Originally published Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 4:09 PM

Sen. Murray must balance all needs on supercommittee

The Seattle Times editorial board advises Sen. Patty Murray to continue to tell her supporters that on the deficit-reduction supercommittee, no program can be exempted from the discussions.

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SEN. Patty Murray has set the right tone regarding her appointment to the deficit-cutting "supercommittee."

Our Democratic U.S. senator has said she is there to find "common values" with the two other Democratic and three Republican senators and the six House members, similarly divided. To supporters as well as opponents she said, "I hope none of us draw lines in the sand before we even have an opportunity to sit down."

The line-drawing has begun. The Washington State Labor Council, the Washington Community Action Network, the Washington State Medical Association, AARP Washington and other Democrat-oriented groups are pressing Murray for a "listening session" about the importance of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

Murray supports those programs. She knows how important they are. But a public "listening session," called at this time by these groups, feels more like an exercise to paint our senior senator into a corner.

Pundits are already trying to do this to both sides, offering their partisan arithmetic. Liberals say the problem is the military and the Bush tax cuts. Conservatives say it is the increases in Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs.

Each argument is right in what it blames and wrong in what it exempts.

More than 40 percent of federal spending is from borrowed money, leaving a gap so huge that no big federal program can be blamed for the whole thing or be automatically exempted from the solution. In any case, the political division of America, reflected in the 6-6 division on the supercommittee, implies a compromise.

The supercommittee will have to take some of the agenda of both sides.

The adjustments cannot be equal. Medicaid serves the very poor and the not-quite-poor. Social Security involves people in their 70s and people in their 30s. Military spending involves defense of vital American interests and two distant foreign wars that ought to be ended. Taxes have unequal effects on job creation and involve differing abilities to pay.

Everything is on the table. Sen. Murray knows that and is setting the right tone. Her supporters need to accept it.


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