Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that she expects Republicans seeking to curb President Barack Obama’s health-care law probably will give in to demands by her fellow Democrats to enact a “clean” bill raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with the chairman of the Senate Budget committee, Senator Patty Murray of Washington. Thank you for being with us, Madam Chairman.
PATTY MURRAY: It’s great to be with you, Al.
HUNT: Do you agree now with the potential showdown 10 days away that the real big fight is not likely to be over the continuing resolution, the budget, but you’ll probably do something short-term on that?
MURRAY: Well, I’ve been surprised at the ballyhoo about a short-term budget agreement, to just keep government running while we deal with the bigger issue of where we’re going to go in the future. And I’m hopeful that those people who feel they have to have a temper tantrum before they do it will get over that very quickly and we can move on, because it is important that we address our budget challenges in the coming year and years as quickly as possible.
HUNT: But you don’t think you’re going to do that in the next 10 days? I mean, there will be some sort of short-term resolution, and then you come back to that?
MURRAY: I think it’s critically important that we have a short-term resolution and keep government running. However, we’re not going to take hostages in this. The Republicans have gone to their temper tantrum -
HUNT: Right, there’s not going to be Obamacare on this.
MURRAY: - on Obamacare. No. There’s not going to be a repeal of a law that many, many people are having the advantage to be able to participate within.
HUNT: You know, on both the deficit commission and as the chairman of the Budget Committee, you’ve probably dealt with more House Republicans than almost any other Senate Democrat. What do you think is their endgame here?
MURRAY: Well, it’s changing. I think there are those Republicans in the House and Senate who very much want to work with us to find a solution to our budget challenges, both the budget deficit and debt that we carry, but also our debt and deficit that we carry in transportation and education and policy and how we can make sure our country is strong in the future.
The Republicans’ initial reason for not doing anything is they wanted to make sure that we had strong policies in place in terms of health care spending and those kinds of things. They’ve now changed completely, and they are saying the only way they will raise the debt ceiling, the only way they’ll do a continuing resolution, the only way that they’ll do any kind of budget framework going forward is to repeal a law that is already in place that’s been upheld by the Supreme Court and is helping millions of Americans.
HUNT: And that’s not going to happen.
MURRAY: No, it is not going to happen.
HUNT: And Speaker Boehner now says the whale of a debate - as he puts it - really is not going to happen on the C.R., but over increasing the debt ceiling. The Republicans argue that they have - they’re on stronger grounds here. They cite a Wall Street Journal-NBC poll that show by 2 to 1, Americans say they oppose increasing the debt ceiling.
MURRAY: Well, how is it strong ground that you’re going to grind the government to a halt and really ruin our economy? We’ve been through this before, and our credit was downgraded. Wall Street was devastated by our inaction, inability to raise the debt ceiling to pay our bills. How is it good for our economy to do that? I do not understand the rhetoric around the debt limit.
HUNT: So what do you see ensuing here? I mean, if they’re going to focus on that - the president says he won’t negotiate on the debt ceiling.
MURRAY: That’s right. He won’t.
HUNT: But he did last time. He did it in 2011.
MURRAY: I think he has before, but he is not going to repeal Obamacare to - you know -
HUNT: OK, but that’s different from not negotiating. Suppose they come in and say, all right, instead of - we’ll drop, you know - we’ll drop that. What we want is those entitlement cuts the president has already proposed, means testing and CPI. You know, if you do that, we’ll then do something on -
MURRAY: Well, they haven’t said that. But I will tell you this, that we have to be very careful what we do with the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling - sure, if you ask the public, they - they don’t want us to vote to raise the debt ceiling. It doesn’t sound good.
But what it’s basically saying is, we’re going to pay our bills as a country. The downside of not paying our bills is our credit rating tanks. That affects every family, every business, every community. It affects Main Street. It affects Wall Street. It affects our ability to have jobs and security.
The one thing the American people are saying today stronger than they ever have is, please, we’re just starting to get out of this. Don’t send us into chaos again.
So to me, having the Republicans say with the debt ceiling that they’re going to play with fire and threaten to shut down over hostage-taking, whatever it is, is wrong for today, but it’s also wrong for tomorrow. Every time we’re going to pay our bills, every time we’re going to do the responsible thing in our economy going forward, we’re going to attach whatever popular issue is out there to it?
HUNT: But if they don’t do the continuing resolution - we sort of agree they’re likely to agree to a short-term, non-Obamacare -
MURRAY: I certainly hope so.
HUNT: So what happens in the days to come? They’re going to - you know, with their - with their - with their base -
MURRAY: I am confident that they will come together with some mishmash policy of everything in the bag they’ve ever promised to the Tea Party, attach it to the debt ceiling, and try and send it over. Now, they haven’t been able to get the votes for anything yet -
HUNT: And when they do that -
MURRAY: - but we’ll see.
HUNT: When they do that, what’ll happen?
MURRAY: What will happen is that the Senate Democrats will say we are going to pass a clean debt ceiling. We have a responsibility as people who’ve been elected to govern to do the right thing.
HUNT: So no deals on the debt ceiling?
MURRAY: I see no deals on the debt ceiling.
HUNT: OK. So eventually Republicans are going to have to capitulate.
MURRAY: They did last time.
HUNT: Right. Let me turn to another subject, and that’s the Federal Reserve, which this week voted not to tighten its - its policies and to really continue to try to foster economic growth. Was that a good decision?
MURRAY: Well, I think Bernanke sees what I see right now. Our economy is starting to get stable again, but there’s a lot of uncertainty around it, much of it in Congress and the Tea Party controlling the Republican Party right now and threatening us with every shutdown they can think of, and I think that kind of uncertainty is what he’s responding to, and rightfully.
HUNT: So how do you feel that the Fed - would you give the Fed a good grade as to how they’re performing these days?
MURRAY: I think that Ben Bernanke is doing a good job, and I think he recognizes what’s happening in our economy and what’s happening in our country and doing the best he can to bring stability.
HUNT: You have been a supporter of Janet Yellen to succeed Ben Bernanke. You’ve said it would be a great choice and -
MURRAY: It would be an historic choice.
HUNT: - and historic, the first chairman - the first woman chairman of the Federal Reserve. Now that the other leading contender, Larry Summers, has dropped out, wouldn’t it really be a slap if the president didn’t pick Janet Yellen?
MURRAY: Well, let’s be clear. The president makes the choice. We don’t.
MURRAY: And I am hopeful that he does consider strongly Janet Yellen. I think she is a very good voice. She’s very experienced. She certainly understands that we need to create jobs, the kind of economic climate that brings stability to families in my home state and across the country. And, again, she’d be an historic choice, and I think it would be great.
HUNT: And, Madam Chairman, do you think he will?
MURRAY: Well, I’m not in his head.
HUNT: Now, I know he makes - but you have an instinct for these things and you see the way things are and you know, you know, the way the Senate is. Do you think Yellen is likely to be the next chairman of the Fed?
MURRAY: I think there’s a very good chance. I’m certainly hoping so.
HUNT: OK. You know, talking about Larry Summers, you look at that, and there was a lot of Democratic opposition to Larry Summers in the Senate. You look at the New York mayor’s race. You look at Bill Daley dropping out of the Illinois gubernatorial contest. Is there a populist anti-Wall Street fever growing in the Democratic Party?
MURRAY: I would not characterize it that way.
MURRAY: What I see growing is a concern about the income disparity that has really left a lot of Americans without the ability to be confident that their child will be able to go to college or get a good job or be able to be somebody that can live on their own and not return home 20 times after they leave your house after they graduate.
HUNT: But isn’t some of that - that that hasn’t occurred as much as you’d like for most of those people, whereas Wall Street has made out, you know, great?
MURRAY: Well, I think there is an income disparity. That is very real. And we need to look at the policies that we have in place today to address that.
Certainly, having good jobs, Wall Street provides them in many ways, but we also have a lot of small businesses, we also have a lot of other things we need to do, and that’s part of what we, I think, as America are - is really saying across the board today. We want a chance, too.
HUNT: Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, thank you very much for being with us today.
MURRAY: You bet.
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