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Murray steers clear of med school controversy

SEATTLE – As she pushed for more graduate-level physician training in the region, Sen. Patty Murray did her best Wednesday to steer clear of the controversy over who should operate the fledgling medical school in Spokane.

Murray, who has introduced legislation to extend federal money for primary care residency programs, toured a south Seattle clinic that benefits from such a program. Specialists outnumber primary care and family doctors in America about 2-to-1, she was told, in part because specialists make more and have an easier time paying off the $250,000 in debts the average medical student has when finishing all training.

Washington could be short as many as 1,700 doctors by 2030, she said. The need for primary care physicians is already acute in poor urban neighborhoods like South Park, where she was visiting the Sea Mar Community Health Center, and rural areas.

Would that shortage be helped better by a second medical school in the state operated by Washington State University, or by having the Spokane-based school continue to be part of the control of the University of Washington's program, she was asked. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

Today’s video: Murray talks about WA fires on Senate floor

 

Sen. Patty Murray tells the Senate some of the details of the wildfires in Central and Eastern Washington, makes pitch for emergency aid to move through.

 

U.S. Senate confirms Mendoza as federal judge

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Salvador Mendoza Jr. for the federal district court in Eastern Washington.

Mendoza is currently a Benton and Franklin County Superior Court judge. The son of migrant farm workers, he will be the first Latino federal judge for the Washington's Eastern District. 

The  nomination first survived a filibuster attempt when the Senate voted 55-37 to cut off debate through a cloture vote. He was then approved on a 92-4 vote, with Washington Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell voting yes after both spoke strongly in favor of his appointment. Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch provided half of the no votes against the appointment.

Today’s video: Murray presses VA officials

 

Sen. Patty Murray tried to get answers Thursday from Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and other VA officials on longstanding reports of problems in their system.

They didn't have much. . . 

Historic preservation vs. wilderness in Green Mountain lookout debate

PUBLIC LANDS — Spearheaded by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a measure last week to save the popular Green Mountain fire lookout, which a federal judge has ordered removed from its perch in the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

The U.S. House approved the bill by a voice vote on Monday and it's on the way to the desk of President Obama, who's indicated he supports it.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation responded to the vote with praise for the Green Mountain Lookout protection bill as a milestone in the ongoing national discussion about historic resources on public lands.

“The S. 404 legislation protects an integral piece of the Pacific Northwest’s heritage, a key contributor to its local economy and asserts that wilderness protection need not come at the expense of historic preservation,” said Erica Stewart, the group's media contact.

The structure was built on 6,500-foot Green Mountain in Washington’s North Cascades in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It served as a fire lookout and as a perch for detecting enemy aircraft during World War II. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The Forest Service used a helicopter and machinery to repair it in 2009. That prompted a lawsuit from a Montana-based environmental group: Such methods aren’t allowed in federal wilderness areas, they charged, and the judge agreed.

But since the lookout preceded the 1964 Wilderness Act, and since its remote perch makes a major overhaul in today's budget climates prohibitive without motorized help, the use of a helicopter was justified, officials say. 

 “Obviously, we’re disappointed that they’re doing this,” said George Nikas, executive director of the Montana-based Wilderness Watch, shortly before the House vote. The group sued in 2010 to challenge the structure’s construction. “It’s not only harmful to the Glacier Peak Wilderness, it sets a very troubling dangerous precedent for wilderness.” 

The structure is popular with hikers, tourists and locals in nearby Darrington, which is reeling from a nearby devastating mud slide that blocked access through the area and killed at least 33 people.

Read on for more background and the full statement by Stephanie Meeks, NTHP president:

Democratic senators tag-team all-nighter

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate is pulling an all-nighter.  More than two dozen senators will take turns speaking from tonight through tomorrow morning to drum up support for legislation to address climate change.

Technically it's not a filibuster, since the senators aren't delaying a vote on a bill. So it's not quite like the last all-nighter staged by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, prior to the government shut down in October, when he spoke for over 21 hours by himself.

In a speech in the beginning hours of the event Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., cited the effects climate change is having on the federal budget and how businesses stand to benefit from efforts to combat it.

“We know the solutions to reduce pollution and emissions that cause climate change create good-paying jobs,” Murray said. “Jobs that put money back in families’ pockets through low-cost energy sources and increased efficiencies in homes.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., briefly spoke at the event's beginning about the affect climate change is having on Washington's fishing industry. She's expected to speak more Tuesday morning as the event is winding down.

Murray questions OMB head about Hanford cuts

WASHINGTON - Sen. Patty Murray continued her criticism of President Obama's proposed cuts for cleanup of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, taking his budget director to task at a hearing of the Senate Budget Committee which she leads.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Office of Management and Budget director, defended the proposed Hanford cuts, as well as the rest of the president's budget, during this morning's hearing.

“A number of those programs are for pieces of work that have been completed,” Burwell said. “The administration is committed to make the progress we need at Hanford.”

Murray wasn't convinced: “Yeah, well we have really serious challenges in making progress at these nuclear clean up sites across the country,” she said. “We need a long term, sustainable plan for this.”

The Department of Energy said Tuesday it has made significant progress at the site and has shrunk the size of the cleanup area. As a result, the department plans to shift money to other cleanup sites.

In January, Congress approved $2.15 billion for cleanup at the nuclear weapons facility. Obama's budget has $2.083 billion.

What do Ryan, Murray have in common? Russell Wilson

Photo courtesy of Sen. Patty Murray's office.

Russell Wilson has been the key to the Seahawks' success this season. But he has also had a role in something a bit bigger — the agreement on the federal budget worked out by Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Coming in to negotiations over the budget last fall, the two didn't share much in common except an admiration for Wilson's abilities as a quarterback — at the Seahawks for Murray, at the University of Wisconsin for Ryan. After the budget deal was announced, the two joked on Meet the Press about Wilson being a common line in their negotiations.

Today Murray presented Ryan with an autographed Seahawks No. 3  Wilson jersey. Ryan presented her with some Kringle, which is the official Wisconsin state pastry, and some cheese.

No word if they plan to both don jerseys to watch Saturday's game together and share the snacks.

 

Putting things on the line for the Seahawks

If it's playoff season, that can mean only one thing in politics: Elected officials from Washington will make bets with elected officials in other locales over the outcome of Saturday's game between the Seahawks and the Saints.

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell made a bet with Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu that involves Pike Place Pale Ale and oysters from Taylor Shellfish Farms against charbroiled oysters and Abita Amber beer.

Reps Denny Heck, Derek Kilmer and Suzan DelBene, all West Side Democrats, made a bet with Rep. Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat, which includes a basket with Woodinville wine, smoked salmon, Almond Roca, Fisher Fair Scone mix and a bag of Skittles against a basket with Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, a Randazzo King Cake and New Orleans Pralines.

Skittles? Fans showered running back Marshawn Lynch with the candy after a score against the St. Louis Rams, so it's kind of an insider's joke.

Also, the loser or losers have to wear a pin with the winning team's logo on the House floor next week.

All of these wagers appear to be a step up from the old Washington pol's bet, which usually consisted of a basket of apples. But if the 'Hawks keep winning, we can only hope the bets get more creative and interesting.

As for Gov. Jay Inslee, staff says he hasn't made a bet with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. He's been a little busy this week getting ready for the start of the Legislature and his State of the State speech next week. But he did make a bet of sorts — that he wouldn't come down with pneumonia raising the 12th Man flag in front of the Capitol in the rain this week.

Midterm grades for Inland Northwest lawmakers

We're halfway through the 113th Congress, and legislative watchdog GovTrack.us has handed down its marks for lawmakers based on multiple indicators of legislative success.

Inland Northwest legislators had their fingers in several pieces of sweeping, high-profile federal legislation enacted in 2013, including an update to the Violence Against Women Act cosponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and a bipartisan budget resolution with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., as its Democratic steward. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers also earned the rare distinction of a unanimous House of Representatives vote in favor of her bill easing licensing restrictions for dams with limited power capacities.

GovTrack, an independent bill-tracking service launched in 2004, ranked lawmakers across several categories, including number of roll call votes missed, number of bills sponsored and how many of the 20 bills the service identified as enhancing government transparency the lawmaker voted for. The rankings are comprehensive, but here are some highlights for those representing the Inland Northwest:

  • McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, are the only two Inland Northwest lawmakers who introduced bills that became law. In addition to McMorris Rodgers' dam bill, Hastings introduced legislation establishing a national helium fund for proceeds of the gas' production on federal lands. The bill passed both chambers by wide margins.
  • McMorris Rodgers, who gave birth to a baby girl in November, has missed the greatest percentage of votes in the 113th Congress among Inland Northwest delegates, failing to record a preference in 7.5% of votes tallied so far. In the Senate, which votes far less frequently, Cantwell has missed 0.3% of roll calls, the lowest share among area lawmakers.
  • Among those lawmakers tracked by GovTrack, Cantwell has the highest share of bills she's cosponsored joined by members of the competing party. More than half - or 53.3% - of Cantwell's bills have been joined by a GOP cosponsor. Cantwell's colleague in the Senate, Patty Murray, was joined by a GOP lawmaker as a cosponsor on 29% of her bills, slightly lower than the percentage of bills proposed by McMorris Rodgers (29.4%) and Hastings (35%) joined by Democrats. Unlisted in the figures provided by GovTrack were Crapo, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle).
      

Congress is mulling a number of major legislative initiatives in the coming months as lawmakers prep for another election cycle. On tap are major bills addressing unemployment benefits, immigration reform and an extension of agriculture legislation.

Sunday Spin 2: Say what?

Last week’s opening session of the committee to reconcile House and Senate budgets offered 29 members of Congress the chance to expound – some might say bloviate – on the task. Opening the floor to professional talkers can be dangerous, but Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the committee chairman, was fairly diligent in keeping members to their allotted five minutes.

As they talked, however, it was clear that Democrats and Republicans may speak the same language, but speak past each other. The National Journal did a quick analysis of the 50 most-used words in the opening statements by Ryan and Vice Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash. For Murray, the most common word was “budget”, which she said 14 times. Ryan said “budget” four times, but his most common words were “debt” and “economy” at eight utterances each.

Murray said “economy” a couple times, but didn’t say “debt” once.  Ryan didn’t say “sequestration” or “compromise”, words Murray said seven times each.

The conference committee needs a compromise budget by Dec. 13 in order to head off talk of another government shutdown. After the 29 opening statements, four words come to mind.

Good luck with that.

Congress talks budget

Sen. Patty Murray hands the gavel signifying chairmanship of the Budget Conference Committee to Rep. Paul Ryan.

Key members of the Senate and House sit down today to try to find a compromise on the 2014 budget. Rep. Paul Ryan, the former GOP vice presidential candidate and House numbers guy, is the chairman of the conference committee. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, is the conference vice chairwoman.

We're “live tweeting” the hearing.

 

Spokane Congressional offices become sounding board for shutdown ire

Spokane activists upset about the federal government shutdown that began Tuesday are taking a page from Martin Luther.

Fliers from the left-leaning organization MoveOn.org were plastered on the walls outside the Congressional offices of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., earlier this week, seen in images posted on Twitter by a user who gave her name as “Erica.” The sign on Murray's office, offering congratulations for a job well done, remained posted on her office door Wednesday morning, near a sign indicating the office would be closed for the duration of the shutdown.

The signs blame the right-wing tea party group for causing the first federal government shutdown since the mid-1990s, threatening services from unemployment check processing to low-income nutritional assistance as well as shutting down thousands of National Park sites throughout the country. House Republicans pushed a measure Tuesday evening that would reopen the parks and ensure veterans receive benefits during the shutdown, but the measure - sponsored by Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson - failed to receive the 2/3 majority needed for passage.

 

Murray took to the Senate floor Tuesday night to condemn House Republicans for “holding our economy hostage” by refusing to pass a funding resolution without concessions to delay the Affordable Care Act.

 

“To be clear, this shutdown would be over immediately if Speaker Boehner would simply allow both Democrats and Republicans in the House to vote on the bill the Senate has passed multiple times to continue funding the government. But to this point, Republican leaders have chosen shutdown over sanity and politics over the many people who will be impacted by shuttering the government,” Murray said in a statement.

But House Republican leadership, including McMorris Rodgers, have accused the Senate of refusing to come to conference on their funding bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Obama have stated they have no intention of entertaining any proposals that affect health care in any way.

More congressional reax on Syria speech

After President Obama gave his speech on Syria last night, there was a scramble to get reaction from the region's congressional delegation, and fit  it into the tight space in this morning's Spokesman-Review. We wound up with a shortened version of the reaction. For a fuller version of their comments, go inside the blog. 

 

VA Center name-change ceremony Wednesday

The Spokane Veterans Administration Medical Center will officially get its new name at a ceremony Wednesday morning.

The Northwest Spokane facility will become the Mann-Grandstaff Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in honor of Pfc. Joe E. Mann and Platoon Sgt. Bruce Grandstaff.

Mann was a member of the 101st Airborne in World War II who was wounded four times while destroying an enemy artillery position near Best, in The Netherlands. Later that night, with both arms bandaged to his body, he volunteered for sentry duty and when the Germans attacked and a grenade was thrown, he threw himself on the grenade to save other members of his unit.

Grandstaff was a member of the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam who was leading a reconnaisance mission that was ambushed near the Cambodian border. He crawled through enemy fire to rescue his men, and crawled outside the safe position to mark the location with smoke grenades for aerial support. He continued to fight until mortally wounded, then called in an artillery barrage to knock out enemy forces.

On hand for the 10:30 a.m. name ceremony will be Sen. Patty Murray and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

Today’s fun video: Senate D’s do up budget stalemate

At some point, you've probably seen “I'm Just a Bill”, a video that tries to explain to kids how a bill becomes law.

U.S. Senate Democrats have a new take on the old theme called “I'm Just a Budget” that tries to skewer Republicans for keeping the budget from going to conference. Graphics are about the same as the original, which is to say not phenomenal by 2013 standards.

It shares one other trait with the original. It's pretty simplistic. But among it's co-stars is Washington Sen. Patty Murray.

Spec Sess Day 16: Beyond halfway mark

OLYMPIA — The Legislature starts the second half of the special session with the pace it maintained through most of the first half… if standing still can be said to be a pace.

While much of the rest of the state returns from its three-day weekend, legislators have at least a four day weekend. There is nothing on their schedules in or around the Capitol. The Senate has a pro forma session — where a couple of members are on the floor for a brief run-through of routine business — at noon Wednesday. The House may have a session on Thursday.

It's likely there will be more politicians in Spokane today than in Olympia.

Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell each have public events — Murray's is on early childhood education and Cantwell's is on an item of the farm bill that helps farmers and school nutrition programs — and state Rep. Marcus Riccelli and state Sen. Andy Billig are joining a group at the Health District Building to talk about the recent ricin investigation.

Murray questions AF about retaliation against sex assault victims

During a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today, Sen. Patty Murray questioned Air Force officials about reports that nearly two-thirds of military women who reported sexual assaults were retaliated against by their commanders.

The answer by Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force chief of staff, “we have to investigate that extensively.” He also said the Air Force is looking at how to change its organizational structure.

At the beginning of the clip, Murray, D-Wash., offers condolences for the recent loss of the KC-135 tanker with the Fairchild Air Force Base crew over Kyrgyzstan and gets in a plug for bringing the first squadrons of new tankers to the West Plains base. 

Welsh said the decision on the first base for the new tankers is expected later this month.

Two forms of ID, please

WASHINGTON — A change in Pentagon security procedures almost derailed Spokane's most recent formal pitch for new refueling tankers to land at Fairchild Air Force Base.

A group of city business and political leaders were in Washington, D.C. last week to meet with lawmakers and bureaucratic bigwigs to lobby for several pet projects. Chief among those was ensuring the new KC-46A tanker aircraft, rolling off Boeing production lines in Everett, would wind up in Fairchild's hangars.

But several members of the group, including Mayor David Condon and Greater Spokane Incorporated CEO Rich Hadley, found themselves on the curb looking in when Pentagon security required two forms of identification to enter the building…  

To read the rest of this item or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Spokane and others make pitch for STEM money

WASHINGTON — A group of education and industry professionals from Washington state offered U.S. lawmakers their suggestions to promote science, technology, education and math instruction Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

The meeting, co-hosted by Washington STEM, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Sen. Patty Murray, focused on the skills gap that exists in the four disciplines between graduates and industries. The panel included representatives from Microsoft, Highline School District south of Seattle and Greater Spokane Incorporated President Rich Hadley.

Washington state ranks first in the nation in STEM jobs per capita. However, it ranks 46th in advanced degrees earned by students in those fields.

Hadley stressed the need to align class offerings in early and secondary education with the demands of the modern workforce. He said health care training was key in the Spokane area.

“The life science industry in Spokane is probably the largest benefactor of increased STEM training,” Hadley said. He pointed to several biomedical programs at Spokane Public Schools as successes of STEM-targeted instruction in eastern Washington.

Sen. Maria Cantwell addressed the panel, calling for compulsory computer science education in secondary curricula and expressing her interest in an immigration proposal that would channel fees from skilled worker visa applications to domestic STEM education funding.

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!”

Murray to Dems: Don’t give up on more “revenue”

The Washington Post has posted a 12-page memo from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray outlining her positions on writing a budget for 2014.

Murray, D-Wash., argues that deficit reduction has so far focused almost entirely on cuts and not enough on “revenue” — tax increases.

“We need to make sure any budget deal we make is balanced, fair for the middle class, and calls on the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share,” Murray wrote in her letter introcuding the memo.

Murray, who was in Spokane last week highlighting job programs, is the new chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee.

The memo and Ezra Klein's analysis is worth a glance and is a good outline for the Democrats' position and interal battles in the upcoming budget showdown brewing in Congress.

Murray backs Obama’s plan not to negotiate

The new leader of the U.S. Senate’s Budget Committee said Tuesday that Republican threats to shutdown the government are irresponsible.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said there will be opportunities to negotiate budget cuts without crafting a deal around increasing the county’s borrowing limit.

 

“The budget ceiling debate just puts our country in a very precarious position where we’re defaulting on our loans,” said Murray, who held a forum about job programs in Spokane on Tuesday. “That puts every business and person in our country in jeopardy. And it’s not a good place to be debating.”

 

To read more of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Tax-cut vote splits House delegations

This week’s votes to keep income tax rates from rising for most Americans split the House delegations in Washington and Idaho, but unified the two state’s senators behind the last-minute deal.

Two Washington Democrats in the House voted against the tax changes, while the state’s three other Democrats and all four Republicans voted yes.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said Wednesday her vote was a close call that came down on the side of tax cuts: “My vote last night was to reduce taxes for as many Americans as possible.”

To read more reaction to the vote on tax cuts or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Senate passes bill to rename Spokane VA

Spokane's Veterans Affairs Medical Center moved a step closer to getting a new name today as the Senate passed a bill to name it after two local Medal of Honor winners.

The Northwest Spokane facility would become the Mann-Grandstaff Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in honor of Pfc. Joe E. Mann and Platoon Sgt. Bruce Grandstaff.

Mann was a member of the 101st Airborne in World War II who was wounded four times while destroying an enemy artillery position near Best, in The Netherlands. Later that night, with both arms bandaged to his body, he volunteered for sentry duty and when the Germans attacked and a grenade was thrown, he threw himself on the grenade to save other members of his unit.

Grandstaff was a member of the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam who was leading a reconnaisance mission that was ambushed near the Cambodian border. He crawled through enemy fire to rescue his men, and crawled outside the safe position to mark the location with smoke grenades for aerial support. He continued to fight until mortally wounded, then called in an artillery barrage to knock out enemy forces.

The Senate passed legislation sponsored by Democrat Patty Murray to rename the center. A companion bill sponsored by Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers is pending in the House of Representatives.

There appears only one problem with this idea: Mann-Grandstaff Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center is a really long name, so someone is going to have to come up with a way to shorten it. If you've got any suggestions, put them in the comment section.

Today’s fun video: When filibuster shoe was on the Democratic foot

Senate Democrats may decry the filibuster now, but in 2005, when they were in the minority, they were all for it. 

Note the young guy speaking in favor of it at the start. Sen. Patty Murray shows up about 1:40 in.

Murray to lead Senate Budget Committee

Patty Murray will be the Senate's chief budget writer next year when Congress convenes for its new session.

The Washington Democrat announced today she will seek the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee, a position that will become open at the end of the year with the retirement of Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota. Although the position won't become official until the new Congress meets, Democrats will hold a 55-45 majority in the chamber so the result is a foregone conclusion.

The committee also considers the nation's economic policy and the budgetary impact of “everything we do and everything wie fight on,” Murray said. She hopes to expand the discussions of the committee, which in recent years have focused on debt and deficits, to consider the other side of the budget: the nation's spending priorities and the investments it should make.

“It gives me a really good place to fight for the priorities of Washington state,” she said, such as the cleanup of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, better transportation systems, military and veterans issues and improved job training for health care and aerospace workers.

To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

9/11 remembrances

Flag placed in a name of a victim of the 9/11 attacks at the Ground Zero memorial in New York.

Sept. 11 is traditionally a day for politicians to reflect on their thoughts and remembrances of that day in 2001.

Today was no different. Inside the blog are some comments from local office holders about the day. You can read them by clicking here.

Murray: Keep Senate Democratic, too

While voting to re-elect Barack Obama, please help keep Republicans from taking control of the Senate, Patty Murray asked delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Murray, Washington's senior senator who also leads the organization dedicated to electing Democrats to that chamber, got an early evening speaking slot to boost Obama, knock GOP nominee Mitt Romney and make a pitch for a Democratic Congress.

She reiterated the Democrats line of the night, that Obama believes in “an economy that's built from the middle out, not from the top down.” That Republican proposals could turn Medicare into a voucher system, repeal health care reforms and take away abortion rights.

“To them, every problem is a nail and the onlly hammer they have is cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires,” she said. “With a Republican Congress riding shotgun, Mitt Romney will put the middle class on the roof and take our country on a long ride.”   

'About an hour after her speech, the Republican National Committee issued a statement that Democrats were resorting to “false attacks to distract from their abysmal record” that includes high debt and employment above 8 percent for 42 months. “Nothing the Democrats can say will change the fact that voters know they are not better off after four years of failed policies and leadership,” Ted Kwong, a GOP spokesman, said.

Democratic convention: Murray to speak this afternoon

Sen. Patty Murray has a pre-prime time speaking role at the Democratic National Convention today.

Washington's senior senator will be the third scheduled speaker in the block of speakers on tap from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific Time.

Convention schedule says it will be AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, Rep. Steve Israel of New York, then Murray. She'll be followed by Rep. Pedro Pierluisi and a video on Energy.