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Originally published Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 3:54 PM

Sen. Patty Murray's deficit-panel duty: compromise, leadership

The Seattle Times editorial board congratulates Sen. Patty Murray for being named to the deficit-reduction committee and warns her supporters that she cannot immunize them from cuts.

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THE people of Washington should be pleased that their senior senator, Patty Murray, is one of the 12 out of 535 members of Congress named to the deficit-reduction panel. Of the first nine members named, she is the only one from the West Coast.

Murray's career has not been that of a deficit hawk. In the tradition of Warren Magnuson, she is known for getting federal money for her home state. She has also been a champion of social programs, and though she voted against the war with Iraq, she has voted for the money for that, too.

Now her job is to negotiate a trillion-dollar package of cuts.

She is a partisan Democrat. She heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which aims to unseat Republicans. Now her job is to make a deal with them.

If the two jobs conflict, Murray has to do one at a time. Over almost 20 years, she has worked her way into leadership, and this is what leadership involves.

Some Democratic groups are already urging Murray to block any cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. She cannot promise this, and it is unfair to ask it of her.

She will have to cut some of the things she loves. The committee's goal is to reach $1.5 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years, and she has to help do it.

Nothing is off the table. The Republicans cannot pull the military off the table and the Democrats cannot immunize the social programs. That is clear from the committee's equal political balance.

But this does not mean that any essential function of government need be gutted. Trillions are giant amounts, but spread over 10 years, $1.5 trillion is not that big.

This is doable. We have seen it done on the state level and it can be done on the federal level.

Congress may have to go through this exercise more than once, because the debt-ceiling deal solves only part of the problem. This may be the first of several deficit-reduction committees over the next few years.

It is important that it succeed.

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