WASHINGTON — It didn’t take long for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray to get comfortable in her new cyberspace digs.
A few days after officially assuming the role of Budget Committee chairwoman, the senior senator from Washington unveiled on Monday a new way for Internet users to get involved in the budget discussion.
The digital solicitation comes as Republican leadership continues chiding the Democrat-led Senate for failing to pass a budget and affirming its staunch opposition to tax hikes. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, for example, said Sunday that inaction from Senate Democrats has led his party to believe deep, automatic spending cuts known as sequestration will occur.
Murray is taking the pressure in stride, rolling out an online destination for taxpayers to share their thoughts on the budget process.
“The federal budget is where we lay out our values, our priorities, and our vision for what our government should look like now and in the future,” Murray said in a statement announcing the online MyBudget tool. “So I believe that it is absolutely critical that the ideas and perspectives of families across America are heard loud and clear in a budget process that belongs to them, but is too often limited to politicians and bureaucrats.”
The Senate Budget Committee is responsible for bringing a budget resolution to the floor for a vote. That hasn’t happened since April 2009, which prompted a move by House Republicans last week to call for withholding pay from members of Congress until they’ve come up with a spending plan.
For her part, Murray joined several prominent Democrats in promising a budget would pass the Senate this spring. Murray said the MyBudget initiative is a way of incorporating the priorities and ideas of all Americans into that process.
MyBudget, available through the Democratic Majority Budget Committee’s webpage at budget.senate.gov/democratic, is set up like an online survey. Users must submit their name, city, state and email address to weigh in on questions concerning budget priorities, ideas for spending cuts and how federal spending impacts their lives. In her announcement, Murray said she’d eventually like to see the platform work as a social media hub, allowing users to share ideas with friends and organize through the service.
Failure to come up with a viable spending plan looms large over Washington with sequestration looming. If no alternative is agreed to, automatic spending cuts totaling $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years will begin in March, affecting defense and discretionary spending.
Ryan used weekend appearances on TV news programs to urge movement from the Senate.
“This isn’t a Republican or a Democrat thing,” Ryan told NBC’s David Gregory. “It’s a math thing, and we have to get serious with this problem if we want to save people from the problems that inevitably would result from a debt crisis.”
Ryan reiterated Republicans’ position that further revenue increases through tax hikes would not be a part of the House’s budget plan. He said that issue had been settled with this month’s fiscal cliff deal.
House Speaker John Boehner has said the Republican budget will balance the budget in 10 years. Without tax increases, that plan will likely include deeper cuts to federal spending programs such as Medicare and Pell grants than the budget Ryan drafted last year.
MyBudget will allow a public largely skeptical of Ryan’s budget decisions to offer concrete proposals to Senate committee members. His Medicare voucher proposal, in particular, did not sit well with many Americans. According to an August poll by the Pew Research Center, 49 percent of respondents opposed the plan to reform Medicare by offering future credit for enrollees to purchase private insurance, while 34 percent backed it.
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