Patty in the News

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
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
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
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
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said Thursday she would seek the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee, a perch that could further amplify her role in shaping far-reaching decisions about the nation's fiscal future. Murray, who is the budget panel's second-most senior Democrat, would take over the helm from retiring Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. The committee is responsible for writing an annual blueprint for spending on education, housing, transportation and other discretionary outlays by the federal government. Murray's announcement came a day before President Obama was scheduled to meet with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to forge a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff," a $500 billion-plus mix of automatic spending cuts and tax increases slated to go into effect Jan. 1.

- Seattle Times
While Conrad had a reputation as a deficit hawk and numbers guy, Murray, nicknamed the "mom in tennis shoes" after her successful 1992 Senate run, underscored that she'll bring a more compassionate approach to the budget process.

- Politico
Sen. Patty Murray plans to leave her bully pulpit as chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and seek a greater role shaping federal spending as the leader of the Senate Budget Committee. We're planning to speak with Murray later today. She intends to remain on Veterans Affairs, a committee that she used to draw attention to long waits for patient services in the VA and to push for improved behavioral health services in the active-duty military. She told Politico she wants to leverage her new role on Budget Committee to shape discussions about investing in the country's future. "I think what's been lacking from our discussion for a long time is really that other part of what a Budget chair does, which is set the priorities for this country in terms of making sure we invest in the right places, in education, in job training, and to make sure we do a balanced approach moving forward," Murray told Politico. "I am fighting for those middle-class families who want us to deal with our debt and deficit, but they also want the investments that are critical to our country moving forward. And I want to help them understand why this word 'budget' is so important to them," she added. "It's about whether their kids get access to college, or we have an ability to create the infrastructure for our roads to bring new jobs here, or we have job training, and a really deep concern of mine, that we are ready to take care of the veterans who are returning home by the hundreds of thousands.

- The News Tribune
They are casualties of war not often heard about: wounded soldiers who can no longer start a family. Under its current policy, the Veterans' Administration does not assisting military families with in-vitro fertilization. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., calls the policy a disgrace, and is working to change that. Thinking of coming home to family is what gets members of the military through deployments. But some of them return home wounded and unable to conceive. Capt. Niall Kennedy is in a wheelchair with a spinal cord injury. His wife, Margeaux, is worried about him and their prospects of starting a family. "I have the ER doctors looking at me, (saying,) 'We're just trying to keep your husband alive.' And I'm like, 'Oh, he'll be fine, but I need to make sure that I can be a mom one day, like this is my dream."' Sarah and Sean Halsted found themselves in the same situation several years ago. "I fell from a helicopter about 40 feet," said Air Force veteran Sean Halsted. "Shattered all vertebrae, became a spinal cord injury." The couple chose in-vitro fertilization and conceived twins, but had to pay for the procedure themselves.