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caption: Patty Murray in the KUOW studios on January 5, 2016.
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Patty Murray in the KUOW studios on January 5, 2016.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Patty Murray frustrated with U.S. Senate leadership, but hopeful for action

The United States Congress returns from its summer recess soon. Members left Washington, D.C. in August with major national issues still unresolved.

Senator Patty Murray is the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees. We spoke with her for a look at the coming session.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

There was some criticism of Congress taking the break without reaching a deal on a Covid relief package. That $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits that ran out at the end of July seemed to be one of the main sticking points. It has expired, people are struggling. What is it going to take to get this bill to pass?

It's going to take leadership on Mitch McConnell's part to actually participate in the discussions. He needs to bring the majority votes and the leadership to move this in the Senate. That leadership is really lacking right now, and so frustrating to me. I do not understand why he, as the leader of the Senate, won’t bring his caucus together and move us to a package.

There are a lot of needs out there. I know that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer pushed hard for a relief package. The House passed a relief package way back, several months ago, that addressed much of the needs, and people are waiting.

I'm hopeful that public pressure on the Senate Republicans, and Mitch McConnell in particular, will bring him to the table, because our communities are hurting, people are hurting. Having testing, having personal protective equipment, helping us support our schools, making sure our state and local governments have the funds they need, is absolutely critical.

You are proposing $50 billion in a stabilization fund for child care. What kind of response are you getting from your Republican colleagues on this?

Some have expressed interest. We will see whether that is followed by leadership in votes. I hope that it is. You know, we've had a child care crisis in this country for decades. The coronavirus has really exposed the underbelly of a system that is crumbling. If we want people to go back to work, and we want our economy to improve, and we want it to be stable, we have to deal with this child care issue.

Interestingly enough, I don't care who I talk to-- I don't care if I am talking to community leaders or businesses, or people who are worried about our funding for education-- everybody brings up the issue of child care. This is a huge crisis in our country, and we've got to step up and deal with this. I am hoping the one good thing that comes out of this pandemic and our response to it is a bipartisan effort to finally deal with this issue.

You signed a letter last week that was generated by the Washington State House members, demanding answers from the Postmaster General on disabling high-speed mail sorting machines, that are seen as critical and handling large volumes of Christmas mail, and also election ballots.

Now, the chair of the House Oversight Committee says she is going to subpoena Louis DeJoy. What do you most want him to answer?

Look, it's not just me. Every person in this country deserves an answer about what he is doing to make it difficult for mail delivery. The election part of this is absolutely critical. But I have overwhelmingly heard from people in urban, suburban and rural communities who rely on the mail, particularly today, during a pandemic, when people are doing a lot of buying their goods through the mail service, for example. People rely on it for prescriptions, medication, across the board.

This is a critical service for our country, and it is absolutely the wrong time for this administration to use it as a political weapon that has impacts way past the elections and around the elections, but also for the elections and the security of this country. We need answers and we need our postal service to be able to provide the services we all count on.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.