Prominent centrist Rep. Stephanie Murphy will not be running for re-election later this year –and is not shying away from speaking her mind as she leaves Congress, blasting her fellow Democrats for losing what she calls the “ability to lead.”
“My first term [2017-2019] … there was a lot more tolerance for, ‘Do what you need to do to hold your seat, and come back because we’re trying to build towards [a] majority,’” Murphy (D-Fla.) told Politico.
“With us being in the majority [from 2019 on], that tolerance eroded a bit,” she went on. “It’s unfortunate, because I think in order for us as Democrats to hold the majority, you have to be able to win in seats like mine and in redder seats. That means you have to cut your members a little bit of leeway to vote their district. This march towards party unity is going to be detrimental to our ability to lead.”
Murphy recalled being accused of holding “anti-immigrant” views for supporting the GOP-pushed “Kate’s Law,” which would have increased penalties for people who sneak back into the US after being deported.
“I believe in immigration and comprehensive immigration reform and the ability for people to immigrate to the United States in a legal way,” Murphy told the outlet. “But I also believe in law and order, and ensuring that we hold people who commit crimes accountable.”
When it came to President Biden’s multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better agenda, Murphy alleged leadership had opted to “beat moderates into submission” to get them behind the spending plan.
“I can’t tell you the number of times I said, ‘You can’t keep promising rainbows and unicorns when your political reality is such narrow margins in the House and a dead-even Senate,’” Murphy told Politico. “They took the difference between rainbows and unicorns and political reality — which is anger and disappointment — and turned that anger and disappointment against their own members.”
The centrist even accused House Democratic leadership of pushing outside groups to place pressure on members of the party who didn’t toe the line.
“Instead of purely focusing on their issue area, they bleed into just advocating for whatever Democratic leadership wants,” Murphy said.
“I told those groups, ‘For every dollar that you spend against me, it’s going to take 10 to repair that.’ … Why, as Democrats, we would take money that we need to reserve for the on-year to help win and grow the majority — why we would spend that money against our own members is really baffling,” she continued.
Murphy, who announced in December she would not seek a fourth House term, also accused her fellow Democrats of ingratitude, saying she and some of her colleagues had gone from “being celebrated for having flipped a seat [to] then excoriated for taking votes that help you keep that seat.
“I’m not talking about myself. I think about people like Abby Spanberger (D-Va.), like some of these other members where in ’18, they were celebrities for helping us win the majority,” she told Politico. “And as soon as they went about taking the votes that would help them keep and represent the seat that they had won, they drew the ire of the Democrats.”
The lawmaker also demanded reform of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, saying it should not be run by a sitting member of Congress. Currently, the DCCC is headed by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York.
“I believe that the DCCC exists for one reason and one reason alone, and that is incumbent protection and expanding the majority,” Murphy said. “I don’t believe that the person who runs the DCCC should be a member who’s elected, because inevitably that member … has further aspirations in the Democratic leadership.”
“And in order to ascend in Democratic leadership, you have to secure the progressive vote. And securing the progressive vote makes it difficult for you to also then protect moderates and create space for them to do what they need to do to win and hold seats. … I think that’s just … a structure that is misaligned to what should be the sole purpose of the DCCC, incumbent retention and expanding the majority.”
Murphy, the first Vietnamese American woman to be elected to Congress, made national headlines with her 2016 defeat of longtime GOP Rep. John Mica, and became one of the most vocal moderates in the House Democratic conference.
Currently, she serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, the House Armed Services Committee and the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Democrats face a steep climb later this year to keep the majority in both chambers of Congress. So far, 31 Democrats and 16 Republicans have decided not to run for re-election.