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Sen. Murray rallies for a diverse field of federal judges, Republican action on the debt ceiling

caption: Patty Murray in the KUOW studios on Jan. 5, 2016.
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Patty Murray in the KUOW studios on Jan. 5, 2016.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

The United States Senate has confirmed President Joe Biden's nomination of Judge Lauren King to the federal court here in Washington. She was selected as a candidate for the Western District of Washington by Senator Patty Murray, who noted King will be the first Native American federal judge in state history.

Murray has now nominated four judges to the federal bench in Washington state. David Estudillo has been confirmed. Tana Lin and John Chun are in the midst of the confirmation process. KUOW’s Kim Malcolm spoke to Sen. Murray earlier today. Murray started by arguing for diversity in the Federal Court system.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Sen. Murray: I think it's really important that somebody knows that if they have to go to court for whatever reason, they have a judge who will make a decision that is fair to them. They may win, they may lose, but at the end of the day, every one of us wants to know that decision is fair. The more diversity we have on the court, the better chance we have of assuring people in our state, and across the country, that they have a chance of being heard and have a fair decision.

Kim Malcolm: When Donald Trump was in the White House, a record numbers of federal judges were appointed to the bench. Is that playing a role in your efforts to nominate candidates and get them confirmed?

That's correct. Actually, what I have done for a very long time — going way back to Slade Gorton — is that I did not pick the judicial candidates. We had a bipartisan commission that interviewed and put forward candidates. When Trump was in the White House, he refused to put forward the candidates that our judicial commission, through me and Senator Cantwell, sent to them.

They were confirming judges who were completely outside of the mainstream, and often totally unexperienced. We did not get any through in the last four or five years. That's why we have the vacancies right now, which gives us an opportunity, which I'm taking advantage of, to make sure we get a really diverse group, great lawyers, great judges, great backgrounds and diversity on our courts at this time.

And these nominees are coming through the bipartisan model again?

Correct. They all have come through our bipartisan commission.

Finally, we are headed toward an October 18 deadline for the debt ceiling to be raised. Your Republican colleagues have blocked a bill to raise the ceiling from coming to the Senate floor. Are you confident that this can be resolved within the next two weeks, so that the country does not default on its payments?

Senate Republicans are still not only refusing to vote to avoid the first ever default on U.S. debt, which they acknowledge would be catastrophic, they're blocking Democrats from taking action ourselves. We have offered them every opportunity to do the right thing to protect American’s financial security, and they're not lifting a finger. It is time for them to work with us, or get out of the way.

Will you get that debt ceiling raised, even without Republican assistance?

At this point, it's up to [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell whether he's going to continue to put the risk of our country and our financial future as a political point, instead of working with us to make sure we get this done. We are doing everything we can. Every Democratic senator knows that we have a responsibility to pay our debts, just like every family has, and we are doing everything we can to move this bill forward. Mitch McConnell needs to stop blocking it.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.

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