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Sen. Murray: Bipartisan budget is ‘pathway for the future’ for divided Congress

As chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., worked to draft the bipartisan budget agreement with Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Judy Woodruff talks to Murray about how the budget deal will help Congress tackle tougher issues ahead and bring certainty back to the U.S. economy.

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    We take a second look at the budget deal working its way through Congress with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray.

    She served as the lead negotiator on behalf of Democrats in reaching an agreement.

    Senator Murray, thank you for joining us.

    Americans have spent the last few years watching nothing but gridlock and fighting in Washington. Why should they believe this — this budget is a good deal or even that it matters?


    Because the budget agreement that Chairman Ryan and I have put together brings certainty to the American people, their families, our businesses, and our economy for the next two years.

    It says that we agree on what our budget numbers are. We have replaced some of the damaging consequences of sequester that were hurting our economy and hurting families. And we do a really good step forward in reaching a bipartisan agreement in a divided country. I think that is a really important step forward for our nation's finances, but also for our nation's trust of this democracy.


    Well, we know there were a number of things that members of your own party, the Democrats, wanted in this agreement. Among other things, they wanted there to be extended insurance for the long-term unemployed, 1.3 million people who have been out of work. How hard was it for to you accept a deal that didn't include that?


    Well, when Congressman Ryan and I began work on the budget, the extension of the unemployment insurance wasn't expected to be part of our budget agreement.

    But, because we are now at the year's end with very little time left, we had hoped at the end of the time to add it to it. We were not able to do that. That's something I wanted to do. It's something I believe we will do. The leader of the Senate has told us that we will take that up very quickly, as soon as we get back, right after the 1st of the year and try and pass that bill. I strongly support that.


    And, as I understand it, the bill also extends cuts to Medicare providers for an additional two years. How comfortable are you with that?


    Well, this is an agreement that Congressman Ryan and I came together on.

    There are parts of it that I am not happy about. There's parts he's not happy about. But that's what compromises take. It takes all of us swallowing hard in a tough economy. When we want to get people back to work and we want to bring certainty and we want to show that a democracy can work, sometimes, you have to say OK to things you don't really like. That's what this agreement is about. But that's how we have to put agreements together today.


    I hear you. At the same time, given how hard it was — and forgive the siren there — given how hard it was, Senator, to put this smaller deal together, do you really believe that it's possible to do a much bigger deal that addresses the main drivers of the deficit, addresses things like tax reform?


    You know, Judy, that's actually a discussion that Congressman Ryan and I started out with when we were first give this task to find an agreement.

    Both of us agreed that our Congress was broken, that it was — we were unable to find agreement anywhere. And one of the things we needed to show is that we can find agreement. And if we took off the big issues right now and focused on what we could agree on today, we would show and bring back respect and trust of each other, so that we can deal with the bigger problems, whether it's tax reform or entitlements, or whether it's immigration reform, or whether it's the farm bill, or any of the challenges we have.

    We needed to reestablish the trust in ourselves, in Congress, but also reestablish the trust to the American people that we can do the job we were sent here to do.


    And yet…


    That's what we hope this agreement provides, is a pathway for the future.


    And yet we're watching a tremendous amount of backlash against Congressman Ryan in particular among conservatives in his party. Some of them, they're not only criticizing him. Some of them are calling him the equivalent of a traitor.

    Does that spell a good climate for reaching a bigger agreement in the future, do you think?


    Well, first of all, the House is passing their budget right now with a very strong majority of Republicans and Democrats. I think that gives everybody the backing to recognize that you don't have to kill the negotiator. You don't have to kill compromise, that, in this country, that if you support something that moves us forward, regardless of that you may not like some of it, you may not love it, but it moves us forward, is exactly how a divided Congress is supposed to work.

    I hope the credence of that allows us to get the larger issues we need to face.


    And, in fact, we can report, Senator, that the House has passed the budget overwhelmingly. We don't have the final numbers yet. But we know that it's passed.

    Tell us how hard it was, or was it, for you and Congressman Ryan, who come from very different ends of the ideological political spectrum, to come to trust each other.


    Well, I think we both came into the negotiating room with the same sense of frustration, that our country was broken, our democracy was broken, something we both believe in, which is the legislative process, was broken, and we had an opportunity to heal that.

    And as we worked through this negotiation on the tough days, when we were really saying how are we going to get past some issues, we reminded ourselves of that. And that allowed us to make some tough decisions and get to where we are today.


    How did you — but how did you come to trust one another?


    Well, Congressman Ryan and I come from very different political spectrums.

    And we both agreed at the beginning that we could sit in a room and debate the hot political topics of the day, or we could set those aside and find out where we agree. We started out having breakfast many months ago here in the Congress to talk about our families and what motivated us and what we cared about. We have spent time jabbing each other on our football teams and our fishing expertise and have learned, you know, to trust and respect each other.

    I don't agree with Congressman Ryan on everything, but I do respect him for what he believes in. And I think he would say the same for me.


    And you — and do you think this is a model for future — for Congress to be able to come together on other tough issues like immigration, like — go ahead.



    This is a model for how a democracy works when you have a divided government. You find people that you can trust. You set aside the hot issues and you find common ground. That's what our framers expected when they set this up.

    You come to Congress, you fight for what you believe in, but at the end of the day, you have to make this country work. That's what leaders are supposed to do. That's what Congress is supposed to do. And I think that's what this budget agreement is trying to set an example for.


    But that wasn't happening before this.


    No. We have spent too much — too much time in our own corners screaming at each other. That is part of the political process. I get that. It is part of what you do, is fight for what you believe in when you come here.

    But, at the end of the day, when you are elected, you are elected to find common ground and to find a way to move forward, whether you are in a divided government or not. And that's where we are right now. And that's what we have to work with, and that's how we have to move forward.


    Senator Patty Murray, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, we thank you.



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