Patty in the News

I accepted the challenge of co-chairing the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to represent the families and small business owners across Washington state who desperately want their government to work for people like them. And although I was deeply disappointed that we were unable to come to a balanced and bipartisan deal by our deadline, I am not going to stop working to boost the economy, create jobs, and reduce the deficit in a fair way — because I feel very strongly that we can't simply leave it for the next generation to deal with.

- The Seattle Times
U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Facilitating Outstanding Classrooms Using Size Reduction (FOCUS) Act of 2011 [bill summary, PDF], which the Senator says would provide states with the resources they need to reduce class sizes across the early grade levels in order to provide students and teachers with an educational environment that encourages maximum student academic growth. Murray's bill will also put in place evaluation tools to assess the program's effectiveness. "Studies show that smaller classes help children improve in all areas of life. As a mother and former teacher, I have a deep commitment to our nation's students and the environment in which they're educated," said Senator Patty Murray. "The FOCUS Act will provide school districts with the resources they need to reduce class sizes, recruit qualified teachers, and offer students the educational environment they need to learn and succeed."

- Education News
Among the 12 members of the congressional deficit-cutting supercommittee, there are committee chairmen, Sunday news show regulars, anti-tax purists, and Patty Murray. Murray, 60, is not only the lone woman on the panel, she also is the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is charged with protecting the party's Senate majority in the 2012 elections. The decision by Majority Leader Harry Reid to name the bespectacled Washington senator to serve as the Democratic co- leader of the supercommittee, which held a closed-door meeting last evening, drew criticism among Republicans and government ethics advocates. "I think her job at the DSCC consumes a lot of time and requires her to take a lot of public positions that might very well create an obstacle to getting this job done," said Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican. Groups including Common Cause and Public Citizen are urging Murray and other supercommittee members to cease fundraising while the panel deliberates. Murray hasn't agreed, attending such events as a Sept. 13 reception at the National Museum of Women in the Arts that asked donors to give as much as $30,800 to the Senate Democrats' re-election account. "As much as I respect Patty Murray, she has placed herself in a very perilous conflict of interest situation," said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Washington-based Public Citizen.

- Bloomberg
Sen. Patty Murray voted for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, but she has since come one of Congress' leading advocates for marriage equality and the right of gays and lesbians to serve in the military. On Tuesday, Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., hailed the official demise of the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" rule. "Today finally marks the end of DADT: Our service members will no longer have to lie in order to serve the country they love," Murray said in a Twitter message. Murray and Cantwell were a force for repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell in Congress' lame duck session last December. The rule, enacted in the Clinton administration, forced 13,000 men and women out of the armed forces during its 17 year history. "Beginning today, no other individual committed to serving his or her country in the military will lose his or her job due to their sexual orientation," Cantwell said in a statement. Cantwell praised two Washington women instrumental in challenging the ban, retired Lt. Col. Grethe Cammermeyer and Air Force Major Margaret Witt. Once chief nurse of the Washington National Guard, Cammermeyer challenged the military's ban on gays two decades ago, and wrote the best-seller "Serving in Silence."

- Seattle PI
U.S. Senator Patty Murray has debuted in her newest high profile role. The Washington Democrat co-chairs the so-called supercommittee on federal debt reduction. It held its first meeting Thursday in Washington, DC. This fall, the deficit cutting committee will recommend $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next ten years. Murray has been under pressure from Northwest social service advocates to protect federal programs. But she said in her opening remarks that so far members of the committee have refrained from drawing lines in the sand. Patty Murray: "And as we move forward, I hope we can continue to not allow ourselves to be boxed in or pigeonholed by special interest groups, partisans, or media or pundits, and we are allowed the room to come to a balanced agreement. Murray's Republican co-chair Jeb Hensarling of Texas also set a bi-partisan tone. But he warned the federal deficit "has now entered the red zone." The budget committee meets again next week.

More and more often, Sen. Patty Murray seems to be finding herself a victim of her own competence. Though the Washington state Democrat is still viewed through the "mom in tennis shoes" lens that she developed so successfully on the 1992 campaign trail, she accepted the least-coveted job in Washington, D.C., when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tapped her last year to be the head of the Senate Democrats' campaign arm in what likely will be an unforgiving cycle. The Nevada Democrat called on her again last month to co-chair the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction -- the super committee tasked with cutting at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. There's a reason Reid keeps selecting her for the party's most difficult positions: Murray is quietly one of the most even-keeled, influential and trusted Members of the Senate. And it's hard to find anyone, on either side of the aisle, who will dispute that.

- Roll Call
Sammamish city leaders had the ear of arguably one of the 12 most important people in the country for an hour Aug. 17. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, on August recess, stopped by Sammamish City Hall to give her thoughts on the recent last-minute debt ceiling deal in Congress and her role as co-chair of a bipartisan "super-committee" of 12 representatives and senators tasked with cutting the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Though spending is a bit of a dirty word in Washington these days, the senior senator spent much of the meeting listening to the wish list of city officials and Sammamish Chamber of Commerce members. Requests varied from federal grants for Town Center infrastructure, public transportation funding and Mayor Don Gerend's seemingly dead on arrival request for a post office in Sammamish - a common complaint by Sammamish residents who tire of driving to Redmond or Issaquah. The U.S. Postal Service is operating at a $8.5 billion annual loss and is poised to lay off up to a third of its work force and close hundreds of post offices around the country by 2015, but Murray was diplomatic. "I've heard your request and it's been passed on, but it's a really challenging time," Murray told the group.

- Sammamish Review
Any chance a congressional super panel will succeed in its mission to cut federal spending depends largely on a freckled grandmother from Whidbey Island and an Eagle Scout from a small town in Texas. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, are sharing the reins of leadership of the 12-person committee, which by Thanksgiving must sketch a plan to shear spending by $1.5 trillion in the next decade. These two are political opposites -- she's on the left and he's on the right. They really don't know each other at all -- although their paths apparently crossed in 1992 with him trying to keep her out of the Senate. Then he was the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which aided Republican U.S. Rep. Rod Chandler's unsuccessful battle against Murray. Murray and Hensarling are now leaders in their respective chambers and soon, under the spotlight of national attention, will become very well-acquainted with one another.

- Everett Herald
Sen. Patty Murray heard from local veterans and some of the organizations set up to help them at a listening session Thursday at Skagit Station downtown. Many expressed concerns about the outdated Veterans Affairs system that leaves them waiting up to 16 months for benefit claims to be processed. As chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Murray said she is acutely aware of the program's shortcomings and that a few things are in the works to improve it. "We have a VA system that hasn't gone into the 21st century," Murray said, going on to describe a visit to the Seattle VA office, which was filled with paper and little electronic filing. Veterans also said they and their comrades have struggled to find work after retiring from military service. A proliferation of serious stress disorders associated with combat has made returning to the civilian world even harder, they said.

- Skagit Valley Herald
It seems like everyone is talking about the J word lately. That would be JOBS. The President was on the road in the Midwest talking about them this week. Now Democratic Senator Patty Murray spent a couple hours at a local Seattle factory talking about how to keep them, how to create them and how to train people for them. Murray showed up at Machinists Inc., a parts manufacturer in South Park, to talk about the unmet demands for skilled labor in the manufacturing industry. A thought that seems counter-intuitive in these times of such high unemployment. There are 19,000 open positions in the Seattle area, said Murray, and they'll remain vacant until workers receive proper training to fill them. "This doesn't make sense to me," she said. "We have workers who want to work. We have businesses that want to hire. So we have to do a better job as a nation at bridging that skills gap." The best way to do that, said Murray, is by updating the nations Workforce Investment Act, which has remained unchanged since it passed back in 1998.