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Spin Control

Murray to Perry on Hanford: It’s a big, dangerous place

Energy Secretary Rick Perry sometimes exudes that air of happy-go-lucky guy who can ease his way through tough spots with an ingratiating smile and a bit of good ole boy charm. He proved during one of his presidential campaigns when he couldn't remember the third of three federal agencies he wanted to ax.

Sen. Patty Murray sometimes exudes that air of no-nonsense preschool teacher -- which she once was

So what happens when serious teacher asks a question and doesn't like good ole boy's good answer? We know from their meeting this week in the Senate Appropriations Committee, where Perry was explaining the Trump administration's budget proposal to cut money for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation cleanup.

Murray starts by lecturing Perry about the federal government's "moral and legal obligation" to clean up the mess it left at Hanford while making the stuff that helped win World War II. She called the budget proposal short-sighted and inadequate. How are you going to meet the deadlines on various legal agreements with those cuts, she asks sternly.

Lots of ideas, he explains. "I'm coming out, hopefully this summer, and that we can walk across the Hanford site together. . . " 

"Well, you can't walk across it," she interrupts. "It's. Really. Big."

"Yes ma'am," Perry says, with a smile. "I'll attempt to travel it however you choose. But the point is, I'd like to come out there with you, and we can talk about the cost, and are we getting a good return on our dollars."

Everybody's concerned about costs, she replies. "But this is a nuclear waste site. You can't just throw out legal decrees that are there."

Their five-minute exchange is below.

By the way, for those three departments Perry once wanted to eliminate, it's always interesting to remember the one he forgot during a debate.




The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.