as we move forward we will have a better Republican party.
FINNEY: Who we have to invite some time midnight, Sunday.
MURRAY: (inaudible) going to get a continuing resolution. I just cannot imagine that the Republicans want the face of their party right now to be -- but they can't even come to an agreement on a small thing and they're willing to put people's lives in turmoil. I just cannot believe that even with their fraction of the party that's hard to deal with, that they would not want that image for the Republicans.
FINNEY: Well, and so, the latest that we've also seen strategically is this idea that perhaps they'll try to shift the conversation from the shut down conversation and sort of, you know, get something done there, but then really focus on the gut feeling and focus on their reports today about this sort of list of demands -- Keystone pipeline, and some other things that they are going to insist upon.
But I think that most people would acknowledge, shutting down the government is horrible. But in terms of the impact in the economy, to that limit, I mean that is a very serious threat.
MURRAY: I think they are making mistake in saying to the American public that they're going to put our entire economy at risk over the debt ceiling in order to get their PAP (ph) project, even if I might agree with some of them. I mean that's bad for us today, but think about the President that fought for the rest of our entire life. Every time, somebody (inaudible) the majority or minority, they use a debt ceiling in the economy of this country to get the little thing they want. We can't allow the country to run that way.
You know, it's just, you know, it's one thing if you have differences about when we try to choose or if you have differences about how much funding should be for education or policies around that. But to put our entire economy at risk, when we are in a global marketplace where other countries are competing for the same things we are and we look like a third world country, we can't manage ourselves, I think that's very basic.
FINNEY: So, does it take leadership from the President to make that happen? I mean there's...
MURRAY: I think we have seen leadership. The President has been extremely clear. He will not negotiate over the debt ceiling and he is absolutely right to say that and I'm backing him doing that.
FINNEY: So then where do we end up...
KEFFER: ... if he's not willing to negotiate and they suggest they're not willing to budge?
MURRAY: Well, look, they're going to -- are currently working now on some Christmas tree-filled demands in order to raise the debt ceiling, that they will pass out of the -- if they can, they really haven't been able to get the vote for everything they said they wanted either.
Remember, let's remember this, what they're saying is, to their members, "I know you would never, ever, ever vote for the debt ceiling increase because you don't want to live with that. But if I put in, you know, Keystone pipelines, will you vote for it?" Well, a lof of them they're going to argue, "Are you kidding?"
So let's wait and see what they can put together and get the votes on. But as soon as they get something put together with the whole laundry list of their favorite stuff and send it over, we'll send it back clean because that is the responsible thing to do.
FINNEY: And then where do we go from there?
MURRAY: Well, again, they're going to have to live with at the end of the day. Their willingness to throw our economy -- I mean, let me tell you, I go back to the '90s when Newt Gingrich actually shut the government down. And I remember, we were shut down here and I got on a plane and went home, and people said me, "What the hell are you doing here at home?"
And, you know, I went into my office and answered the phone from people in tears who were not going to get their Social Security checks and they didn't know how they are going to pay their rent.
Now, I can guarantee you, if the Republicans take us off that cliff and put this economy in the tank and the stock market crashes and companies lay off people and folks aren't getting their Social Security checks and the economy is in ruins, they aren't going sit there very long. I don't think they're very smart to put us in that place, but they're not going to sit there very long.
FINNEY: And what about the business community? Is there more that they can be doing to encourage the Republicans because it does -- again, it strikes me that a shut down just from a -- I remember the shutdown. I was at the court in White House and I was a nonessential so I went home and worked at a, you know, shelter for the day.
But, you know, it strikes me that part of the dynamic period, when we talk about shutting the government down, that's something that everybody can understand but the debt ceiling (inaudible).
And for a lot of folks out in, you know, Ohio, Pennsylvania, they may -- it's a harder conversation and an easier message, I would say, from the Republican's side to say, you know, "We're standing on our principles and we're not going to raise the debt ceiling." I mean it feels like that's the...
MURRAY: I will tell you this. I think businesses in America are really concerned that the House Republicans would put our economy into a crisis. First of all, many of them do business overseas. When they lose out their business because whoever they are purchasing or selling to in a foreign country says, "Your debt is no longer good," or, "We don't trust you," they're going to lose out to other countries. Their businesses, overnight, can be flipped by -- with kind of crazy economic policy.
So I think that the businesses are putting a lot of pressure on the Republicans. They're just trying to figure out how they can look OK. I mean it's all about who can look OK at the end of day, right? And so, they're trying to figure out how they get through that and they put themselves in a real box.
So they're going to have to figure out how to get through that. I would hope that the business community stands up and says something. Remember, the last time we talked about not raising the debt ceiling, our credit rating in this country was downgraded. Why would we want to do that again right now?
FINNEY: Yes. There is also a long list of, you know, other staff that needs to get done in terms of -- we're talking, you know, jobs, obviously, implementations with health care, with Syria. I mean there are so many other issues. How do we get through this and then kind of get back to try and focus on some of those other issue?
MURRAY: Look, everybody here knows that the way you get to a budget agreement is that the House Republicans and the Senate Democrats, and the White House sit down and hammer it out, just like we did in the Clinton years, and you remember that. That you have to sit at the table, I'm going to have say, "OK, I'll take that back to my caucus and I'll get to vote for it."
The Republicans have to say the same on their side. And frankly, I will tell you that on the super committee that I chaired, the 12 people on that super committee were really good people and we spent a lot of time walking through details and talking about what we could put on the table. But what happened was I had the ability in that room as the Democratic Chair to say, "I can bring my caucus with me."
What I didn't have in that room was a Republican Chair who could say the same thing about bringing Republican votes. He had to go back to Boehner, who went to the Tea Party who said, "No, we won't elect you if you do that," and came back, so he didn't have any authority.
We need the people in the room that can -- are willing to stand up and be the leaders in both the Democratic and Republican side to say, "I'm going to make the best deal I can for the priorities and policies of my party and then I'm going to take it back and I'm going to sell it because that's what our country needs."
FINNEY: So, let's talk about some of the other issues that you're working on and hoping that we get those. Yes, let's hope we get to those -- hope that there is a settlement by midnight on Sunday and then, you know, come Tuesday we're working on other things.
Let's talk a little about veterans affairs. There's been a lot in the news about the backlog issues. A lot about concerns for mental health issues with our veterans, obviously that was raised again with the shootings at the Navy Yard this week -- or last week. Talk a little bit about that.
MURRAY: Well, I come to the veteran's issues because my own father was a veteran. He served in World War II and was one of the first soldiers into Okinawa, he's actually injured. And we my family -- we're seven kids in our family and my mom really didn't know the stories of his injuries and what he did and what he went through, only that he was a veteran, until he died and we actually found his diary and read, you know, everything he gone through.
And I -- when I was college, it happened to be during the Vietnam War and I -- most of my friends were out the street protesting. I was working two jobs and trying to get through school so I wasn't able to participate as much as some of my friends. But I was in my senior year and have to pick a place to be internship for my major and I chose the Seattle Veterans Hospital to do it -- you know, my friend are out on the street protesting, I'm going to the Seattle VA taking an elevator to the seventh floor going on to locked ward every single day to work with men and -- mostly young men, my age who were suffering from what we know called post traumatic stress syndrome, although that word wasn't used at that time. Really the effects -- mental health effect.
So this to me was really vivid and I know my friends on the street and I'm dealing with this young men and women who were dealing with the mental health aspect of serving our country.
And I just remember thinking that, you know, somebody's got to be a voice for these people. They were so forgetting at the time. Never knowing that later, on I would be elected to the United State Senate, asked to serve on the Veterans Committee and be there when we now have thousands and thousands of men and women coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, serving not just one term, but serving four, five or six times with a lot of mental health issues. And being in the position to fight to for them and I take it really personally.
First of all, I think the times are better because the country want to help these veterans. They -- it is unlike the Vietnam War where, you know, many of them felt the country didn't respect them. I think our country respects these people. I voted against the war, but I respect somebody who fought for me. And I think that our country feels that way today.
So we're ready. We're willing. We should able -- we want to stand up and provide the services. But oftentimes, the stigma of mental health, you know, you got to be the warrior coming home and being, you know, saying that you have challenges, it's not easy. And critically, it's fighting the culture of the men world of our military who don't want to accept mental health is, you know, a challenge that we have to deal with just as we do with physical ones.
So changing the culture of the military, change the culture of all of us as a country and accepting mental health, not saying well, "Chief, I feel bad that you got PTSD but I'm not going to hire you." That's about attitude.
MURRAY: So it's a complex problem getting the soldiers and military men and women to ask for help, to have the help immediately there, not be denied, have the services available, and have (inaudible) as a country doing everything we can, not just saying thanks for your service, but really being there to support people is a big package that we have to work on.
FINNEY: It strikes me that the Affordable Care Act is actually a place where we could change the conversation a bit on mental care and stigma given that, you know -- there's mental health parity and that would provide services for people and the same like treating like it any other illness. And that could be place where -- I mean ironically when you have -- this is the Democrat and -- sorry, a Republican fighting against the Affordable Care Act and at the same time talking about, you know, the need to address the mental health issues not just for our veterans but more broadly the stigma in this country when we're looking at things like gun violence.
MURRAY: Yes. Well, you know, physical wounds you can see and you've got some sympathy, for mental health problems, the person themselves have to ask for help. But the critical question for us through policy, is somebody there to answer that call when somebody ask for help. And I think even as we saw with this young man who committed a horrendous act, he was sound (ph) about it. And the question we have to ask ourselves is did we do all the right things to give him the health when he needed it.
FINNEY: Do you think we're going to make progress on military sexual assault? I've got another issue.
MURRAY: I want so badly for that conversation to be better. I mean when I came into the Senate in 1992, it was the Tailhook scandal and the few ones that we were stood up and held up a three star general over that little issue. And we were told, "Oh this is going to take care of it," you know, it has not yet.
And I think what's great today is that we have women in the Senate who were not going to say. "OK, fine, it's taken cared of." They're going to stick with it and stay with it. I think the military recognizes it and I think critically what has change is the military recognize it. They need people to come into the military. And we all need people to serve in the military. But if we as a country say, "I don't want my son or daughter serving in the military." We're not going to be a strong country. So the military you have to change.
I think they recognize that. I think it's extremely hard for to do, but they're getting there and this is not a topic where we say, "OK, we took care of that," we're going to stay on it every single year for a very long time to keep it as a top priority.
FINNEY: Do you think we can just -- I mean -- just in the democrats in terms of what the solution actually is? In terms of this issue about do these cases get handled within the chain of command? What resources are available for those women outside of the chain of command? Where do you think we end up on that?
MURRAY: Well, I think the really good news is, is we're talking about what the solution is. You know, there's people who can make good arguments on both sides about whether it should say within the chain of command or not, and we're having a really good debate in understanding about that and we'll figure that out.
But I think the really good news for all of us we're having debate about that. We didn't have a debate about that 20 years ago. It was just, "Don't worry, we'll handle it." And now we're saying, "You know what, it isn't working the way you got it going."
So we're going to change the system and the technicalities of how we change that system -- we want to get it right and I think we will.
FINNEY: All right. I know we're going to be taking some questions in just a few minutes. So I'll just give you a warning on that.
Let's switch to education, because I know that's another issue that you're very passionate about.
MURRAY: Got me into politics.
FINNEY: Yes, got you into politics. Specifically, let's start with early childhood education and, you know, the president's proposals regarding out Head Start -- where do you see that going?
MURRAY: Well, first I will just tell, I am the only preschool teacher in United States Senate, so great (inaudible). But that comes in handy quite often. But I know how important it is for our young children to have the ability to be successful. And there's a huge difference answering four-year olds between who have had either at home or preschool or some kind of support in terms of just the basic skills we need as Americans, reading, writing and just being able to work in a group.
And we have left behind the vast majority of young kids today. We are behind, you know, many of our foreign competitors in making sure that we focus on early childhood learning. We have years and decades of experience and every study in the world has shown that we need to invest in early childhood education and we haven't done it.
I was talking to a kindergarten teacher a few weeks backs in Seattle who told me that 80 percent of her kindergarteners come to school on the first day and don't know how to turn a page in a book.
Now, can you imagine that you have to -- you know, what were they doing, is my first question. But, you know, a lot of parents don't know that -- to read to their kids, and a lot of parents too (inaudible) inflict that diversity. But we need to give parents the skills to say, reading to your child isn't just, you know, on. It actually is really important in their development, in their brain development.
So, you know, I am 100 percent behind our country really focusing on those young kids. And, you know who's with me on this? Police chiefs, because they tell me that the vast majority of people in their jails never had any early childhood learning, dropped out of school and there they sit.
So to me this is just a no-brainer argument from -- passion (ph) about.
FINNEY: And is there a support on the Republican side? May I ask you to...
MURRAY: I believe there is, and unfortunately, we haven't gotten to the -- a good discussion about this. I mean we're looking at the overall budget right now and what our priorities to the country and what have we invest in.
And I think unfortunately, for the last several years, we've spent so much time talking about the deficits, that we haven't talk about the deficit in education. We haven't talk about the deficit in investments and research. We haven't talk about the deficits in transportation infrastructure. And that's -- so, I think I'm trying to bring to all of us is that, "Yes we have to deal with the budget deficit numbers", but we also have to deal with this other deficits and get those investments and the ability within our budget to fund things like that.
FINNEY: It also seems if we just talk a lot about, specifically, increases in military, spending and not necessarily, you know, a net but -- we're talking about wasted funds and abuse when it comes to SNAP programs which, you know, we know that the miniscule amount of waste, fraud and abuse is...
MURRAY: By the way, you can't treat a child who comes to class hungry. I'm just going to tell you that it's crazy to get that kind of funding. If our country depends on our ability in the future, 10, 15, 20 years from now for our young people to be participants in our community.
When you got a group of 20 year -- 20 4 year-old and there some of them who haven't have anything to eat for a couple of days, they aren't going to learn anything. So I'm just so mad about this now.
FINNEY: And (inaudible) but to that point, I mean, so the level of conversation that we've been having and I think we've been having it since the last presidential election on the takers and the makers and who is deserving and who is not deserving. You know, against this sort of budget conversation and as you're talking about priorities and we're talking about $40 million out of SNAP and we're not talking about investment in early childhood education. We're not talking about helping kids, you know, go to college.
How do we shift and find partners on the other side to make some of those investments happen?
MURRAY: Well, first of all I think we give them the courage to take on the Tea Party section of their party.
When I first came here, there were a lot of Republicans who worked with us on those kinds of investment. Senator Ted Steven from Alaska, you know, they were cracking the same -- a dozen of them who really understood the need for early childhood education. We've helped the family and medical leave law and bipartisan basis back in 1993 with Republicans and Democrats.
Right now, those kinds of Republican senators are so fiscal (ph) of being eliminated in the Tea Party primary. And all they think should talk about is how they can come back. We need to give those Republicans the ability to stand up and be strong Republicans. And, you know, from a Republican philosophy work with us to lower the cost in our jails hen we invest in early childhood education. To have a group of young people, ready to go into the military that are healthy and well-educated. We need to get back to that broader topic and applaud Republicans who stand and work with us.
FINNEY: So one of your roles has been working with -- recruiting candidates to run for the Senate. And so I'm wondering, in particular, women, why we don't have more women running, and what are the arguments that you make to women candidates to encourage them to run?
MURRAY: First of all, I just think it's so important that we have diverse voices. That we write better policies in any legislative body. If more people are involved in helping write that, and tell -- verbally repeat back to their constituents what it is. If you have all men creating legislation, I guarantee they go try to sell it, women will just turn them off.
You need women explaining it as well. That, -- you know, Nordstrom's understands that. They have women and men who were sales people on purpose. So, you know, having a diverse legislative body is important.
Why is it important for women to be in politics? Because we bring a different voice. Often times we bring issues to the table that are more important, but just as important, we help America understand from our point of view why we're fighting from what we're what fighting for? And why we're changing laws the way we're changing and bringing people into that conversation.
So do think it's really important then -- it's great to see women. Now, if you go up to just how you talk women into running, I will tell you that from my experience and I've chaired the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee twice and I've recruited -- I don't use the word the recruit. You don't recruit people into politics. You open the door for them and allow them to come in.
And women always -- well, there's a huge difference just to be honest. Men, always the first thing they say is, "How much money will you raise me?" Women always say, "Well, how will I know the issues really well so that I can, you know, debate my opponent?" And women know those issues. It's just they have not been given the confidence in their life that they can speak to them.
So I just -- I think women need to have the confidence and who they are and what they believe in, and know the people listen to them when they speak.
FINNEY: All right. I think we've got some microphones here if you have questions and there's another microphone on the back as well. Question (inaudible) over here on the left.
QUESTION: My name is Teresa de Vries, I'm from Healthcare Leadership Council. I just want to thank your for speaking to our members in June. And I also wanted to thank your staff for their interest in looking at how we can capture savings from prevention and wellness in budget offices. And I was just wondering your thoughts on that and how we might be able to move the ball forward?
MURRAY: For getting prevention -- well, that's a huge part of the Affordable Care Act is refocusing us paying huge amounts of money in this country for all of the things that we do throughout our life (inaudible) more. And you know, we've a got the huge disconnect in our healthcare system today when you look at it.
Insurance companies cover you until you're 65 and then Medicare does. So insurance companies have never been interested in doing any kind of prevention for those kinds of diseases that you normally spend a lot of money after you're 65, you know, heart disease or Alzheimer's, so those kinds of things because it's somebody else's problem.
We need to make sure that healthcare system until you retire focuses on prevention because it safer for all of us. And I think there are great studies in doing that. It's what the Affordable Care Act does by providing healthcare coverage for people so they do have their wellness checks, that they do have mammograms on a regular basis, you know, all those things you do that -- if you have -- this is how I look at healthcare -- if you have the knowledge to make good decisions about yourself, then you make good decisions about yourself. But if you don't have the knowledge -- most women know this -- if you don't have knowledge then, you know, you are going later on, "God, if I had just eaten more vegetables," or whatever it is, you know, "If I had just had a mammogram."
We need to really help people do that. And a lot of businesses are doing that today, looking more at wellness and I think we'll see a lot of really good output from that on the coming year.
FINNEY: Isn't it also not just having information but having any access, I mean, because it does feel like and in terms of policy conversation, there's always misunderstanding that have the same opportunity to make a good choice. If you don't have access to a clinic or if you don't have access to a regular doctor.
MURRAY: Well, go back to what I just told you about those kids who come school and doesn't know to turn the page in the book. Just think about that.
If they haven't been read to you, have they ever have any of their immunizations? Have they ever had well baby check ups. Have they ever have any kind of, you know, simple care when they're young that helps them to be healthier if they've gone, probably not.
So a part of what we have to do is make sure that we really work with those communities and really provide them with the knowledge that they needed to capture, just want to do the right thing, I don't care how poor you are. We want to do the right thing for your kids? But it's just helping them get the understanding the knowledge, the access and the ability.
FINNEY: Other questions? Over here.
QUESTION: My name is Gail Gordon and I work Sapient Government Services in Arlington, Virginia.
Senator Murray, you mentioned several times that Congressman Boehner and other Republicans need to go back to the Tea Party to get permission to get things passed, to get legislation passed, to get the deficit raised, to avoid the shut down. And I think it's been pretty well established now that the Tea Party is really an Astroturf organization. It's not a grassroots organization at all. It's basically funded by people like Charles and David Koch. So -- and others I may or may not know about, but how do we -- or how does the Senate and our Congress, how do they stop something like the Tea Party from holding the rest of America hostage?
MURRAY: Well, I really hate to give advice to my Republican (inaudible) because I want to stay in the majority and I, you know, I want to win. But if you force me to, I would say to them you need to stand up to the Tea Party.
And people at home will admire that and respect it. People want their legislators to work from a point of courage not from a point of fear. And that's why the Republican Tea Party members are winning, because if you've got a Republican who looks like there are fearful versus a Tea Party strong person who says, "This is what I believe and I'm going to go for it," you're going to lose.
But if you are a Republican who come from a Republican place and says "No, I disagree with you. This is what is important for my state and my community," or whatever they're going to start winning.
Can you not tell them I said that?
No, I want that for my country.
But it feels like -- I mean, I've had private conversations with Republicans in this town -- when the whole thing happened with Sandra Fluke, right? There were so many Republicans who thought that what Rush Limbaugh said was terrible, and I said "OK, then why aren't you saying that?" And they're like, "You know, we can't do that. We can't speak out against Rush."
And sort of the -- right, "But he's not a leader in our party, don't think that is that. It's not that, it's just we can say anything." And similarly, you know, you hear that kind of conversation about the Tea Party people that as much frustration as people have, and I think they agree that they ought to be standing up. It seems like they're sort of looking at, you know, their colleagues to see who will stand up, but, "Well, I can't stand up."
And that's leading from a point of fear and people don't support fear. They want whether you're a CEO of a company or whether you're a legislator or, you know, whatever role you have. They want to be confident in their leader. If you're confident in your self, people will be confident in you and they need to take him on.
FINNEY: They do.
Over here a question?
QUESTION: Thank you. I'm Peggy Orchowski, I'm a Congressional Reporter for the Hispanic Outlook Magazine. And as a Congressional reporter, I have to cover all sides and all the issues and I've met a lot of Republican women and I'm just wondering how it is -- I mean very often I think with Democrats are talking about women it's like everyone thinks the same. But we know that there's a lot of women who are Tea Party members. There's a lot of African-American women who don't approve of gay marriage.
I mean how -- I'm a little bit worried about the conversation among the Democrat becoming less averse, less tolerant of diversity even within Democrats. And the press making, you know, almost impossible to work with Tea Party people, because they have been bashed like these really evil people. So how do you work with people like Kelly Ayotte, for example?
MURRAY: Well, Kelly and I actually worked very closely together. She and I have been working on the military sexual assault issue, introduce (ph) this legislation together, and (inaudible) or mine and I have a tremendous amount of respect for her.
She and I worked together to pass Violence against Women Act and she was great standing up and speaking about rights, the importance of that. And again, that's a place where she took on here own leadership and we won, and we passed the Bipartisan, Inclusive Bill. We need to reward that in America and we need to reward that in the press and oftentimes that does get lost and I think that's really unfortunate.
But there were some diversity among, I mean even to some Democratic that, with Democratic and Republican but does include in the Democratic women in the Senate. I mean there are -- there is diversity of course (ph) we came in and "Look I come from a big family. I have four brothers and two sisters, If you think we ever talk the same thing all the way through it, you know, wrong". We are as Democratic woman and as a Republican woman and even the 20 women all together, we recognize that I will not agree with Kelly on certain issues but we don't have to debate that all the time. Let's find out what we agree on. I think that's how legislated processes should work.
You know, I think it's really important to say, to take that conversation and say, "OK, we have a budget in front of us. You and I both know we're never going to change Medicare as, you know, or whatever, but what can we do?" And that I think really how you come to compromise and how you're willing to do that and I think that that that art of compromise, that reward of encouraging people to do that is what we've lost in the last number of years that needs to come back.
FINNEY: Is that more on function of new women (inaudible), is that part of it? Collaborative leaders more...
MURRAY: Let's ask Susan Collins, she's a Republican from Maine. She and -- well I've shared the transportation (inaudible) I can say we shared the Transportation Committee because we both worked very closely together. I recognized that for Susan to be able to stand with me and present a bipartisan bill. There's things she needs that I may not agree with but I'm willing to put in the bill so that she has something she's proud of and can bring forward.
She and I wrote our bill. We were told we would never get out of subcommittee, we passed it without one no vote. We were totally can never get it out of full committee. In fact, Susan called me in the morning of the committee, full committee hearing and said "I think you -- I maybe you're only Republican vote" and we ended up getting I think six or seven Republican votes. And then, we've got it to the Senate floor and only because Mitch McConnel (ph) at the end of the day decided that we weren't going to pass an incorporation. We didn't get it out.
But Susan and I respect each other and she respects what my values are, I respect what hers are. We know where our common ground is, we knew where we disagree. But we don't have to focus on the disagreement, we focus on the agreement. Is that what women do?
MURRAY: Yes. I'm just saying, you know, I mean look at oftentimes we're moms, we have kids, and we know that we can't give them all what they exactly want to but we listen to what we can give them and that I think is mother trait, but I don't know.
FINNEY: All right. A good experience for working with (inaudible)..
QUESTION: Hi I'm Kay Lee (ph) with Easter Sales (ph) and Senator Murray, I just want to say thank you for all the leadership you've demonstrated on behalf of children and adults with disabilities in their families and our veterans. It's been a joy to work for office on Tricare and making sure kids get the healthcare they need.
We had -- and (inaudible) and important for the Affordable Care Act because we come from the radical position that people need the healthcare they need to live independent and product lives. And one of the things we've been especially proud of is the market reforms that kicked in right away, the no preexisting conditions for kids that having your kid beyond your plan until their 26. We think all those things are really good for the middle class and for our families.
We are frustrated by 40 what, 41, 42 votes in the House to repeat all part of the Affordable Care Act. We just think that's silly. But what are the implications of all these votes as far as the perspective of the Affordable Care Act in the Senate from your perspective?
MURRAY: Well, we're very clear right now. I mean they send over a bill that if we want to keep government running we just have to repeal the Affordable Care Act only that it's actually not. Look, are there parts of the Affordable Care Act that need to be changed, or tweaked, or made better if we learn from it? Of course there is.
No bill is perfect that comes out of here. But are we going to take away maternity care for women in this country and go back to a place where preexisting condition is being pregnant and you don't get healthcare? Are we going to go back to a place where many of the kids you worked within Easterfield (ph) reach their lifetime CAP by the time they're a year old and then are denied healthcare. Or if a woman who said to me, "I was having an advance, I'm a very conservative party in my state during the August break and there were and they maintain the healthcare reform I was offering."
In this, I didn't have to say anything. A woman who was in the crowd stood up and she goes, "I just have to tell you. My son is severely disabled. He has never been able to buy insurance because of that. I'm getting older, I've been so scared what's going to happen to him. For the first time in my life, the woman said, I can sleep at night because he can buy insurance. Do I have to pay for it? Of course, but he can buy insurance, he's going to be OK. So take that away."
And I think that, you know, if more and more people see that that, you know, we'll get past the temper tantrums that is happening right now because of those who really oppose the healthcare law don't want people to start signing up for it. This is supposed to happen in a few days and then, they can say it didn't work.
FINNEY: We have time for one more question. This woman on this side (inaudible) quite a bit.
UNKNOWN: Hi, I'm (inaudible). My question is really because I'm a mother of preschooler and I'm really curious because all of your experience. I knew to be (inaudible) preschool education and education in the system and I haven't gone through it myself. It excites me so much particularly with area how antiquated it is. It's still based on some agricultural mission that I'm supposed to be home all the time.
I'm going to have to go with sow the fields and then in harvest time, and combine that with all these day that we can be hear that early (inaudible) for the kids and not getting too much food. So (inaudible) with sort of the (inaudible), I just wonder when we're going to have a national conversation about the basic fundamentals of what (inaudible) percentages aren't full time. What made them full time and let us teach art and other things that are part of education.
So our kids (inaudible) aren't in a way that's not just one time or one way only but also and we as parents to do our jobs and respect that whole process that just seems like (inaudible) farmers, you know, and kind of wondering why we're still having a conversation about tweaking the system I think is fundamentally wrong.
MURRAY: Well, and I agree with you and it is interesting, and there's a lot of really creative things that are being done today to deal with that. You know, every woman who is a professional and has a child at home have to balance that and we need to ask the country how the policies that allow women who choose to do both, to be able to do both. We need to have policies that allow women who want to stay home, to stay home and respect that. And we need to be able to have policies for women who just want to focus on their professional life, we're supportive in that. That's we women really want.
And making sure the kids are OK while we're not we're them. It's so critical for a nation. We all do a better job when we know our kids are OK, right? And if there's an unsafe place that they're not getting the right kind of care or we got to pick them up at noon or we get charged for equipment. You know, those kinds of things are really make it challenging to do your jobs good.
So we've got to really put a lot on the table. But let me just throw a one innovative thing out that I'm seeing happen as the results of picking up. And that's the issue of daycare which everyone of us who's been a working mother is the thing that just makes our stomach turn.
There in Seattle, there's this great group of educators who are working with daycare folks to give them curriculum so that they're not just (inaudible) their kids in front of the television. But they're actually, actually giving them curriculum that will help them be a better daycare person. I don't care if you have three kids or you have 20. And these daycare providers who, for the most part are just, you know, people who just have a job at taking care of few kids are ecstatic for the first time ever. They are being told, "Your job is important and here's how you can do it better." So they feel that about themselves.
So helping those people feel that they are a critical part of country and giving them the training and skills to do it is going to help all of us in this country. So there's some (inaudible) in conversations that are, "Gosh, I wish we were doing that instead of listening to Ted Cruz online."
FINNEY: All right. Well, thank you Senator Murray.
MURRAY: Thank you.
FINNEY: And we're going to close our program.
KEFFER: Thank you very much Senator Patty Murray. We know you have a lot going on. It was wonderful of you to break away and share your thoughts and experiences with us. And thank you to MSNBC's Karen Finney who will be tuning in to Disrupt with Karen Finney.
A very special thanks to Terri Fariello and ExxonMobile for supporting these series, now, on its fourth year. And to all of you, keep an eye on the website, theatlantic.com, and our events channel there for our news of our other upcoming programs. And we'll have one more woman of Washington before the close of 2013.
Thanks again. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon.