As Washington state’s senior Senator and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee since she first arrived in the Senate, Patty Murray has a proven track record championing Washington state and breaking through partisan gridlock to solve problems, fight for progressive policies, and help workers, families, and communities.
Prior to becoming Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee in the 118th Congress, Senator Murray previously led the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies and the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.
Patty was born and raised in Bothell, Washington where she grew up with her parents and six siblings—including a twin sister. Her father managed a Main Street 5 and 10 cent store, where she worked growing up and first learned the value of strong work ethic. When Patty was a young teenager, her father—a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient—was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and in a few short years, his illness got so bad he could no longer work. Patty’s mother, who had stayed home to raise their family, had to take care of him while also working to support their family. She found some work, but it didn’t pay enough to support Patty and her six brothers and sisters—and a husband with growing medical bills. Thankfully, they lived in a country where the government didn’t just say “you’re on your own.”
During this tough time, Patty’s family received some help for her father’s medical care through his veterans benefits, but for several months her family had to rely on food stamps. However, thanks to a program established by the federal government, Patty’s mother was able to go back to school. And thanks to federal grants and student loans, Patty and her siblings were all able to attend college. While attending Washington State University, Patty took an internship in the psychiatric ward of the Seattle Veterans Hospital. There she personally witnessed the sacrifices of young Vietnam War veterans—many who were her age—and saw the reality of what people who went to war came home with.
“I know the support we got from our government was the difference between seven kids who might not have graduated from high school or college—and the seven adults we’ve grown up to be today—all college graduates, all working hard and paying taxes, and all doing our best to contribute back to our communities. So this is the primary prism I view our nation’s budget through. And it’s what guides me as I work in the Senate to impact the choices we make. I never let my colleagues forget, when we talk about appropriations, we aren’t just talking about numbers on a page, or even programs for that matter—we are talking about people back home and what we can do to help them. I come to work every day focused on how we can help Washington state, invest in our people, communities, and future, and build the most robust middle class the world has ever seen.”
As a working mom, Patty was never planning to enter politics. But when local officials planned to close her kids’ preschool program due to state budget cuts, Patty took action. She packed up her two young children and went to Olympia to urge her state representatives to save the preschool program. While there, one male legislator told her she couldn’t make a difference because she was “just a mom in tennis shoes.” In response, she organized a grassroots coalition of 13,000 parents that fought successfully to save the preschool program.
Patty went on to serve on the Shoreline School Board, and in 1988 was elected to the Washington State Senate, before making history in 1992 as the first woman elected to serve Washington state in the U.S. Senate. She has since broken further barriers serving as the first woman to Chair the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee in the 112th Congress, the first woman to chair the Senate Budget Committee in the 113th Congress, and the first woman elected as President Pro Tempore of the Senate in the 118th Congress. She most recently served as chair of the Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor, and Pensions.