Murray can’t wear fundraising and deficit panel hats

August 17, 2011 

Washington residents can take great pride in the fact that Patty Murray, this state’s senior U.S. senator, will be among the dozen members of the so-called congressional “super committee” charged with cutting $1.5 trillion in spending over the next decade.

Murray’s appointment as co-chair of the committee brings the senator and this state great honor. She is, after all, next in line to chair the Senate Budget Committee.

We’re confident that Murray, a Democrat, will do an admirable job in this pivotal assignment. From her years in the state Legislature and in the nation’s capital, we know Murray understands the need to compromise. She’s a bulldog, someone who really sets her teeth into assignments like this.

That said, there is one issue of concern.

Earlier, Democrats named Murray as chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In that role Murray is expected to raise as much money and get as many Democrats elected to the United States Senate as possible next year.

So on the one hand, while she’s raising money from special interest groups to elect Democrats, Murray will be selecting programs important to those interest groups that will be trimmed or eliminated from the federal budget. That dual role causes a conflict of interest.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus criticized Murray’s appointment, saying it was “absolute proof that Democrats are not serious about deficit reduction.”

In a statement Priebus said, “As chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Murray is the Senate Democrats’ fundraiser-in-chief. The Select Committee is no place for someone whose top priority is fundraising and politics.”

The easiest way to resolve this issue is for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to name another senator to lead the campaign committee — duties Murray can resume after the deficit panel completes its important work.

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, which President Barack Obama signed after Congress and the president took the nation to the brink of financial default, the super committee must make its recommendations by late November on how to cut more than a trillion in federal spending over the next 10 years.

Then, according to the playbook, the House and the Senate must vote on the package by Dec. 23. If all that doesn’t result in at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, automatic spending cuts would take effect in 2013.

Under the plan, Murray’s deficit reduction work should be complete by late November at which time she could resume her leadership role recruiting U.S. Senate candidates and finding pots of money for their campaigns.

Murray’s work on the deficit panel must take priority as the committee’s success will chart the future of this great nation. If the committee and Congress are unable to agree on a spending plan that includes deficit reductions, the nation’s economy is doomed. We need look no further than what happened on Wall Street and Main Street after Congress and Obama failed to fully resolve the budget issue at the beginning of August.

In announcing Murray’s appointment to the super committee, and that of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Reid said, “... the world is watching the work of this committee. I am confident that Senators Murray, Baucus and Kerry will bring the thoughtfulness, bipartisanship and commitment to a balanced approach that will produce the best outcome for the American people.”

The super committee, with six Democrats and six Republicans out of 535 House and Senate members, is designed to require bipartisanship. We believe Reid was right when he said, “We know Americans will stand by us if we work together to tackle our debt and deficit and help get our economy back on track.”

Crafting that compromise is an awesome responsibility – one we believe Murray is up to.

She and the other 11 negotiators must go into their deliberations with everything on the table – from raising taxes to cutting Social Security, from eliminating farm subsidies to cutting military spending. It’s the nation’s hope, and prayer, that the dozen negotiators are willing to set aside their own egos, political agendas and work for compromises that will set this nation on sound financial footing.

We are delighted that Washington Sen. Patty Murray is at the table making those monumental decisions.

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