US Senator Patty Murray made her budget priorities clear at a Seattle food bank on Wednesday: She wants to preserve federal programs that affect the poor, such as Head Start, federal housing assistance and food stamps.
“I know working families have borne the brunt of the economic impacts of the last four or five years, and I want to make sure we are thinking about you and people like you going forward,” Murray said at the Jewish Family Service of Seattle.
Murray, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, heads into budget negotiations next week with her counterpart in the House of Representatives, US Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican. The two are charged with working out a budget deal before a Dec. 13 deadline. If they fail, a second round of sequestration cuts could go into effect.
Three previous attempts at reaching a budget compromise have failed, including the so-called “super committee” that Murray co-chaired. Republicans and Democrats have been far apart on a number of issues, including cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare and raising taxes.
But this time, Murray insisted, the prolonged government shutdown has changed the political atmosphere in the capital.
“This country has seen what happens when we govern by crisis so I am hopeful that will help us find a resolution,” Murray said.
There is one more motivator, Murray said. If negotiators fail to reach an agreement, the next round of sequestration cuts goes into effect, and they will be more onerous than the first.
Murray had praise for Congressman Ryan, who she called a “very personable guy.” But she said the "jury is still out" on what whether he is capable of making a deal with Senate Democrats.
"There is, in my mind, a curiosity about whether Paul Ryan can come to the table and be a negotiator, or whether Paul Ryan is going to be the guy who can go to his caucus and say, ‘I can be as conservative as anybody else here,’” Murray said. “He is going to have to decide.”