Dem Senator Eyes 'Responsible Spending Cuts,' 'Wasteful Tax Loopholes'

By Susan Jones | October 31, 2013 | 5:59 AM EDT

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) (AP File Photo)

( - Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told a House-Senate conference committee on Wednesday that both sides must "step out of our comfort zones and ideological corners" to reach a compromise budget.

Murray said she's willing to listen to Republicans' ideas and make concessions -- as long as any deal is "fair for seniors and families." In return, she said Republicans must join Democrats in closing "wasteful tax loopholes."

In her opening statement, she used the phrase "wasteful tax loopholes" twice. Her only reference to "wasteful spending" was "wasteful spending through the tax code," which is Washington-speak for tax hikes and eliminating tax breaks. President Obama also has used the phrase "wasteful spending in the tax code" to avoid mentioning tax increases.

On the spending side of the equation, Murray talked about "responsible savings," responsible spending cuts," and "tough spending cuts."

"While we scour programs to find responsible savings, Republicans are also going to have to work with us to scour the bloated tax code, and close some wasteful tax loopholes and special-interest subsidies. Because it is unfair -- and unacceptable -- to ask seniors and families to bear this burden alone," Murray said.

“Many Republicans already agree that these loopholes and giveaways distort the market and hurt growth, incentivize outsourcing and hiding profits overseas, are nothing more than wasteful spending through the tax code, and ought to be closed."

Murray said she's "hopeful" that the conferees can "work together" to get a "balanced deal."

At an "absolute minimum," she said, lawmakers must find a way to replace the deep, automatic spending cuts imposed by the sequester and set a short-term budget level.

Murray noted that the House budget replaces the sequester cuts to Defense programs, lifts the discretionary spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, and pays for that by "cutting even more deeply from key domestic investments." (Investments is code for spending.)

By contrast, Murray said the Senate budget replaces all the sequester spending cuts and pays for it through "an equal mix of responsible spending cuts and revenue raised by closing wasteful tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations."

Murray said she is going into the budget conference "ready to agree to some tough spending cuts that, unlike the sequester caps that disappear in 2022, would be permanently locked into law.

“I know there are many Republicans who would be very interested in swapping some of the inefficient and damaging sequester cuts with structural changes to programs that would save many multiples of the cuts they replace over the coming decades.

“I am ready to listen to their ideas and, as long as they are fair for seniors and families—I’m ready to make some tough concessions to get a deal.

Also see:
Ryan: 'If This Conference Becomes an Argument About Taxes, We’re Not Going to Get Anywhere'