The senator’s staff said they’d never seen her angrier than when in the summer of 2009 the federal Transportation Department announced $60 million in grants for the nation’s ferry systems. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s transportation subcommittee, Murray had included the $60 million in a massive economic recovery bill assuming Washington state, with the largest ferry system in the country, would receive significant funding.
Instead, it was awarded only $750,000.
Aides say she “muscled” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a phone call the next day and hours later the department coughed up an extra $7.6 million for the state. LaHood now clearly understands Murray controls his department’s roughly $70 billion annual budget.
Murray said dealing with LaHood is just part of her job. But others say it was a classic example of the influence Murray has amassed.
“She is the ferry godmother,” said Tom Lovain, a D.C. lobbyist who represents the Washington State Ferry System.