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Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy On Debate Over Biden's Infrastructure Plan


We are going to start with the battle over infrastructure. As you have probably heard, President Biden and congressional Democrats want to go big, $2 trillion big. But Republicans are saying that's way too big. So they've countered earlier this week with a $928 billion proposal. Now, Democrats and Republicans say they agree that infrastructure improvements are needed, but they don't see eye to eye on what exactly that means and who should pay for it. So we're wondering if the two sides could thread the needle or if it's even possible.

To consider that, we've invited Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy to join us. She is a Democrat from Florida, she's a business owner, and she's also co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition. That's a group of fiscally moderate Democrats.

Congresswoman Murphy, thank you so much for joining us. Welcome back to the program.

STEPHANIE MURPHY: So great to be with you.

MARTIN: So just your reaction to the Republican counter so far, what do you make of it?

MURPHY: Well, I'm heartened that there are bipartisan negotiations that are ongoing because I believe that when you're talking about major legislation, whether it relates to health care or to taxes, it should be done in a bipartisan way because that is what ensures that it is durable. But I also believe that we have to be pragmatic because the needs are so great in this country. And if for some reason, the Republicans decide to be obstructionist instead of partners in investing in America, then pragmatism doesn't have to necessarily mean bipartisanship just for the sake of bipartisanship.

MARTIN: It seems to me that the philosophical positions that have been staked out so far are as follows. Republicans are saying that the president's plan is too broad, and it includes things that aren't really infrastructure. They say infrastructure means bridges, roads, tunnels, things like that, right? And they want to finance this by repurposing funds that Congress has already approved for other projects.

Now, Democrats are saying that that's just not enough, that we have to look to the future, that these investments need to include other things because that's how you best position the economy for the future. And the Democrats are saying that they want to do that by increasing taxes on corporations and high-income earners because that's really the best and fairest way to do that.

So, as we said, you've got a lot of hats. I mean, you are a business owner. You represent a dynamic part of the state, Orlando, which, of course, has a lot of tourism and requires things like good roads and transit and airports, among other things. So how do you come down on this? What do you think the priorities are?

MURPHY: Well, I think that there is a lot of opportunity for us to find common ground because I don't disagree with the Biden administration in saying that this is our moment to make the necessary investments to ensure that we set up our country to be competitive against, say, near-peer competitors like China, which I know that the Republicans are very, very focused on the competition that comes from China. And so they can't disagree that we need to make ourselves stronger as a nation vis-a-vis that competition.

I also, though, understand that, you know, we have to be as bold as the votes will bear. And if we are forced to because of Republican obstructionism to go a Democrat-only perspective, we still have to have a lot of conversations to talk about what we have commonality on across the wide spectrum of Democrats in the various districts that they represent in order for us to move forward.

MARTIN: Well, people - as we said earlier, you are a co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition. That's a group of Democrats who see themselves as fiscally responsible and who are committed to bipartisan solutions. But fiscal responsibility is one of the - sort of the core principles of your group. Do you think that the Biden package is fiscally responsible? Because the Republicans say flat-out it just isn't.

MURPHY: As a Blue Dog who believes in fiscal responsibility, I appreciate the fact that the Biden administration has made an effort to pay for this plan, unlike the Republicans who didn't attempt to at all pay for the tax plan that gave the biggest benefits to the highest earners and the biggest corporations in this country.

MARTIN: The Biden administration's infrastructure plan includes funding for cybersecurity. I think most people know that this is a serious issue - the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack that took place earlier this month. Just recently, Microsoft says that Russia is behind another large cyberattack that targeted aid agencies. So do you think that cybersecurity should be an issue in infrastructure talks? And if so, why do you think it is that this is even another area in which there seems to be a partisan difference?

MURPHY: I think that cybersecurity should be an issue that we address. I think we need to be careful about putting everything onto a Christmas tree that we think is moving, which is the infrastructure bill. We need to - you know, part of regular order is addressing the issues and creating bills and moving them through Congress in a way that reflects the substance of that issue.

MARTIN: You said you don't want to see the infrastructure bill become like a Christmas tree with presents under it for everybody. Is there anything you think is expendable that doesn't belong in it?

MURPHY: I think we are still in the process of scoping out what the contours of the infrastructure bill is. But we are all united behind the prospect that this bill will provide the economic stimulus to - and investment to move this country out of the recession and into the 21st century, making us a strong competitor against our near-peer adversaries.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, you've been - I don't know whether you've been able to have any sort of meetings with constituents and so forth or in any way. Maybe - you know, maybe on Zoom or something like that or maybe in-person, depending on what those circumstances are. But what are you hearing from constituents about it? Are they focused on it? Do they - are they noticing that this is going through? What do they say?

MURPHY: What I'm hearing from constituents is there is an uneven return to normal just as there was an unequal effect of the COVID crisis as well as the economic crisis. There are some people who were not disrupted at all through this. They were able to move to Zoom and continue to work. But there are others who have been out of work and are not back at work, not because of unemployment benefits or because of an unwillingness to work but rather, they're not back at work because many of their industries have not recovered, because they still are concerned about their personal safety and their - the safety of their family.

And so we still have a lot of work to do, but everybody comes at this issue from a different angle. And what I would just ask of the American people is a little bit of grace for people in positions that are opposite of theirs. We can get through this and get into that next gear and move our country forward towards the economic future that we all want. But we can't do it when there is this misunderstanding or a lack of grace or vilification of the other side.

MARTIN: That was Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy. She is a Democrat from Florida. She's also a member of the coalition - so-called Blue Dog Coalition. It's a group of Democrats who consider themselves fiscally responsible and committed to bipartisan solutions. Congresswoman Murphy, thank you so much for talking with us.

MURPHY: Great to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.