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Despite Public Pessimism, Murray Remains Optimistic about Budget

Gabriel Spitzer
Senator Patty Murray says she's hopeful a deal can be reached, but she understands the low expectations.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray is the top Democrat on a conference committee charged with hashing out a budget by mid-December, and she’s well aware many pundits and citizens have low expectations.

“I don’t blame anybody for being pessimistic about this,” Murray said at an appearance in Seattle. “Our country’s been through a lot.”

That includes the recent government shutdown and threat of default, which birthed the conference committee Murray is chairing, along with Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan. Ryan and eight of his fellow Republican conferees voted against the compromise that ended the shutdown.

Two Faces of Sequestration

But Murray says a new round of cuts under sequestration due to take effect in January could light a fire under negotiators.

“I have both Republicans and Democrats alike in the Senate saying to me that sequestration needs to be replaced. So I think that is a motivation for both of us,” she said.

Those looming cuts would hit the defense budget hard. The first round targeted domestic programs, such as early education and housing vouchers. Murray appeared alongside several constituents who depend on those programs, and said she’d fight to restore the funding.

The Patty and Paul Show

Murray has nice things to say about Ryan, her opposite number on the committee. She called him a decent man who cares about his country. But asked whether Ryan is ready to make a deal, Murray was more cautious.

“There is, in my mind, a curiosity about whether Paul Ryan can come to the table and be a negotiator, or whether Paul Ryan is going to be the guy who wants to go to his caucus and say, 'I can be as conservative as everybody else here,'” Murray said.

Ryan has said he’s committed to making the budget conference a success. Ryan’s House budget and Murray’s Senate budget are far apart on key issues, including reforming Medicare and the tax code.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.