Sen. Murray predicts smoother sailing for budget talks

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SEATTLE — Congress barely avoided a debt default at the 11th hour earlier this month, but many worry that the country will relive that same turmoil when the next fiscal deadlines hit early next year.

The recent deal specifically calls for the heads of the Senate and House budget committees, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to hammer out a compromise spending plan by mid-December, right before the country faces yet another possible shutdown and default.

Patty Murray, Female Senators Hold News Conf. On Planned Parenthood AmendmentThat’s exactly what Congress has been unable to do for several years now.  But this time is different, according to Murray, with the chances of success much better.

First, she argues, Republicans will be more willing to negotiate now since they suffered so much in the polls from the 16-day government shutdown. And, second, she said, is because both parties, but Republicans especially, will want to avoid the next round of harsh sequestration cuts, which start in January.

“The vast majority of the next sequestration cuts come from defense,” Murray said.  “I do believe the Republicans this time are much more willing to come to the table to find a replacement for that.”

But so far, at least, Republicans aren’t budging on their strong support of the automatic sequestration cuts, which they argue have been the only way to control spending.

“Washington actually can cut spending,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “Because of this law, that’s just what we’ve done. For the first time since the Korean War, government spending has declined for two years.”

Perhaps the next showdown can be avoided if Murray and Ryan can find some kind of personal connection and level of trust.

“He’s actually a very personable guy,” Murray said.  “He and I have met numerous times in a lot of different ways.”

Murray said they both recognize the importance of their positions as the chairs of their respective budget committees.

“We knew at the end of the day we were going to be in this position at some point, where we had to work something out together,” Murray said.

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