Staff and wire reports
WASHINGTON — Sen. Patty Murray will be the co-chairwoman of a powerful “supercommittee” charged with finding more than $1 trillion in deficit cuts this fall.
The Washington Democrat was one of three named Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. He also appointed Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Max Baucus of Montana to the panel.
In a prepared statement announcing the appointments, Reid said Murray's years of experience on the Budget and Appropriations committees “have given her a depth of knowledge on budget issues and demonstrated her ability to work across party lines.”
The three issued a joint statement calling the committee’s work “long overdue to step beyond the partisanship and politics that have overwhelmed these discussions for months.”
Kerry and Baucus are two of the Senate's most experienced legislators, Reid added. In naming the trio, the Associated Press noted he bypassed Democrats like Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad who have been more forceful in advocating curbs on Medicare spending and Social Security benefits.
Washington state and national Republicans were quick to denounce Murray's selection. Even before the appointments were official, but after they had leaked out from congressional sources to hit political websites, state GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur contended Murray's selection proves Reid wasn't taking debt reduction seriously.
“Appointing Senator Murray as the co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is like asking a fox to guard a hen house,” Wilbur charged in a press release. “Senator Murray has absolutely no history of cutting spending, ever.”
(That's right, Kirby Wilbur just called Patty Murray a fox, which is probably inappropriately sexist…but, we digress. To read the rest of this post, click here to go inside the blog.)
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Murray’s position as the leader of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the group that recruits challengers to Republicans and helps re-elect incumbent Democrats, should disqualify her.
“The select committee is no place for someone whose top priority is fundraising and politics,” Priebus said in a prepared statement, adding Reid “should immediately withdraw her appointment.”
Murray could not be immediately contacted for a response.
First elected in 1992 and re-elected easily three times since then, the 60-year-old former pre-school teacher is the state’s senior senator who serves as the chairwoman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transporation, Housing and Urban Issues, and the Health, Education and Labor Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety.
She was in Spokane Tuesday visiting the West Plains Triumph Composite Systems plant to talk about ways to bridge “the skilled jobs deficit” that keeps companies from finding skilled workers to fill key jobs. She met later with higher education leaders and elected officials at the Riverpoint Campus.
She said more than 2,000 Spokane jobs are currently open, with many going unfilled because not enough workers with the right skills are available.
In an interview Murray said this fall she'll spearhead reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act as a way to help boost job skills for both younger and older workers. That jobs-training bill was passed in 1998 and is set to expire.
She said her co-sponsor for the reauthorization bill will be Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming. “This is an effort that will have bi-partisan support because it’s important,” she said.
Colleague Tom Sowa reported from the Murray events in Spokane.