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Murray: Senate will pass budget

Kip Hill Correspondent

WASHINGTON – Count Washington Sen. Patty Murray among those confident the U.S. Senate will pass a budget this spring.

The new Budget Committee chairwoman said Wednesday it’s time for her colleagues “to get to work,” acknowledging that the upper chamber has failed to approve a spending plan since 2009, but chastising Republican members of the GOP-controlled House for what she considers years of disruptive tactics.

“Republicans have time and again pulled budget negotiations out of the Budget Committees in ways that rattled the markets, hurt the economy, and increased uncertainty,” Murray said in prepared remarks. Murray, a Democrat from Seattle, served on the congressional budget “supercommittee” that convened in 2011 to address the growing deficit. That group ultimately failed to produce a bipartisan plan.

Murray’s comments came in the hours before the House approved a plan suspending the national debt ceiling through May 18 and put pocketbook pressure on the Senate by withholding congressional paychecks until a budget resolution is passed. Helping lead the no-budget-no-pay charge is U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican serving as House GOP Conference chairwoman.

Several top Senate Democrats have signaled their agreement with the plan, seeing it as a sign House Republicans have come to their senses after threatening default or a government shutdown to force consideration of spending cuts. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Rules and Administration Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Senate Democrats have every intention of passing a budget this year, but it will feature some tax hikes that might rub Republicans the wrong way.

“We’re going to do a budget this year, and it’s going to have revenues in it, and our Republican colleagues better get used to that fact,” Schumer said.

Murray echoed Schumer on Wednesday, saying Democrats would fight proposed cuts to programs such as Medicare in the House’s budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“We know that when our priorities are laid out next to Republicans’, the public stands with us,” Murray said in her statement.

The Pew Research Center tracks public opinion on priorities for federal spending reductions. Last summer, in its most recent poll numbers, Pew reported widespread unease regarding federal spending reductions. Just 12 percent of Americans reported a desire to cut federal spending on Medicare, compared with 40 percent who said benefits should increase. On college financial aid, 16 percent said spending should be cut, while 44 percent said the government wasn’t spending enough.

Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, presented a spending plan for 2013 that featured cuts to Medicare and Pell Grant programs.

Ranking Republican Budget Committee member Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama lauded his House counterparts for pushing the so-called “No Budget, No Pay” act and said the time is right for addressing irresponsible government spending.

“Our current path – that of Greece – is one of chronically high debt, unemployment, poverty and dependency,” Sessions said.

In a letter to Murray, Sessions expressed his colleagues’ willingness to work with Democrats in passing a budget and called for a resolution to be on the Senate floor for debate by mid-March.

Murray signaled Wednesday that Democrats would not be interested in deals that continue to delay tough budget decisions.

“Senate Democrats plan to move on a budget resolution regardless of whether the House rolls this issue into their short-term bill to increase the debt limit,” Murray said. The House did just that when it passed a three-month suspension of the debt ceiling Wednesday afternoon.

No Senate Budget Committee hearings had been scheduled as of Wednesday.

Kip Hill is a correspondent for The Spokesman-Review.
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