Murray Has Her Hands Full on Senate Budget Committee

By Tom Bacon

Washington state's senior senator, Senator Patty Murray, won't have much, if any, free time now through the end of December.

Murray, as chair of the Senate budget committee, will be out front in sure-to-be tense - and possibly fruitless - budget reconciliation talks. The negotiations, mandated by the compromise spending resolution passed last week on the brink of debt default, are to be concluded by mid-December. The temporary spending deal ends in mid-January. So Murray and House budget chair Paul Ryan head the bi-partisan, bi-cameral group of lawmakers charged with hashing out a new, long-term spending deal. 

Northwest states will be well represented in the group on the Senate side. Murray's group includes both Oregon senators, Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. And Senate Republicans include Idaho's Mike Crapo and Mike Enzi of Wyoming.

Murray's been here before. She was a member of the ill-fated 2011 deficit-reduction "super committee" in Congress that failed to come close to spending and tax agreements. But she's more optimistic this time around. The senator said the old super committee goals were too large and broad, but that the job of the new reconciliation committee is much more narrowly focused - that is, to resolve differences between the Senate and House budgets.

Still, those differences amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. And nine of the Republican lawmakers, including budget chairman Ryan, voted against last week's measure to end the government shutdown and avoid defaulting on the nation's debt.
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