Murray on stage

Murray
Patty Murray

There was some implication – maybe more than that – in the last Senate contest in Washington, that the state’s senior senator, Patty Murray, was something of a lightweight. You could make a clear argument to the contrary (she was, after all, a member of majority leadership), but there was also some resonance to it. How exactly is she really a national figure? What major initiatives would you attach to her?

That characterization, at least, is now done, with Murray’s appointment as co-leader of the congressional “super committee” on the federal deficit. For the next few months a hard spotlight will shine on it, and Murray will be one of its most visible figures.

There’s some real challenge here – the difficulty of actually getting an acceptable fiscal product. And maybe the bigotry of low expectations too; how many people really expect a meaningful result? On the other hand: If she and the others on the panel actually do succeed, they will have blown past expectations and struck a blow for the idea that maybe, possibly, Congress can function.

In one respect, that would have unusual resonance for Murray, since she also is head of the Democratic Senate campaign committee – in charge of holding and adding Democrats in the Senate, technically making her the chief Democratic partisan in the Senate. In that role, she has blasted Republicans; on this committee, her job would be to try to find common cause with them. (Not easy this year under the best of circumstances.)

There was this in the New York Times:

“Her selection to lead the new panel raised eyebrows among some Republicans because she is also chairwoman of the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In that role, Mrs. Murray recently assailed Republican candidates, saying they wanted to “end Medicare as we know it’’ and “turn it into a voucher program run by for-profit insurance companies in order to pay for more giveaways to oil companies and the very rich.’’”

No holding of breath here waiting for the middle-ground compromise. But stranger things do happen …

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