Murray demands sequester replacement in budget conference

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) vowed Tuesday to work for middle class families during the budget conference committee process by fully replacing sequestration.

“Something both Democrats and Republicans agree on is that the very least, this budget conference should be able to accomplish — the absolute minimum — is finding a path to replacing sequestration,” Murray said on the Senate floor. “So the question is not whether we should replace the across-the-board-cuts, but how.”

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The Senate Budget Committee chairwoman and her House counterpart Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are attempting to negotiate the differences between the House and Senate passed budgets. Their conference meetings started last week.

The formation of the budget conference committee was part of a short-term fiscal deal to reopen the government and avert default. Conferees have until Dec. 13 to report a budget compromise to both chambers.

Conferees have their work cut out for them with major differences between the House and Senate budgets — a $90 billion spending difference in 2014 alone. 

Senate Democrats replaced sequestration with an equal amount of targeted spending cuts and new revenue from tax increases on the wealthy and corporations. Democrats also called for increased spending on infrastructure, education and job training.

House Republicans kept sequestration, but restored defense spending with cuts to entitlements and other social programs. Ryan’s budget also reduced taxes for the wealthy and balanced the budget in 10 years. Some Democrats accused Ryan of “balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable.”

Murray said she was ready to compromise but that she needed Republicans to come to the table because she can’t negotiate with herself.

“I’m willing to compromise,” Murray said. “As long as their proposals are fair for seniors and families, I’m prepared to make some tough concessions to get a deal. But I can’t negotiate by myself. Compromise needs to run both ways.”