By Gwen Fishel
A prominent Senate Democrat blamed Republicans Monday for Congress’ inability to pass a meaningful deficit reduction plan.
In a speech at the Brookings Institution, a liberal Washington think tank, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said GOP lawmakers spoiled negotiations last year by refusing to go along with a plan that included raising taxes.
“There were times when I thought we were close,” she said. “But looking back at the offers from each side that represented the greatest attempts at compromise—it’s clear that while we were close on the spending side, Republicans hadn’t even left their corner when it came to revenue.”
Murray co-chaired the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, a byproduct of the agreement lawmakers reached last summer on raising the nation’s debt limit. The job of the twelve-member committee was to pass a plan to slice the deficit by over $1 trillion, or otherwise risk triggering a series of automatic spending cuts in that amount. The equally bi-partisan committee eventually failed to strike a deal, and disbanded, triggering the so-called “sequester,” which is slated to go into effect in January of 2013.
Lawmakers on both sides are currently struggling with ways in which to prevent the sequester, with Republicans concerned about the $500 billion or so worth of defense cuts, and Democrats generally opposed to the other $500 billion in non-defense cuts.
Murray also focused on the looming expiration of the Bush/Obama tax cuts, announcing that Democrats are prepared to block GOP attempts to extend current tax rates for all taxpayers.
“If we can’t get a good deal, a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013 rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle class families under the bus,” she said.
That statement seemed to suggest that Murray and other Democrats would be comfortable with allowing the tax cuts to sunset, even for those earning $250,000 or less per year.
“On January 1st, if we have not gotten a deal, Grover Norquist and his pledge are no longer relevant to this conversation,” she said, referring to Norquist’s no-tax pledge that many congressional Republicans have signed. “If the Bush tax cuts expire, every proposal will be a tax cut proposal.”