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No one takes more thankless jobs within the Senate Democratic leadership than Patty Murray, and the Washington state Democrat may finally be in a position to reap the rewards.
During her almost six years as No. 4 in the leadership ranks, she’s been largely inconspicuous. But over time, her workhorse reputation has helped her amass considerable influence in the caucus. That is likely to continue as she takes the gavel of the Budget Committee in the 113th Congress.
“Whenever there’s something that’s hard to do, we go to Patty, and she delivers,” Majority Leader Harry Reid said on election night as it became clear his caucus would beat the odds and actually expand in the next Congress.
Reid also told elated Democrats, “There is no one who has ever done a better job of running the senatorial campaign committee than Patty Murray.”
No doubt that line caught the attention of Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, who served as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for two cycles, sweeping his party into the majority. Many view Schumer as a likely successor to Reid whenever he steps aside.
Another potential majority-leader-in-waiting, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, called Murray the “she-ro” of the Senate Democratic Conference earlier this week and predicted she would “have an expanded responsibility with this new Senate.”
While Schumer and Durbin may see each other as their greatest rival, they may now need to start looking over their shoulders at Murray.
Reid has often looked to Murray to step into the breach when no one else would or could be trusted.
Murray talked to Roll Call this week about how her intimate knowledge of the caucus will aid her as she continues to shape the caucus’s policy objectives, especially when it comes to the fiscal cliff.
“I have an opportunity in leadership to really help focus where we are going to go in terms of policy: what issues are going to be on the table and how we frame them. From a political perspective, I know the players. I know what their states are like,” Murray said, stressing her campaign work. “I know what makes them tick and what they need in order to be successful, and the ability to work with all of them knowing that.”
One Senate Democratic leadership aide suggested Murray’s method of expanding her portfolio in some ways follows the pattern of Schumer’s move to become the top messaging strategist for Senate Democrats. Other sources agreed Murray will have the chance to gain more influence in the negotiations on the fiscal cliff and into next year if she asserts her prerogatives as Budget chairwoman.