Murray keeps exceeding my expectations

I said it before, and I admit it was back in 2006, but I am beginning to appreciate U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

She spoke at a Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce luncheon the other day. She spoke for 45 minutes without notes, and she was courteous, even downright friendly to me, although I have nicked her numerous times.

She’s come a long way from the freshman state senator, the shy mom in tennis shoes who went to the other Washington in 1993 and was at first ignored by the rich and battle-seasoned women who were in that historic class.

Today she’s part of the leadership.

And the No. 1 issue we need to deal with today, said Sen. Murray, “is to make sure we take care of our veterans. We increased $3 billion over what the president asked for veterans care, to pay for counselors to process the claims, but it isn’t just money. We are losing people between the Department of Defense and when they get out.”

The economy is in a huge crisis, she said. The Transportation Appropriations Committee she chairs also deals with housing, she said, and she has ponied up $180 million for counselors to nonprofits and community agencies to help people facing increased interest rates they can’t afford if someone defaults on their mortgage.

And what about the 10 to 20 million illegal aliens in our country that none of the politicians seem to want to talk about?

Murray was a supporter of the blocked-from-a-vote-DREAM Act, which offered a path to legality to young illegals brought here before they were 16, but what about the rest?

“It’s a terribly difficult issue to deal with,” she said. “We have focused on securing our borders. Homeland Security is absolutely critical, but we have to make sure we can support the people we allow in. If we just pick them up, many industries will suffer that rely on them. If we just yank them out, apples will fall on the ground.”

She supported the 10-year process for a pathway to citizenship, Murray said, “where they have to learn English, pay taxes. That passed the Senate but not the House, (which considered it amnesty). The problem hasn’t gone away, and I hope we — both parties — can come up with an approach that works and not just yank people out.”

Gasoline prices? “There’s no simple solution,” she said. “Our nation needs infrastructure, highways, bridges, roads. There’s talk of raising the gas tax 45 cents a gallon, and there will be hearings these next few weeks.”

Health care? “The shortage of healthcare workers impacts the costs. A lot of seniors require physical therapy. They can’t get physical therapists.”

“When,” asked a man, “will our young men and women come home?”

“One of the biggest frustrations to me a year ago,” said Murray, “was that huge groundswell to bring them home. We said we will stand down when you stand up. We’ve filibustered year after year. I get a lot of e-mail saying ‘just cut off the funds.’ That’s the wrong thing to do. We got in the war and we made mistakes, but we have a lot of military equipment on the ground in Iraq. We are asking for a plan on how to bring the troops home. I hope we can elect a president who tells the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to produce a plan to bring the troops home.”

“What can the feds do to assist us in our crisis with the ferries?”

“I live on Whidbey Island,” said the senator. “I want to authorize federal transportation dollars for ferries as part of our infrastructure. I will do anything I can.”

Well, other than her stand on immigration, she’s not far off.

Adele Ferguson cam be reached at PO Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340.

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