Murray’s success as campaign chairwoman got Reid’s attention, and probably Schumer’s, too.
After his own successful stint at the DSCC, Schumer took on the role of conference vice chairman and added responsibilities for communications strategy with the establishment of the Democratic Policy and Communications Center that brought together Reid’s leadership “war room” and the old Democratic Policy Committee.
Murray seems keenly aware that many underestimate her. During the interview, she was quick to return to the story that launched her career, when a local lawmaker dismissed her as a “mom in tennis shoes” who had no chance of becoming a senator.
In addition to chairing the Budget Committee, Murray will continue as conference secretary.
When the late Senate Appropriations Chairman Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., was too frail to manage spending bills on the floor, Murray did it despite being outranked on the panel by at least five other members. In the fall of 2010, at least three other senators turned down Reid’s request that they take on the seemingly impossible task of defending 23 Democratic seats from a GOP takeover in 2012. He finally persuaded Murray, and her fundraising and candidate recruitment led to the caucus adding two seats to its majority.
Six months after taking the DSCC job, Reid was back with another big ask: co-chairing the supercommittee on deficit reduction. The odds were stacked against her again, and the effort failed under the weight of the partisan divide between the House GOP and Senate Democrats.
Asked about her propensity for taking jobs few covet, Murray replied, “My mother forgot to tell me how to say no.”
While there’s still a formal process to go through, Murray has the seniority to take the Budget job being vacated by retiring Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.
Murray said that in her many years of Senate service, she has seen Budget chairmen use a variety of methods to wield influence. Conrad, for example, has focused on the debt and deficit issues.
But Murray envisions a bigger role for herself.
“Jim Sasser really used his role as Budget chair with the leadership to write the economic policy for how we were going to move forward. I’ve seen Chairman Ryan in the House use it not to just write numbers on a paper but really define policies and how they’re going to fight for Medicare changes,” Murray said.
Sasser, a Tennessee Democrat, chaired the Budget Committee for two terms in the early 1990s. Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., is expected to be Murray’s House counterpart next year, after running unsuccessfully as GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate.
Murray was candid in expressing her vision for the job.
“It is writing the budget; it is helping to define the budget to the country and to Congress and to moms at home in my state who are getting up and sending their kids off to school and saying, ‘What does it matter?’ Well, it matters if your child wants to go to college, if your husband needs job training to get a job or whether or not we are able to ... ship the product that you are making overseas,” Murray said.