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Murray Will Craft Budget as Head of Senate Panel

The new Senate Budget chairwoman, Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, announced Wednesday morning that her panel will proceed with a budget resolution, regardless of the outcome of a House vote on a measure that would attempt to force the chamber to do so.

The commitment to do a budget marks a shift in strategy for Democrats, who over the past three years have been disinclined to mark up a budget in committee or bring one to the floor. The lack of a budget, which is a non-binding legislative document, has been a top talking point for Republicans in Congress and has been brought to the forefront again this week with the House GOP leadership’s decision to proceed with a “no budget, no pay” measure to advance a short-term extension of the debt limit. In addition to extending the debt limit through mid-May, the measure would withhold lawmakers’ pay if their chamber does not pass a budget.

“This year, following the two years that the bipartisan Budget Control Act took the place of a Congressional Budget, the Senate will once again return to regular order and move a budget resolution through the Budget Committee and to the Senate floor. I’ve been discussing this path with my colleagues in the weeks since the year-end deal before I officially became chairman of this committee, and now that Congress is back in session, we are ready to get to work,” Murray said in a statement.

Although Murray initially indicated she was disinclined to craft a budget blueprint, she has long been committed to the idea of using her post as the head of the Budget Committee to underscore what she believes are Democratic ideals, especially when it comes to the social safety net.

She has not said so explicitly, but Murray seems to be setting herself up as a foil to former GOP vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan, who got special dispensation from leaders to keep his spot as chairman of the House Budget Committee. The Wisconsin Republican has taken a central role in the most recent budget debates, from being in the room with leaders during fiscal cliff talks to assuaging members now that a vote for a temporary debt limit extension is prioritizing the GOP’s long-term budget goals.

In her statement Wednesday, Murray made it clear she saw this longer term fight emerging.

“Democrats are eager to contrast our pro-growth, pro-middle class budget priorities with the House Republicans’ Ryan budget that would end Medicare as we know it, gut investments in jobs and programs middle class families depend on, and cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations. We know that when our priorities are laid out next to Republicans’, the public stands with us,” Murray’s statement said. “So if Republicans are truly interested in moving this debate back into the Budget Committees and back to regular order then they ought to actually deliver on that rhetoric. That means putting a stop to the debt limit hostage-taking, ending the constant brinkmanship, and truly engaging in an honest effort to work with us toward the balanced and bipartisan budget deal the American people expect and deserve.”

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