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Sen. Patty Murray looks to new leadership roles after reelection

caption: Murray prepares to be nominated as the first woman president pro tem Senate history
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Murray prepares to be nominated as the first woman president pro tem Senate history
Patty Murray

Sen. Patty Murray is among the longest-serving and highest-ranking U.S. senators. And this week, she announced she will step down as assistant Democratic leader.

Murray was nominated to become the first woman President Pro Tem in Senate history. That position would put her third in line for presidential succession. She will also pursue the top seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

KUOW’s Paige Browning talked to Murray about her leadership plans and priorities.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Paige Browning: Senator, why is this the right move for you?

Sen. Patty Murray: It's a real honor for me to serve in the position of President Pro Tem. There’s a lot on our plate and I will have a prime seat to make sure that Washington’s state’s needs and my constituents' needs are taken care of.

You are in line to lead the Senate Appropriations Committee. What are your top priorities for the nation’s spending?

I’m looking to help working families. Things like child care, paid family leave, funding transportation, and lowering the cost of prescription drugs. I'm also not done passing the PREVENT Pandemics Act through this Congress. It’s a priority, so we have the tools and the abilities to make sure we never go through another pandemic like this.

How could the leadership role in the Senate Appropriations Committee advance funding priorities for Washington state?

I will be able to make sure we can do well with the funding priorities of our state, under the budget parameters. We always have local needs in our state for issues like wildfires and salmon. Funding Hanford is obviously really critical, too. That’s what I will be working on.

When you first ran for Senate, child care was a priority for you as well.

I was a lonely voice talking about that. Over the last several years, I’ve been pleased to see child care become a national conversation. People recognize it as an issue and we are going to make progress on this.

We saw the Senate passed protections for same-sex marriages this week. Could we see similar efforts by the senate to codify the right to abortion access?

I feel strongly about abortion access. We need 52 Democratic senators and a House Democratic caucus to pass this. We don’t have that, but that puts me in a really critical position in the next Congress to fight back when the House Republicans attack women’s rights. I’ll use my position in every way to personally be the blockade to all the crazy things they’re going to put out from the House.

Finally, Senator, you were once a freshman lawmaker and a mom stepping into Congress for the first time. How has the way you view your role changed?

It's actually exactly the same. I go to work every day. I think about the challenges families are facing, just like mine does. I want people to be able to do the best they can for their families. It can look like getting the education for the job they want, having the ability to take care of their kids, being able to afford the things that are important to them. I think about those challenges every day and come to work here in Washington, D.C., and try to solve problems.

For Thanksgiving, which Washington will you be spending it in this year?

I will be in the best Washington. That’s at home in Washington state.

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