Patty in the News

The fight to get a Veteran’s Administration disability claim settled for a Coulee Dam man took action by U.S. Senator Patty Murray. Daniel Johnson’s cancer showed up in February last year and was attributed to his contact with Agent Orange, while he was in the navy in Vietnam. Johnson said contact with Agent Orange occurred after the cease fire while his ship was still in Vietnam, through the ship’s ventilation system and eventually the ship’s water. Johnson was on a large amphibious ship that transported marines and their equipment into battle. While repeatedly applying for help with the V.A. all through 2011 and most of this year, he was repeatedly turned down. It wasn’t until he had lost his job with the federal government, and faced bankruptcy, that he decided to seek political help. On Nov. 30, just a few weeks ago, he picked up the phone and one of Senator Murray’s staff members was on the line telling him that the V.A. had reconsidered his application for disability and it had been approved. Murray chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and in 2011 helped block an amendment that would have made it impossible for veterans to get approved for help with Agent Orange-related medical expenses.

- The Grand Coulee Star
”: With legislators focused on looming cuts to defense spending and entitlement programs, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told a gathering of progressives on Capitol Hill Tuesday that she is worried the most vulnerable groups depending on domestic programs may get “lost in the shuffle” during the deficit negotiations. “It’s very concerning to me that so much of the focus in D.C. and across the country has been on the other half of sequestration -- the defense cuts,” Murray said. “I feel very strongly that while we certainly need to cut spending responsibly and get our debt and deficit under control, we shouldn’t do that on the backs of the families and children who can afford it least.” Democrats and Republicans need to hammer out a deficit-reduction deal before the New Year to avert the so-called fiscal cliff -- the moment when the Bush tax cuts expire and drastic budget cuts hit defense and domestic spending. As Murray noted, those automatic cuts, known as sequestration, would include painful hits to programs that help needy families, such as child care funding, home heating assistance and job training for the unemployed.

- Huffington Post
The Senate this week passed an amendment that would reshape the Defense Department’s behavioral health and suicide prevention programs, compelling each service to adopt common practices.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., submitted the provision to the $631 billion defense authorization bill. Her amendment mirrors a bill she submitted in June.

- The News Tribune
U.S.Sen. Patty Murray has become the de facto leader of an idea that once seemed far-fetched: deliberately allowing the double punch of the looming "fiscal cliff" of massive tax increases and automatic spending cuts to take effect in January. That strategy gained wider currency only five months ago, after Murray gave a speech in Washington, D.C., vowing to take the fiscal debate into 2013, rather than agree to a Republican deal "that throws middle-class families under the bus." The Washington Democrat said Thursday that triggering the fiscal cliff is a last-resort option — but one Democrats will use if forced. The strong-arm gambit was borne of her disillusionment after co-chairing last year's failed deficit-reduction supercommittee that was charged with seeking alternatives to $1.2 trillion in mandated budget cuts over the next decade

- The Seattle Times
The Senate has approved adding an amendment to the Defense authorization bill to require the Pentagon to create a comprehensive and standardized suicide prevention program. The amendment, which was offered by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-Wash.), was approved by voice vote Tuesday night and will be included in the bill being considered by the Senate. The military has been plagued by increases in the number of suicides. As of the end of October, the number of suspected suicides by active-duty soldiers had reached 166, one more than the total for 2011. “I think everyone in this body knows about, and is distressed by, the alarming rate of suicide and the mental health problems in our military and veterans populations,” Murray said on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday.

- The Washington Post
The 112th Congress has been labeled "do-nothing" with good reason: It's passed fewer bills than almost any Congress since World War II. But amid the partisan gridlock, lawmakers have quietly approved a number of important bills designed to improve life for veterans. And they've done it at a time of tight spending, when almost nothing passes that isn't fully paid for.

Those legislative victories for veterans have been possible largely because of the friendly relationship between one of the most conservative Republicans in the House and a liberal Democrat in the Senate.
Republican Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington barely knew each other when they took over their respective chambers' Veterans Affairs committees in January 2011. But over the next 22 months, they worked together and with other lawmakers to help veterans get training for new jobs, better mental health care and faster action on disability claims.

- Gannett Washington BureauShare
Top Senate Democrat Patty Murray seized on a top House Republican's comments yesterday that the GOP should join President Obama on a quick fiscal cliff deal to push the House to pass middle class tax cuts before major budget or entitlement reform negotiations take place. “When that is done, then we will continue to have a serious conversation about our country’s budget future,” she said of extending Bush-era tax cuts on households making less than $250,000. “There is no reason our middle class families should go into the holidays without knowing whether their taxes will go up.” Murray, speaking from the Senate floor Wednesday, highlighted yesterday’s comments by Republican Rep. Tom Cole, who told his party’s leadership that they should join with Democrats to extend middle-class tax cuts before pushing to freeze tax rates for the wealthy. Cole argued that approving the middle-class tax cuts would rob Democrats of the argument that Republicans are responsible for the looming tax hikes and increase the GOP's leverage going into the new year.

- The National Journal
This week, it became official that Murray would become chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Together with the ascension of Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden to the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, it puts the Northwest in a considerably bolstered position in the Senate, stronger than it's held since Mark Hatfield chaired the Appropriations Committee. But Murray's position is particularly strong because she can claim credit for any Democrat being a chairman. As chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, she was in charge of defending the party majority when it had to defend 23 Democratic Senate seats, and a year ago most pundits predicted a GOP takeover. Instead -- with a lot of help from some disastrous Republican candidates -- Democrats gained two seats, and Murray is now a Democratic Senate idol, along with being Budget chairman, a senior member of Appropriations, and the No. 4 figure in the Democratic Senate leadership.

- The Oregonian
No one takes more thankless jobs within the Senate Democratic leadership than Patty Murray, and the Washington state Democrat may finally be in a position to reap the rewards. During her almost six years as No. 4 in the leadership ranks, she's been largely inconspicuous. But over time, her workhorse reputation has helped her amass considerable influence in the caucus. That is likely to continue as she takes the gavel of the Budget Committee in the 113th Congress. "Whenever there's something that's hard to do, we go to Patty, and she delivers," Majority Leader Harry Reid said on election night as it became clear his caucus would beat the odds and actually expand in the next Congress. Reid also told elated Democrats, "There is no one who has ever done a better job of running the senatorial campaign committee than Patty Murray." No doubt that line caught the attention of Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, who served as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for two cycles, sweeping his party into the majority. Many view Schumer as a likely successor to Reid whenever he steps aside.

- Roll Call
Patty Murray will be the U.S. Senate's chief budget writer next year when Congress convenes for its new session. The Washington Democrat announced Thursday she will seek the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee, a position that becomes open next year with the retirement of Sen. Kent Conrad, of North Dakota. Although her role won't become official until the new Congress meets, Democrats will hold a 55-45 majority in the chamber, so the result is a foregone conclusion. The committee also considers the nation's economic policy and the budgetary impact of "everything we do and everything we fight on," said Murray, who has served on the panel for 20 years and is the senior Democrat. She hopes to expand the discussions, which in recent years have focused on debt and deficits, to consider the other side of the budget: the nation's spending priorities and the investments it should make. "It gives me a really good place to fight for the priorities of Washington state," she said, such as the cleanup of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, better transportation systems, military and veterans issues and improved job training for health care and aerospace workers.

- The Spokesman Review