U.S. Sen. Patty Murray rounded up more volunteers this afternoon during a campaign stop at the Olympia community center in which she drew sharp differences between her and Republican Dino Rossi on everything from Wall Street reforms to helping Boeing land an Air Force tanker contract, cash aid to struggling states and loan assistance to small businesses.
And she told reporters outside the rally she hasn't given up on passing tax cuts this year – including a sales-tax deduction for residents of the half-dozen states like Washington that lack income taxes.
Murray accused Republicans of blocking each effort on the sales-tax deduction – three so far, the latest on Thursday – for election-year reasons. "They just keep blocking it and won't let us extend it," she said, suggesting the fight is not over. The tax has been extended temporarily by Congress when Republicans and Democrats have had control, but not permanently.
But Murray said she needs a Republican to cross over in support to extend the tax deduction this time and get over the 60-vote hurdle for closing debate and allowing a vote.
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"I am working on it. I have 59 votes with me. And if I have a Republican who will go with me, we'll get it done," Murray said. She said the sales-tax deduction has always been a bipartisan issue.
"It's a political time right now. I'm assuming that's what they are doing. This has been extended before in a bipartisan way before and I am assuming we will get it done after the election. But right now they are blocking it," she said.
She made her appearance as Rossi’s campaign launched a new ad that says 18 years of Patty Murray in the Senate is enough. The ad blames Murray for "record deficits, high unemployment (and) massive debt."
But Murray blamed Republicans for halting progress in Congress – including recent efforts to extend some of the Bush-era tax breaks. The Senate vote is to wait until after the Nov. 2 election, even if the House moves ahead sooner, Murray said in an interview.
"It's not a question of if we’re going to. It is who we are going to do it for. And it will be done by the end of the year," Murray said. "The tax cuts don't expire until the end of December. And we have a proposal we feel very strongly about. It's very clear the Republicans are going to oppose it. We don't have the votes but we are continuing to work on it. We will pass some form of tax cuts. Everybody agrees on under $250,000 income (should receive extended tax breaks). It's above that the Republicans are blocking it. We'll see how they feel after the election."
While Democrats are pushing to extend breaks for all but the two highest income brackets, Republicans are pushing to help the high-income groups, arguing that the economy can't afford tax increases on anyone.Inside The Olympia Center at the rally, Murray told supporters that the race against Rossi will go "down to the wire." She asked people hard-strapped by the economy to contribute their time instead, and she said volunteers can provide "the power to make sure we win in November."
Murray said it is Bush-era economic policies, which Rossi has supported, that put the nation in the economic turmoil it is in. She told supporters it was Bush supporters who "threw out the rules" by running two wars and approving two "enormous tax cuts" without paying for them.
Murray said she differs from Rossi on numerous issues – the Democrats’ passage of Wall Street banking reforms, stopping an Air Force tanker contract from going to Europe-based Airbus, helping military women and veterans, getting Medicaid and school aid this summer to the states, stopping tax breaks to companies that shift jobs overseas, and in passing a bill to assist regional banks and small businesses.
She said President Obama will sign a $30 billion bank credit bill into law Monday. Republicans call it another bailout, which Democrats dispute.
William LaVigne was one of the first to reach for a pen and sign up to volunteer for Murray after she finished talking.
"Patty Murray is probably the best senator in that Senate, besides (Maria) Cantwell," he said. Asked what makes Murray good, he said she has good ideas and works to get them put into action – such as securing additional clinics for military veterans and help to deal with combat-related brain injuries.
LaVigne signed up to knock on doors for Murray and also wrote a check – he said it was for $100.
Pearl Edwards, a Tumwater resident who retired from managing a medical office, credited Murray with work for military veterans, halting the Air Force tanker contract that could go to Boeing, and also for helping pass health-insurance reform. "I‘ve been down there twice (to the campaign) to make phone calls, and I signed up to make more," Edwards said.
Murray's stop came on a day she also was headed to a dinner in Seattle with the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for the rights of gays. Murray has sought to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that lets gays serve in the military if they are quiet about their sexual orientation.
Rossi was campaigning in Yakima on Saturday, and he planned stops Sunday in Anacortes, Everett and Arlington.