Murray, 62, embodies the twin personalities of the state: "tree-hugging peaceniks who build bombers," as Bryan Corliss, a spokesman for the machinists union that represents more than 30,000 Boeing employees, put it.
The Pentagon's plans to replace the nation's 50-year-old fleet of midair refueling tankers with 179 new ones will have a big impact in Murray's state. The KC-46 tankers will be based on Boeing's 767 commercial jetliner and built at the company's Everett facility, just north of Seattle. It's a $51 billion program if the Pentagon exercises all of its options; the first $4.9 billion contract was awarded in February 2011.
The senator's advocacy on behalf of Chicago-based Boeing Co. — the procurement process took a decade and was bedeviled with contract challenges and investigations — earned her an endorsement during her 2010 re-election bid. Murray has been a "champion for the Boeing Co.," company spokesman Doug Kennett said at the time, breaking a company tradition of refraining from endorsements.
Boeing's PAC and employees have contributed $110,410 to Murray since 2006, more than to any other member of Congress in that time. In a year when Democrats lost control of the House and saw their majority shrink in the Senate, Murray defeated Republican Dino Rossi by a 4-percentage-point margin.
Murray recognizes the balancing act she must perform as a budget cutter from a defense-rich state.
"Across the board, indiscriminate cuts are not the way to cut defense," Murray said in the e-mailed statement, adding that Congress should look for savings by quickly drawing down troops in Afghanistan, streamlining military procurement and cutting "waste and fraud" caused by private contractors.
At the same time, she added, "many defense programs, particularly in the aerospace industry, have a tremendous impact on our entire nation's industrial base."