"So if we can't get a good deal, a balanced deal that calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, then I will absolutely continue this debate into 2013 rather than lock in a long-term deal this year that throws middle class families under the bus," she said.
Without legislative action, various economic policies termed the "fiscal cliff" -- including the tax increases, large domestic and military spending cuts, and expiration of the payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits and Medicare reimbursement rates -- will take effect Jan. 1.
Reacting to leaked excepts ahead of Murray's speech, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) left no doubt that Republicans won't sacrifice tax cuts on high earners.
"Has it come to this, that Democrats are willing to hurt jobs and tank our economy for the sake of a small business tax hike that would also have disastrous consequences?" he said in a statement. "Instead of threatening to derail our economy, Democrats ought to help protect job creators from the president's small business tax hike."
The skirmish is a repeat of the late 2010 battle wherein Democrats folded to Republican demands to either give the wealthy a tax cut or let middle class rates rise. This time Obama has promised to veto any bill that extends the top marginal rates, and Democratic leaders are aggressively whipping their members behind the cause. Murray challenged Republicans to accept separate up or down votes on the tax cuts for different incomes to offer senators a clear choice and the public a clear contrast between the parties' values.
No action is expected until at least November. If Republicans sweep the elections, then the Democrats' demand likely becomes meaningless because Mitt Romney and the GOP Congress can retroactively extend all the rates. But if Democrats hold the White House, their plan is to force Republicans to compromise or stick them with the blame for the sequence of bad policies.
"Unless Republicans end their commitment to protecting the rich above all else, our country is going to have to face the consequences of Republican intransigence," Murray said.