Supercommittee Co-Chief Murray Under Fire as Deficit Talks Begin

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Washington Sen. Patty Murray, who was picked by Majority Leader Harry Reid to co-chair the deficit-reduction supercommittee, is taking criticism from both sides of the political aisle.

Considered an outsider when she was elected to the Senate in 1992 running as a "mom in tennis shoes," Murray has become a powerful insider.

Put another way, "She's been a shill for the Democratic line," said Washington State Republican Party Chairman Kirby Wilbur.

"She won't cut spending on her own," Wilbur claimed.

With the committee starting its work Thursday, Murray said critics need to step back and let the committee do its job -- which is to cut $1.5 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years. "Give this committee and everybody on it a little space," Murray said. "We all understand the seriousness of the task we have been given."

Many Democrats defend the choice of Murray to co-chair the committee. She has gained valuable experience as a senior member of the budget and appropriations committees. But critics say she may be too beholden to special interests to make the tough choices.

Craig Holman, of the left-leaning group Public Citizen, signed a letter along with and others asking Murray to step down from her position as chief fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. As the DSCC chairwoman, Murray has helped raise more than $26 million this year for fellow Democrats in the Senate.

"On one hand she wants to bring in as much money as she can from the very wealthy special interests," Holman said. "On the other hand she's supposed to be cutting the budget or raising revenues from those special interests."

Other groups have questioned whether Murray will be willing to cut military spending as they hope. She is chairwoman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee and is an unabashed supporter of Boeing from her home state. According to, Boeing ranks second behind only Lockheed Martin in Defense Department contracts. Last year, the company received $23 billion in defense spending accounting for 80 percent of its revenue. Boeing is also consistently among the top five donors to Murray's campaigns.

Murray makes no apologies for her support of Boeing and refuses to step down from her position as DSCC chairwoman. "I am a woman, I am a former preschool teacher, I'm a mom," Murray said. "I know how to multitask, and I know how to step up to challenges."

The Washington state Democrat is by no means the only member appointed to the debt committee taking heat. Her counterpart, Texas Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling, is widely seen as being House Speaker John Boehner's conduit to the committee while Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., is said to be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's eyes and ears. Some fear party loyalty will rule the day and the debt committee will break down into the same gridlock that marked the debt-ceiling debate.

"All 12 members of that committee are well known for their allegiances to the party," Holman said. "This is not a committee that has a single maverick on it."