In The News
Murphy urges centrist Democrats and Republicans to work together in 2021
The new Congress will be a mixed bag for moderate Democrats such as U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.
Centrists are poised to play an even bigger role than before in a House where Democrats will have a smaller margin to work with. But at the same time, the reason the margin over Republicans is smaller is because many of their moderate colleagues lost on Election Day.
Now, the question is whether any major legislation at all can get through a split Congress, including the long-delayed second coronavirus stimulus package.
“Democrats and Republicans who are willing to work together will have disproportionate power,” Murphy said in an interview. “In a divided Congress, and especially a narrowly divided Congress, it will be important for the center to find ways to work together in order to move legislation across the finish line and into law.”
Murphy, who was re-elected to a third term on Nov. 3, co-chairs the moderate Blue Dog Democratic caucus and is one of the more prominent members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.
The Problem Solvers withheld their votes for Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker in 2018 until they reached an agreement over House rule changes, including making it easier for amendments with 20 co-sponsors of both parties to come to a vote and fairer party breakdowns on committees.
But at least four members of both the Blue Dogs and Problem Solvers, U.S. Reps. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., Kendra Horn, D-Okla., Xochitl Torres Small, D-N.M., and Max Rose, D-N.Y., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn., a Blue Dog, lost reelection. Another dual member, U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, is currently trailing.
Still, said Aubrey Jewett, a professor of political science at the University of Central Florida, “I think that they will serve an important role in the House.”
“If they stick together on some controversial issues, they may help pave a path forward to work with the Senate,” Jewett said. “If any legislation is going to be passed, then Blue Dog Democrats in the House like Stephanie Murphy would be sort of the fulcrum. They’d be the deciders on what could get through and what couldn’t.”
The schism between moderates and progressives has only grown since the party’s disappointing down-ballot election results. But Murphy says results matter more than arguments about ideology and campaign tactics
“In terms of legislating, votes are the currency of the realm,” Murphy said. “Although I’m disappointed in some of the losses that we had, with moderate members in Trump districts, I’m encouraged to know we continue to hold a significant number of votes and have a significant number of members who are committed to getting things done on behalf of the American people. And that means passing legislation into law.”
Murphy said she hopes a COVID-19 package will be passed before the new Congress comes in on Jan. 3. The Democratic House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act in May, but the Republican Senate has not passed its own measures, and GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants “something smaller.”
President Trump has also gone back and forth between breaking off negotiations, then asking for even more money than the Democrats want, and now showing no apparent interest in a lame-duck bill.
“I would imagine that will be top of the list of things that we have to make sure that we get done,” Murphy said. “And even if we do have an initial COVID bill, I imagine that there are probably more things that can be done to ensure that the American people and American businesses can sustain during the difficult economic moment.”
U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, another member of the Problem Solvers, said the group’s $1.5 trillion compromise COVID stimulus proposal “did help kickstart negotiations again between the White House and the House Democrats. And we’re going to continue to look for those opportunities. And those may be more important than ever.”
Murphy also called for shoring up the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which has survived several attempts to kill it by Republicans. The Supreme Court began hearing a longshot case against the law this month, backed by the Trump administration, but conservative judges seemed skeptical about the arguments.
“The Affordable Care Act was far from perfect,” Murphy said. “And over the last decade, there have been numerous efforts to sabotage and dismantle it. … [But] I think the pandemic underscored for us that there are still significant weaknesses within our healthcare system that need to be addressed.”
Infrastructure improvements had long been an issue that Trump had said he would work with Democrats to pass. But a perpetual Infrastructure Week that never results in a solid White House plan had long become a running joke in Washington.
“Infrastructure investment has been long overdue,” Murphy said. “And the Democratic House has a lot of incentive to craft an infrastructure bill that can make it to the president’s desk.”
She slammed Republicans for their continued denial of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, including amplifying Trump’s baseless allegations of fraud and, in the case of Gov. Ron DeSantis, floating the idea that states can bypass voters and install their own presidential electors despite the popular vote.
“I find it dangerous when some of my colleagues on the other side cast doubt on our democratic process, simply to score cheap political points,” Murphy said.
Murphy has been out front in trying to pry more information from the FBI and Trump administration about the 2016 Russian hacks of Florida’s election systems and in calling for further protections against foreign interference.
“This is exactly what our adversaries want,” she said. “They’ve tried to sow chaos and diminish faith in our democracy. And now they have the willing cooperation of our elected leaders who are allowing themselves to be used as pawns in this effort.”