WASHINGTON. Senator Patty Murray, of Washington, was sworn in as president pro tempore of the Senate on Tuesday, becoming the first woman in the nation’s history to hold the post.
At the same time, Murray immediately and temporarily becomes the second person in line for the presidency.
The interim office of President of the Senate is usually third in line for the presidency, behind the Vice President and Speaker of the House. But there is currently no Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Three times on Tuesday, when voting lasted most of the day, Republicans, who have a majority in the House of Representatives, tried to elect a speaker, but were unsuccessful. As House Democrats rallied behind Rep. Hakeem Jeffreys of New York, House Republicans failed to win a majority for their leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. Each time, 19 or 20 members of the Republican Party chose an alternative candidate, depriving McCarthy of his majority.
So for now, Murray is second in line by default.
Murray, 72, a Democrat recently elected to her sixth term, will also chair the influential Senate Appropriations Committee in the newly launched 118th Congress, putting her in a key position in managing billions of dollars of federal spending.
“I feel the weight of the responsibility,” Murray said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I don’t think our country wants chaos now. I think they really want us to work together and make sure we fund priorities and have policies that really help ordinary ordinary people.”
She said her reference to “chaos” was not specifically about the inability of Republicans in the House of Representatives to choose a leader, but about “the last six years.”
The Trump administration has been chaotic, she said. So it was on January 6th. So is what is happening in the Chamber.
“People just want our country to work,” Murray said. “They want to go to work, send their kids to school, live in their own communities, play football on Saturdays and not worry about what’s going on in the nation’s capital.”
Among other things, Murray is also now becoming a member of a very select group of women: she is now tied with former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, second only to Vice President Kamala Harris as the second closest woman to the presidency, in the line of succession. When the House of Representatives selects a speaker, Murray will return to third in line.
“I don’t lose sight of the importance of what it means to be the first woman to fill this role,” Murray said. “This is another sign that Congress is slowly but surely becoming more like America.”
Murray, who took the oath in her almost signature tennis shoes, recalled her earliest campaign for the Senate, when she took a mocking comment from a male colleague – “just a mom in tennis shoes” – and turned it into a slogan. it went on for decades.
“I did it because someone said you can’t do it,” she said. : And I hope that what I have achieved today will help young girls all over the world say: “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t change anything.”
The pro tempore president of the Senate is usually the longest serving senator from the majority party. The president temporarily presides over the Senate in the absence of the vice president, can take oaths in the Senate, sign laws, and preside with the speaker of the House of Representatives at joint sessions of Congress.
Murray, as she begins her 31st year in the Senate, is now the second-oldest female senator in history, behind only fellow Democratic California Senator Dianne Feinstein by two months. Feinstein said last year that she was not interested in the interim presidency.
“There is no one I trust more than Senator Murray to be third in line for the presidency,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said Tuesday in a speech. “She’s brilliant, pragmatic and knows how to get things done.”
As chairman of the Appropriations Division, Murray will control virtually all federal spending, with great power to direct funding to projects of his choice.
She said her priorities will include Washington-specific topics such as funding wildfires and supporting salmon recovery, as well as national Democratic priorities such as expanding access to childcare and affordable housing.
She touted a 30 percent increase in the federal childcare grant program, which was included in last month’s massive year-end spending bill.
Last fall, Murray led an active campaign for the protection of reproductive rights. Since the Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives, there will almost certainly not be significant progress on this issue. She said she would try to work on the fringes, fighting on the defensive for abortion rights and pushing for legislation for things like codifying protections for in vitro fertilization.
This report contains material from The Seattle Times.