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Patty Murray becomes first female Senate President Pro Tem, talks serving Washington in '23

U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Courtesy of the US Senate
U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Upon completing an oath of office Tuesday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) became the first woman to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore.

Murray was sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Senate President Pro Tempore ranks as the number two person in the Senate, behind the vice president, and presides over the Senate when the vice president is not present.

Murray also took the oath for a sixth six-year term representing Washington.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Murray said she’ll wear two hats: one as the presiding officer of the Senate, and one as a voice for the people of Washington.

“I am the senator for the state of Washington first and foremost,” Murray said. “I get up every day and say, ‘What can I do to help the people of Washington State?’ I will continue to do that in this role.”

Murray said one example is a failed 2021 bill that would bar federal banking regulators from penalizing institutions that provide banking services to legitimate cannabis businesses. Murray said the current system forces many cannabis businesses into a cash-only model, which the Senator said is unfair and unsafe. Murray said she would support the bill again in 2023.

Beginning Tuesday afternoon, after she’d been sworn in but before House members had elected a speaker, Murray was second in line for the presidency, behind Vice President Harris.

Asked by a reporter if she felt prepared to be president if the need should arise, Murray replied, “I hope it is an unthinkable question, but on the off chance that that day happens, I’m doing everything I can to prepare myself: making sure that I know the issues of the day, both domestically and foreign; keeping up to speed, being briefed; and knowing what I would need to do should that day ever happen.”

Murray is fourth in seniority among the 100 senators behind Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein. She was sworn in for her first term exactly thirty years before, on January 3, 1993.

Among other Northwest senators, Oregon Democrat Ron Widen is one spot behind Murray, according to Senate records. He was first elected in 1996. Idaho Republican Mike Crapo is 10th. He was first elected in 1998. Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell is 13th. She won her first race in 2000. Idaho Republican Jim Risch is 30th. He was first elected in 2008. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, is 31st, sworn in for the first time on the same day as Risch.

Brandon Hollingsworth is your All Things Considered host. He has served public radio audiences for nearly twenty years, primarily in reporting, hosting and interviewing. His previous ports-of-call were WUOT-FM in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Alabama Public Radio. His work has been heard nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here and Now and NPR’s top-of-the-hour newscasts.
Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.