Murray, the No. 4 Democrat in leadership, made no promises Democrats would pass a budget with her at the helm, but she said she’s never turned down a job because it was too tough. “We are deep in discussion about what we need to do from now until the end of the year. That will totally determine our path forward. As I’ve said repeatedly, we’ve got to have a balanced approach. This election was about that: Our president ran on it, our numerous Senate candidates said those at the top need to contribute to this,” said Murray, a close ally to Reid and President Barack Obama. “If we can get Republicans to quit protecting the wealthy in order to move forward and solve that, then I think we are on a path to be able to make the decisions we need to do and move towards a budget.”
Memo to Patty Murray: You know what's legally required and not "tough" at all? Passing a budget in the Senate. Especially when you have 55 votes in your caucus. Here's how the basics work, since it's been awhile (just shy of 1300 days, in fact):
Step one, draft a budget in committee.
Step two, mark up the budget in committee.
Step three, vote on the proposal in committee.
Step four (after you advance it, generally along party lines), debate the budget.
Step six (after the speeches through and amendments are offered), vote on the budget.
Step seven, pass the budget with at least 51 votes -- only a simple majority is needed; filibusters do not apply.
Go ahead and re-read that last point, which puts the lie to Murray's empty prattling about the GOP "protecting the wealthy," or whatever. Even if Senate Republicans were nothing more than a band of cackling, greedy robber barons trying to protect their ill-gotten fortunes, they could do absolutely nothing to prevent Senate Democrats from introducing and passing a budget out of the upper chamber. Nothing. The budget committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions, released a statement attempting to prod his new Democratic counterpart into doing her job:
“I am eager to work with our new Chairman and congratulate her on taking the gavel. I hope to work with Senator Murray to find common ground. The Budget Committee has one central purpose and the Chair has one central legal obligation: the drafting, amending, and adoption of a budget plan. Why would Senator Reid even assign members to the Committee if they have no intention of producing a plan? The Senate majority shirked this legal duty for three straight years and it is unthinkable that it would go a fourth straight year without offering a proposal as the law requires. The majority’s refusal to do any budget work has brought us to the edge of a fiscal cliff and deepened the threat of a future debt crisis. The Senate is supposed to be the world’s great deliberative body and, when it comes to our finances, the Budget Committee is where that process begins. Enough secret meetings and last-minute backroom deals. The Budget Committee should do its job, as the law requires, in the full, open, and public light of day. I hope Senator Murray will make that commitment.”
He's entirely correct, of course, but would a fourth budget-less year really be "unthinkable" at this point? Harry Reid's Democrats have ignored their legal and fiduciary obligation to offer budgets for three years running, and have paid zero political price. Sure, it's totally reckless, especially in light of our growing challenges at home and neon warning signs abroad, but why worry about the future when there are horrible Republicans to defeat today? And why bother crafting a budget blueprint for the nation when there are more pressing priorities to pursue, such as changing the Senate rules to limit the tools available to the minority party? Over the next four months, the country will face a fiscal cliff, the expiration of the latest "continuing resolution" (which temporarily funds the government), and yet another debt limit threshold. All of these government-created crises are directly related to Washington's inability to lay out a sustainable plan for spending, taxation, and deficit reduction. In Senate Democrats' case, "inability" is the wrong word. "Refusal" is more appropriate.
Finally, Murray's elevation to this critical position is discouraging, not just because she's a liberal partisan (which is a given), but because there's a general sense that she may -- shall we say -- lack a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to demonstrating the basic capacity to handle this job. At the risk of of perpetuating the "war on women," click through to get an idea of this particular Senator's reputation inside the Beltway. Yes, that links to an Ann Coulter column, but Democrats will euphemistically deliver the same basic verdict in private. I'll leave you with two quotes. The first comes from a fellow Democrat describing Murray after she was first elected. The second comes from Murray herself, in the wake of 9/11:
(1) One of Murray’s Democratic colleagues in the state senate told The Seattle Times in 1992: “She just doesn’t strike you as somebody who’s been reading The New York Times every day for the past five years.”(2) “[Osama bin Laden] has been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities, building health-care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. He’s made their lives better.”
This is Harry Reid's answer to Paul Ryan, folks. But hey, at least she was co-chair of the famously successful "Super Committee" last year.