It’s been less than a week since the U.S. Senate acquitted former President Trump in his second impeachment trial. He was charged with a single article, incitement of insurrection.
Washington Senator Patty Murray found Trump guilty, along with every other Democrat, and seven Republicans.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
On January 6, Senator Murray was hiding inside a room at the Capitol with her husband, as rioters forced their way into the building. She told PBS NewsHour that rioters were just inches away from them, behind a door:
Murray: All of the sudden they were in the hall. They were yelling. They were yelling that they had breached the castle. They were yelling ‘kill the infidels.’ We heard somebody saying, ‘We saw them. They’re in one of these rooms.’ And they were pounding on our door and trying to open it. My husband sat with his foot against the door, praying that it would not break-in. I was not safe.
Earlier today, I spoke with Senator Murray about the aftermath of the Senate trial, and what comes next for the new Congress. I started by asking about her reaction to Trump’s acquittal.
It was a sad moment for our democracy. I felt it was so important that we stand up and say that we can never use fear or violence to overturn a democratic election. We are a proud democracy, who uses our words to make sure that we are fighting for what we believe in.
We can never become a third-world country that at the behest of the president to keep the election results from happening, uses brute force to try and make that happen. I felt it was really important we stand up for that. I was disappointed that not enough Republicans went with us.
Many observers looking at the vote interpreted the acquittal as meaning that Donald Trump still wields quite a bit of power over Republican voters. What does this outcome tell you about the future of the Republican Party, and how you’re going to be dealing with your colleagues in the years to come?
I think the Republican Party needs to have a conversation amongst themselves about who they are, what kind of country they want, and what kind of future they want for this country in a very important global economy and a very important global trend towards trying to make sure that people are treated equitably.
They have stood up for those issues in the past, especially for democracy, both here and abroad. I think they have to ask themselves, are we willing because of one man and a loud voice that we are fearful of to change our policies? We’ll see what happens.
As you know, it takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate. Some might point to the fact that only seven Republicans voted to convict former President Trump as a good reason for the Senate to eliminate the filibuster. If 10 Republicans wouldn’t go along with conviction in that case, why would they get on board with other legislation? In the past, you’ve been a defender of the filibuster. Do you still feel that way?
I always prefer to see people working together to get things done, because the best policies that are long-standing and don’t get overturned in another election are ones where you make compromise, move forward, but get things done. But I can say that a lot of people are sick and tired of the gridlock. They see the huge needs in our country, and the list of challenges growing urgent by the day.
We are now pushing forward a COVID package that we’re doing through a bizarre budgetary process that allows 50 votes. I hope Republicans vote with us. I hope they see the importance of this, but that’s how we have to move that forward.
Again, I think Republicans really have to think about who they are, what they stand for, what kind of a strong country they want that is enduring for people everywhere. I’m hoping that they will work with us.
You describe this budget reconciliation process as bizarre. If you continue to see the gridlock, at what point would you consider getting rid of the filibuster altogether?
As I am talking to Republicans, I am hearing more and more of them who have the frustration that I do: that our country is falling behind on issues like paid sick leave, on issues like childcare, on issues like making sure our schools have everything they need to make sure all of our kids get educated. I am hoping that they will have the backing of more and more Republicans who see the same thing in their communities and are conveying that to them.
We will see. If they don’t, and they just continue to be a smaller and smaller constituency party that just says no to everything and who is willing to live under one loud man’s tweets, then it’s detrimental and we’ll have to have to figure out how I move forward, how we as a country move forward, how I can best represent the interests and fight for what’s important in Washington state.
You are now the chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. I’m wondering what your priorities are, or perhaps your one single priority is, for the coming weeks and months?
Well, the coming weeks for sure is to make sure that we pass a recovery package to deal with COVID. That includes everything from increasing the amount of vaccines that are available, to make sure we get our arms around the pandemic, and everything that goes into recovering from the pandemic, from testing to vaccines, getting our kids back in school in a safe environment, making sure that people have what they need in terms of health care to deal with this, and getting us back to what I would consider normal of a few years ago, I think is an absolute priority.
I also think we have to think about not just getting back to normal, but making sure that what we have in place keeps us from ever going down this road again. That means healthcare infrastructure that isn’t so far behind as we have been, making sure that we have the kinds of policies in place so if you are sick you can take some time off and you’re not spreading a disease like COVID. That means paid sick leave.
I think this pandemic has spread wide the issues that are so critical to so many Americans who want to be at work, and that’s the issue of childcare, the lack of childcare, the inability for people to go to work and know that they can do their job without worrying about where their kids are. These are fundamental issues that we need to address as a nation and one that I will focus on as the chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.