Sen. Patty Murray, whose opponents sniffed was just a “mom in tennis shoes,” came into office in the 1992 Year of the Woman when four women were elected to the chamber. Since then, Murray, a Washington Democrat, has become chair of the Senate’s budget committee, where she crafted a budget deal with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan last year that averted yet another fiscal crisis. Last week, Murray heard arguments in the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby case at the Supreme Court and sat down with msnbc’s Irin Carmon to talk about the war against contraception.
Below are Murray’s answers to reader questions which were submitted earlier this week in the Women 2014 group.
From msnbc user Emily Hinkle Beustring: Why is there such a domineering need to hinder religious commitments regarding birth control when birth control is already so easily available and inexpensive?
Sen. Patty Murray: Thanks, Emily. One of the reasons I’ve been so outspoken about this case before the Supreme Court is because I was here in Congress when we enacted the religious protections through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993 and when we made access to women’s health care available through the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Those of us in Congress at the time these laws passed did not intend for a secular corporation, or its shareholders, to restrict a women’s access to preventive health care. What’s at stake in this case is whether a CEO’s personal beliefs can trump a woman’s right to access free or low-cost contraception under the Affordable Care Act.
Unfortunately, one of the myths surrounding contraception is the suggestion that it’s easily accessible and inexpensive. That being said, studies show many American women use birth control for reasons other than to prevent pregnancy. And while many major pharmacies now offer generic brands of birth control pills at a very affordable cost, this method is not universally effective or safe for all women. Often, women even need to consult with their physician several times before determining which contraception method is best for them and their health. This all adds up pretty quickly, even for someone with quality insurance coverage. That’s why what the work we did in the Affordable Care Act to ensure access to low-cost or free contraception coverage is so important, and this case threatens to take it away from millions of women.
So for me, allowing a woman’s boss to call the shots about her access to birth control should be inconceivable and should be a conversation left up to the woman and her doctor.
From Facebook user Phil Lowe: You are doing a great job Sen. Murray, as is Sen. Hagan here in my home state of N.C. How should we tolerate the naysayers on the other side with all of their hate and vile comments? When the other side was in the White House at least we tried to work with them. In my lifetime, I have never seen it this bad.
Sen. Patty Murray: You’re right, Phil. Over the past few years, Congress has been lurching from crisis to crisis, stumbling from one artificial deadline to the next, and too often engaging in petty partisan bickering instead of solving problems for the families we represent. But, as you may have heard—at the end of last year, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and I worked together to show the American people it didn’t have to be this way. When we sat down together, we faced a lot of skepticism. Many people were hoping we would reach a deal and avoid another crisis, however they were far from confident that this budget group would succeed where so many others failed. But Chairman Ryan and I listened to each other, we searched for common ground, and we made some compromises. We knew we were never going to agree on everything, but we didn’t think that should mean we couldn’t agree on anything. We wanted a deal, not a fight, and we were able to put partisanship aside to do the right thing for the American people.
Now, all of us here in Congress have a responsibility to keep that work going. After laying the groundwork in the budget deal, Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski worked with House appropriators to make bipartisan, critical investments in our country. And under the leadership of Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, an agreement was reached on a bipartisan Farm Bill.
We clearly have momentum right now and I am hopeful my Republican colleagues will continue to work with us to build on our bipartisan deals and make investments in critical issues like education, research and innovation in order for us to compete and win in the 21st century global economy.
From Facebook user Regina Ellis Livingston: Why will you not address corporate welfare? Why do you keep cutting taxes for the wealthy while cutting food stamps and refusing to address unemployment insurance?
Sen. Patty Murray: Thanks, Regina. Just like you, the vast majority of Americans understand that our economy simply isn’t working the way it needs to be for people like them. They see the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations continue to take advantage of an unfair tax code filled with special interest loopholes and giveaways. They see fewer and fewer opportunities for workers to find jobs, earn enough for a stable middle class life, or send their kids to college. They watch as their government cuts back on critical investments in long-term and broad-based economic growth. And they want more than partisan bickering from their elected representatives, they want real action.
So, as someone whose family relied on government assistance—like unemployment insurance and food stamps – when times got tough, I have been fighting every day to not only ensure Americans have access to these services, but to see that we pay for them fairly through responsible spending cuts and making sure the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations pay their fair share. I was very glad that we let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans, and I am going to keep working to end the wasteful loopholes and special-interest carve-outs in our tax code that benefit the wealthy and well-connected.
I also strongly support extending unemployment insurance to offer struggling workers some support while they fight to get back on the job. And, like you, I don’t believe we should be reducing the deficit on the backs of our most vulnerable families.
I recently also introduced legislation to update our outdated tax code to help today’s workers and families keep more of what they earn. The 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers, offer a new tax cut to low-income families, and is paid for by closing just a few of those wasteful and inefficient corporate tax loopholes both parties