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Groups press Murray for "listening session" on debt committee work
Posted by Jim Brunner
Update: 7:45 p.m. Added comment from Murray spokesman
A coalition that includes many important Democratic Party backers is asking Sen. Patty Murray for a public "listening session" about her role on the debt-reduction "super committee."
The groups, representing low-income, medical, labor and senior-citizen advocates, say they want Murray to hold a public session to hear their concerns about the future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, according to a copy of their letter obtained by The Seattle Times.
"We invite Senator Murray to come listen to stories of constituents who care deeply about the fate of our country and these programs. We want to support the Senator's efforts by providing her with the stories and voices of workers and community members who need to be heard," said the letter sent to Murray's office today.
Noting Murray "has long been a champion for middle-class and low-income families" the letter says the groups "are confident that Senator Murray can be a strong leader by raising up the stories of everyday people from across our state and nation... whose quality of life relies on keeping the promises we've made to our grandparents, our kids, and the most vulnerable."
They want the public event take place during the Senate's September recess, between Sept. 24 and Oct. 2.
The request could put Murray in a bind. The state's senior Democratic senator has avoided open Town Hall-type events in recent years, favoring meetings with smaller groups in controlled settings.
In recent days, Murray has been under pressure over her role on the debt committee, with critics arguing it conflicts with her dual role as the chief fundraiser for the Senate Democrats. Conservative critics argue she has no track record of cutting spending.
Meanwhile, more liberal groups have worried Murray and other Democrats on the committee won't stand firm on protecting Social Security, Medicaid and other longstanding poverty-fighting programs.
Murray has pleaded with critics to avoid drawing lines in the sand and give the committee time to do its work.
No word yet on whether the groups will get their public meeting.
Murray spokesman Matt McAlvanah emailed a statement Tuesday night, saying Murray "is committed to listening to the ideas and thoughts of Washington state constituents and making sure they have a voice at the table. All event and meeting requests will be considered based on scheduling and with the demands of the critical task in mind."
One important caveat about this effort: It's not at all clear that the event envisioned by the group would truly be an open public forum. Would it, for example, be hospitable to organizations and individuals who think the super committee should cut entitlement spending and avoid tax increases at all costs?
Among the dozens of groups signing the letter are the Washington State Labor Council, the Washington Community Action Network, the Washington State Medical Association and AARP Washington.
Joshua Welter, director of the Main Street Alliance of Washington, said the groups felt that given the major decisions ahead for the super committee, its work should including "listening to every day folks" about the importance of the social programs that have aided the poor and middle class for decades.
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