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Sen. Patty Murray, ESSA Architect, on Clinton, Trump, and Sanders

By Alyson Klein — August 01, 2016 2 min read
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., celebrates Clinton’s nomination with other women senators.
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Sen. Patty Murray D-Wash, is “just ecstatic” about the prospect of working with a possible President Hillary Clinton on expanding access to early-childhood education, she said in an interview here during the Democratic National Convention.

The two share a passion for the policy. Murray, a former preschool teacher and the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, pushed hard for the inclusion of the Preschool Development Grant program in the Every Student Succeeds Act. But it sounds like she’s optimistic that she might be able to go even further, or get more money for the program, in a potential Clinton administration.

“I just say the words to her, ‘early childhood education.’ And she says, ‘What do we need to do?’ This is a passion for her.”

Murray said the differences between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Clinton on education policy couldn’t be more stark. “They’re night and day,” she said. “Throughout her career Secretary Clinton has made this a top priority. She knows the policies inside and out. ... Donald Trump would roll back all the progress we’ve made.”

Murray served on the Senate education committee with Clinton, and from the sounds of it, Clinton’s reputation as a policy wonk is earned. “She showed up for work every day,” Murray said. “She did the back work to understand the policies.”

Education Committee

There are rumors swirling that Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent and Clinton’s one-time rival for the nomination, would like to step into the top Democratic slot on the Senate education committee. That means he would either become the ranking member, which is Murray’s gig now, or if the Democrats take over the Senate, the chairman.

Sanders is the second-ranking member of the panel, so this is a possibility if Murray were to decide to run for Whip (the No. 2 position in the Senate) or move up to the helm, or top Democratic position, on the powerful Appropriations Committee, or both. We wrote about the ins-and-outs of this back in May, and the Washington Post explored it in further depth last week.

Murray told me she’s “not speculating about the future.” There are other critical issues that demand her attention right now, she explained.

Earlier, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, I asked Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who, along with Murray, formed the dynamic duo that got ESSA over the finish line whether he thought he could have as productive a partnership with Sanders as he has with Murray.

“It’s hard enough for me to deal with all the politics in the Republican party, let alone the Democratic politics. That’s up to the Democratic caucus.,” said Alexander, chairman of the Senate education committee, adding, “I’ve said many times that we wouldn’t have a new education law fixing No Child Left Behind if it hadn’t been for Patty Murray.”

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