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President Barack Obama is meeting with 13 heads of civil rights organizations and other advocacy groups to seek input on negotiations with Congress to avert automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts on Jan. 1.

Among those who will join Obama and Vice President Joe Biden Friday at the White House are the NAACP's Ben Jealous, Barry Rand of AARP, civil rights activist Al Sharpton, Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza and Marc Morial of the National Urban League.

When I read this late last night, I felt warm inside. That's the President we elected, a man reaching out to all concerned.

But before the comforting feeling settled my anxiety about the direction the President is taking us in negotiations, Sen. Patty Murray tells NPR this morning, in effect, that entitlements are on the table, albeit, she said at a (more acceptable) ratio of 40-50 percent to tax hikes.

Of course our earned benefit programs have been on the deficit cutting agenda, but we have a victory since sitting at the catfood and debt ceiling tables.

At first, I was taken that entitlements are on the table, but there was a confidence in her voice I appreciated and all-in-all Senator Murray was putting Boehner and company on the spot. I enjoyed her articulation and responses.

She said "the Republicans are in a box and that if Republicans do not agree to let tax cuts expire for those making over $250,000 per year, the country should go over the fiscal cliff."

"I think there is room for discussion," she said using the word entitlements again.


When asked if the credit rating industry would downgrade the credit status if we go over the cliff, she wisely countered that ending the Bush tax cuts provides the government with sufficient new revenue; consequently, credit ratings should be of no concern.

Until recently, Patty Murray's name hasn't really rung out inside the Beltway but over the past twelve months her visible clout has increased enormously. She took over the seemingly thankless job of running the DSCC, she steered the Democratic effort on the "supercommittee," she then triumphed in the November Senate elections and now is poised to take the gavel and chair the Budget Committee now that Kent Conrad's retired.

At any rate, back in July she made some wise remarks at the Brookings Institution (PDF) about the extent to which this will all get easier if we go over the fiscal cliff first:

    I also think many Republicans are starting to realize something very important. On January 1st if we have not gotten a deal, Grover Norquist and his pledge are no longer relevant to this conversation. A name, by the way, that I heard repeatedly by Republicans over and over in the Super Committee will no longer be a part of this debate. We will have a new fiscal and political reality.  

If the Bush tax cuts expire, every proposal will be a tax cut proposal, and the pledge will no longer keep Republicans boxed in and unable to compromise. If middle class families start seeing some money coming out of their paychecks next year, are Republicans really going to stand up and fight for new tax cuts for the rich?  Are they going to continue opposing the Democrat’s middle class tax cut once the slate is wiped clean?

I'm emailing Sen. Murray and congratulating her on becoming chair of the Budget Committee as reported yesterday, thanking her profusely for leading DSCC and electing good Senators and am including concerns that our social programs (SS, Medicare, and Medicaid) should be off the table. And that we agree with her, "let's go off the cliff" if Republicans continue their historical intransigence.

As she said, circumstances have changed since the debt ceiling debacle of 2011.

The people have spoken. Progressive positions enjoy the overwhelming support of the public; and I added smilingly, that the 'Third Way' is also on it's way to the dustbin of memories.

Forward Sen. Murray and we have your back.


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