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Murray named debt panel co-chair

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 9, 2011, 4:49 p.m.

GE Aviation Systems worker Ken Hereth shows Sen. Patty Murray a part as she tours the GE Aviation plant in Yakima on Monday. (Associated Press)
GE Aviation Systems worker Ken Hereth shows Sen. Patty Murray a part as she tours the GE Aviation plant in Yakima on Monday. (Associated Press)

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.

Washington Democrat was one of three named Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The other Reid appointees are Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Max Baucus of Montana on 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.”

Kerry and Baucus are two of the Senate’s most experienced legislators, Reid added. In naming the trio, 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 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,” Kirby charged in a press release. “Senator Murray has absolutely no history of cutting spending, ever.”

On Tuesday, Murray was in Spokane to visit 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 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.

Later Tuesday Murray met with higher education leaders and area elected officials at the Washington State University Riverpoint campus

The Associated Press contibuted to this story.

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