Patrick Murphy Campaign
Patrick Murphy (D-PA) during a July campaign stop in Bristol, Pa.
Patrick Murphy Campaign
Freshman Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) narrowly won election in a district that had voted Republican since 1992. He describes himself as a "Blue Dog" Democrat: a fiscal conservative who is very strong on defense. The Iraq war veteran tells Steve Inskeep he also wants to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. The following is an edited excerpt of the interview:
Where does Iraq stand as a political issue?
I think it's the defining issue of our generation. And I believe, as someone who has served there, as someone who has walked the streets of Baghdad as a captain in the 82nd Airborne Division, that ... it's time to turn it over to the Iraqis. It's time to start bringing our men and women home.
Iraq was a winning issue for you in the election. Do local issues play any role in your thinking?
Both Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) have been very clear ... on what they think we should be doing. [We should be] going back to the district as much as possible, making sure that we've got a handle on constituent services. And that's what my focus is going to be on.
Can you win again in a generally Republican district if you stand on Democratic issues?
I think that I will be able to well represent the district because I will vote my conscience. And if it's a Republican idea, or a Democratic idea, I will vote for the families back home.
I look forward to reaching across the aisle down here in Washington to work with my Republican colleagues.
But let's be clear, I'm a proud Democrat. And I look forward to bringing about a new direction for our country, which is much needed and long overdue.
What votes will be hard for you to make?
I'm a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, fiscal conservatives who believe we should have a pay-as-you-go system.
If we want to put forth a piece of legislation that's going to help out people, which is a good piece of legislation, I'll support it. But we have to figure out first how we're going to pay for it because we cannot keep racking up these record debts and these deficits.
How will you reconcile your call for fiscal discipline and the Democratic call for more health-care spending?
I'll sit there with them and I'll say, "Let's make sure that we do everything possible that we could pay for." Because we do need to fix the system so that there aren't children, there aren't people in America who go without health care.
How will you handle social issues like gay marriage and abortion?
I taught constitutional law at West Point. And if we're talking about things like equality, I believe in it. If we're talking about things like a right to privacy, I believe in that.
I believe that part of a right to privacy includes a woman's right to choose [abortion].
[And on gay marriage], it's an equality issue. If there are people in a loving relationship [and] they want to go get a civil union, they should be able to.
What do you want the Congress to focus on? Social issues?
I think this 110th Congress, under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, will really be able to focus, to say, 'Listen, these are the first things we need to tackle, because they're long overdue: raising the minimum wage, making sure we negotiate to buy drugs in bulk, making college more affordable, implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations.' And once we accomplish those things, of course we have got to turn and make sure that we do what's necessary on the other issues.