New Senate Dem budget chair: Don’t expect a budget anytime soon

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., will take over as Senate Budget Committee chairman, but she said raising taxes is a higher priority for her than passing what would be the first budget in four years.

“If we can get Republicans to quit protecting the wealthy in order to move forward and solve that, then I think we are on a path to be able to make the decisions we need to do and move towards a budget,” Murray told the Politico Huddle while revealing that she plans to take over the top spot on the Budget Committee. (To raise taxes before passing a budget would, perhaps, make the Democratic spending plans look less irresponsible as the tax hikes would lower the projected deficit caused by that spending.)

Huddle explained that “by announcing her intentions now, Murray is making it clear she wants to play a role in the bipartisan negotiations to solve the ‘fiscal cliff,’ the mix of tax hikes and spending cuts set to hit the country at the end of the year.”

Murray last effort at bipartisan negotiations ended badly: she led the Democratic half of the abortive Super Committee — the 12 senators who failed to develop a deficit reduction plan last year — and thus helped initiate the imminent sequestration and ‘fiscal cliff.’

Huddle said that Murray is determined to “bring a more compassionate approach to the budget process” than her predecessors (who haven’t even had a budget process in recent years.)

“I think what’s been lacking from our discussion for a long time is really that other part of what a Budget chair does, which is set the priorities for this country in terms of making sure we invest in the right places, in education, in job training, and to make sure we do a balanced approach moving forward,” she told Huddle, which distinguished her from the “numbers guy” who last held the Budget Committee gavel.

Murray’s policy objectives sound pretty different from those of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who serves as ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, who called for “a disciplined budget plan that creates confidence and prevents a debt crisis” in a statement this week.

Sessions also called for reforming the welfare programs that have expanded in recent years. “[U]nder the President’s proposal, total spending on federal welfare programs will grow another 30 percent by 2016—to approximately $1 trillion in federal spending and more than $350 billion in state contributions,” Sessions said. “Real entitlement reform requires welfare reform. A modest reduction in growth, along with improved standards and work requirements, can produce substantial savings and ensure resources are targeted to those in need. Welfare reform will also strengthen our immigration system and remove incentives for illegal immigration.”

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