Spin Control

Murray announces Senate budget hearings

WASHINGTON — The first official steps toward passing a Senate budget will be taken next week, Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray said today.

The Democratic senior senator from Washington announced two sessions scheduled for Feb. 12 and 13. Murray has vowed, amid rebukes from House Republicans about the four-year absence of a Senate spending plan, to pass a budget resolution this spring. The legal deadline to bring a resolution to the Senate floor for approval is April 1.

The 22-member committee, which also includes Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo, will first hear from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf. Elmendorf will answer questions about the nonpartisan group’s Budget and Economic Outlook report released Tuesday.

That report projected a shrinking deficit in 2013, falling to around $845 billion from more than $1 trillion in 2012. That would make 2013’s deficit near 5 percent of GDP, its lowest level since President Barack Obama entered office. However, the report predicts rising deficits over the next decade due to “the pressures of an aging population, rising health care costs, an expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, and growing interest payments on federal debt."

In response to the report’s findings, Murray reaffirmed her commitment to protect certain spending programs and explore revenue-increasing measures.

“We need to continue working to cut spending responsibly, protect and strengthen programs like Medicare, and raise revenue by closing tax loopholes that the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations take advantage of,” Murray said in a statement.

On Feb. 13, the committee is expected to hear from representatives of the public testifying on how federal budget decisions affect them. Murray has stressed her commitment to involving public input in the resolution drafting process, which has included soliciting their suggestions on the committee’s website through a program called “MyBudget.”

Senate Democrats are in Annapolis, Md., for a legislative retreat that is expected to last through Wednesday. Budget issues will likely be on the table among a number of fiscal policy issues, including deep spending cuts to defense and discretionary programs set to kick in next month.

Murray announced the hearings via Twitter with the comment, “Looking fwd to getting to work!”




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