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BUDGET: Senator Murray Tells Stories from Washington Constituents Calling for Compromise

Jul 26 2011

Senator Murray: Democrats have shown their willingness to compromise, it's time for Republicans to come to the table to avoid disastrous consequences of default



(Washington, D.C.) –Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor to push her colleagues to support the Democrats' compromise legislation to raise the debt ceiling and reduce the debt and deficit. Senator Murray pointed out that the Democrats’ plan includes spending cuts that Republicans have agreed to in the past, and she called on them to stop saying no to every offer and to work with Democrats on a long term plan to get past this crisis. 

With just a week to go before the August 2nd deadline, Senator Murray highlighted some of the devastating consequences a default would have on families and seniors in Washington state and across the country, putting at risk the benefits and health care we owe our veterans, loans for struggling small businesses, food stamps for those struggling to buy groceries, Social Security checks for our seniors, unemployment benefits for the millions of workers desperately seeking jobs, and even active duty pay for our military.  Murray also told stories she heard from Washington constituents from Bellingham, Olympia, and Tacoma calling for compromise.

“So now we are down to the wire—and Republicans’ political games need to end. They need to stop finding ways to say no—and start figuring out what they can say yes to,” said Senator Murray on the Senate Floor.  “The bill we introduced last night is a compromise—it’s not perfect— but it gets us to where we need to go to protect families and small businesses across America from market uncertainty and the threat of default.”   

Murray specifically highlighted stories from Washington state constituents.  Excerpts below:

“Many families from my home state have reached out to my office throughout this debate trying to figure out what they would do if the support they depend on to stay in their homes, or put food on their tables—suddenly got cut off.

“These families have a simple message. Get it done. Compromise. Put American families first.

“One such letter came from Anne Phillips from Tacoma, Washington who after 18 years working was laid off during the recession.

“Anne told me about how she felt she was doing the responsible thing by getting up - dusting herself off - and going back to college.

“But now she said she is worried sick because of the fact that the interest rates she pays on her student loans – which she relies on to pay for school - would shoot up if we defaulted.

“In her letter Anne made clear who the real victims of default would be:

“She said ‘Ultimately people like me, my husband, my family, and all the people I know, who are doing their best everyday to make a contribution to society will pay the expense.’

“And Anne is certainly not alone in her concern.

“I’ve heard from veterans like Kenneth Huff, a retired Master Sergeant from Olympia, Washington who spent 28 years serving our country.

“He told me how through a life in the military he learned the value of compromise and how he is tired of the way the people’s work is not being done.

“He wrote ‘I agree we can cut back on spending. I know we can do a better job. But not on the backs of the very poor, the middle class, veterans, and our seniors on Social Security and Medicare.’

“I’ve also heard from Social Security recipients like Alisa Terry from Bellingham, Washington who told me how important that monthly check is to her and just what it would mean if it didn’t go out next month.

“She said simply ‘Social Security is my lifeline. It stands between me and homelessness.’

“Mr. President, these families and seniors deserve to have the certainty of a federal government that stands ready to pay its debts.

“They do not deserve to turn on the news every day and read about the political games my Republican colleagues are playing with their lives and economic futures.”

Read the full text of the speech below:

“Mr. President—we are now one week away from the unthinkable prospect of the United States of America defaulting on its loans for the first time in our history and not making good on the promises we’ve made to families, veterans, and senior citizens across the country.  

“I am deeply disappointed that we’ve gotten to this point.  Because if we can’t come to an agreement by August 2nd the consequences for our nation and our economic recovery will be dire.

“Mr. President, a few weeks ago the Bipartisan Policy Center put out a report authored by a former Bush Treasury official about what would happen if Congress failed to act and if the Administration was forced to make desperate spending decisions in August.

“And the scenarios were truly grim.

“Potentially at risk are: the benefits and health care we owe our veterans, loans for struggling small businesses, food stamps for those struggling to buy groceries, Social Security checks for our seniors, unemployment benefits for the millions of workers desperately seeking jobs, and even active duty pay for our military.

“If the debt ceiling is not raised, we also face the very real and frightening possibility of our economy falling back into another deep recession.

“Interest rates could go up for families and consumers. Millions of workers could lose their jobs and small businesses across America could be forced to close their doors.

“Mr. President, these risks are unacceptable.

“People across this country are still suffering in a tough economy and they can’t afford to have the rug pulled out from underneath them.

“Many families from my home state have reached out to my office throughout this debate trying to figure out what they would do if the support they depend on to stay in their homes, or put food on their tables—suddenly got cut off.

“These families have a simple message. Get it done. Compromise. Put American families first.

“One such letter came from Anne Phillips from Tacoma, Washington who after 18 years working was laid off during the recession.

“Anne told me about how she felt she was doing the responsible thing by getting up - dusting herself off - and going back to college.

“But now she said she is worried sick because of the fact that the interest rates she pays on her student loans – which she relies on to pay for school - would shoot up if we defaulted.

“In her letter Anne made clear who the real victims of default would be:

“She said ‘Ultimately people like me, my husband, my family, and all the people I know, who are doing their best everyday to make a contribution to society will pay the expense.’

“And Anne is certainly not alone in her concern.

“I’ve heard from veterans like Kenneth Huff, a retired Master Sergeant from Olympia, Washington who spent 28 years serving our country.

“He told me how through a life in the military he learned the value of compromise and how he is tired of the way the people’s work is not being done.

“He wrote ‘I agree we can cut back on spending. I know we can do a better job. But not on the backs of the very poor, the middle class, veterans, and our seniors on Social Security and Medicare.’

“I’ve also heard from Social Security recipients like Alisa Terry from Bellingham, Washington who told me how important that monthly check is to her and just what it would mean if it didn’t go out next month.

“She said simply ‘Social Security is my lifeline. It stands between me and homelessness.’

“Mr. President, these families and seniors deserve to have the certainty of a federal government that stands ready to pay its debts.

“They do not deserve to turn on the news every day and read about the political games my Republican colleagues are playing with their lives and economic futures.

“Democrats have been at the table, ready and willing to compromise, for months and months.

“We know we need to get this done. So we offered up compromise after compromise.

“We came to the middle—and beyond. We offered up serious and deep cuts in federal spending.

“And then we offered even more.

“But again and again, Republicans said no. They refused to compromise. They refused to come to the middle.

“And time and again, they seemed to be more interested in satisfying the most extreme elements of their base, than on finding real solutions for families across America.

“Mr. President—House Republicans even sent us a bill they called ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ that was not only widely understood to be a political gimmick that had no chance of becoming law, and not only would have been absolutely devastating for families and seniors across the country, but also managed to waste precious time here in Congress at a point when that resource is getting scarcer and scarcer.

“So now we are down to the wire—and Republicans’ political games need to end.

“They need to stop finding ways to say no—and start figuring out what they can say yes to.

“Mr. President, the bill we introduced last night is a compromise—it’s not perfect— but it gets us to where we need to go to protect families and small businesses across America from market uncertainty and the threat of default. 

“This legislation makes deep and serious cuts to government spending, savings  that have either been discussed and agreed on in previous negotiations with Republicans or that Republicans have actually used in the budget they recently passed themselves.

“It protects the Medicare and Social Security benefits we promised to our seniors.

“It doesn’t increase revenues—which is something my Republican colleagues have been almost single-mindedly focused on throughout this process.

“It puts our country on a more sustainable fiscal track.

“And it allows us to continue working to reduce the debt and deficit without the threat of economy calamity hanging over our heads.

“Mr. President—Democrats have bent over backwards to get this done.

“We compromised—we compromised again—and then again.

“And this bill is the fruit of those compromises.

“We did this not because we think this is the ideal way to tackle this issue—Democrats wanted a larger and more balanced package that would truly address our problems in a responsible way for years to come—but because we know the American people want results, not rhetoric.

“And we know the consequences of inaction are far too high.

“So Mr. President—I call on my Republican colleagues to support this legislation, to stop playing politics with the American economy, and to finally work with us to solve this problem for the American people. 

“Thank you. I yield the floor.”