Rep. Stephanie Murphy clashes with progressive critics as a Democratic moderate

Steven Lemongello, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Political News

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida has emerged as a moderate force in Washington, drawing heat from the increasingly vocal progressive wing of her party.

"We were one of seven districts in the entire country with a zero partisan tilt," said Murphy, 40, in an interview with The Orlando Sentinel. "I can assure you, that makes for a very different member (of Congress), than people who are in super safe districts, either red or blue."

Politico recently called her The Velvet Hammer for her quiet, behind-the-scenes influence on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi through the groups she co-chairs, the moderate Blue Dogs and the under-50 Future Forum, as well as her role in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.

Murphy "right now seems to be a good fit for the district," which includes Seminole and parts of Orange County, said Aubrey Jewett, a professor of political science at the University of Central Florida. "Someone left of center but also pro-business. ... The fact that she knocked off an incumbent (in GOP U.S. Rep. John Mica) and was reelected suggests that."

Democratic Party divisions came to a head last month when U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and other progressives angrily criticized Pelosi and the Blue Dogs for backing the Senate version of an emergency spending bill giving $1 billion to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and $280 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Progressives demanded more stringent restrictions on the Trump administration because of the conditions at the migrant holding camps at the Mexican border, where seven children have died in the last year. Some didn't want to give the administration any more money for border camps at all.


But with the Senate voting 84-8 in favor, the House ultimately voted 305-102 for the bill, though with many Democratic defections.

Murphy, who voted for the bill, called it "an extraordinary demonstration of bipartisanship, to do the right thing as it relates to the humanitarian crisis on the border."

Murphy said the Senate bill provided additional money to prevent human trafficking and overtime for customs officers, as well as "sufficient guardrails" to prevent the administration from shifting funding for other purposes.

"The House had the choice, in the face of a humanitarian crisis, of playing political games and further delaying much-needed resources to agencies that were running out of funding, or we could take up the bill that the Senate had passed, that could be signed by the president, and get money to the crisis at the border," she said.


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