FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – U.S. Rep. Christopher Murphy, in his third term representing Connecticut's Fifth District, says he's "more frustrated" by government inertia than at any time during his 14-year political career.
But that isn't stopping the 38-year-old Democrat from seeking the seat being vacated by longtime U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
"The Tea Party and Republican extremists in Congress, especially in the House, have brought the economy to a grinding halt to hurt President (Barack) Obama's chances for re-election next year," said Murphy, a former state legislator who now represents northwestern and central Connecticut in Congress.
"I believe I can make more of an impact helping Connecticut by gaining election to the (100-member) Senate than staying in the 435-member House."
The House has been "taken over by Tea Party obstructionists" whose main goal is to block any meaningful legislation proposed by President Obama. Most damaging, he said, is the chamber's party-line votes rejecting Obama's $447 billion jobs bill, Murphy said.
"It is pure politics motivating Republicans to oppose the president's jobs' bill that economists say would put people back to work, while making important upgrades and improvements to the nation's transportation infrastructure such as highways, bridges, tunnels and rail lines," Murphy said.
"I have never been more frustrated in government because Congress has been brought to a standstill by Tea Party and Republican extremists who want to hurt the president at the expense of the middle class and poor," he said. "There is no other way to interpret vote after vote in the House against anything the president proposes. Nothing can move forward."
Pulling Out of Afghanistan
Considered by many to be the frontrunner to gain his party's nomination at its May convention, Murphy, a UConn Law School graduate who lives in Cheshire, is among several Democrats vying for his party's nod.
His most formidable Democratic opponent, former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, has vowed to challenge Murphy in a primary next August if she doesn't gain the party's nomination at its state convention in May. But Murphy says he's not thinking about any other candidates quite yet.
"The election is still a year away, so we're not spending a lot of time thinking about other candidates in the race or on potential primary scenarios," he said. "My focus right now is on doing the best job I can as a member of Congress while we build the foundation of a strong campaign for Senate."
Murphy serves in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is the lead body in the House of Representatives on foreign policy and diplomcy around the world. As a member of that panel, Murphy has strong views on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Getting this country out of Iraq and Afghanistan is important to save lives and our economy," Murphy said. "It is the right move to pull out of Iraq this year, but I want to see the president get us out of Afghanistan as well. We are still spending billions of dollars a week and putting our troops at risk."
As a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over federal government management, including economic issues, Murphy said he has pushed to make "common sense" reforms he believes would strengthen and protect Connecticut's manufacturing firms.
"I am not giving up on manufacturing," he said. "If we simply remove loopholes in the Buy America laws we can create an atmosphere in which buying from American companies would be required. This would create 600,000 new jobs."
Prepared for the GOP
Murphy said he believes he would be his party's strongest candidate in a race against any Republican opponent in the general election -- such as former Fairfield County congressman Chris Shays or former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, who was defeated by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal last November in a battle for former Sen. Chris Dodd's seat.
McMahon, who spent $50 million in her run for the U.S. Senate last year, is likely spend big again in the 2012 race/
"When I first ran for Congress we were outspent 2-1, and I was able to win the election against incumbent Republican (Nancy Johnson)," said Murphy. "We know (McMahon) or any other Republican will drop $50 million into the race."
McMahon did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
"I am counting on my experience in Congress and accomplishments in the state Senate and House as being strong factors in the campaign," Murphy said.
As for often being called his party's favorite to gain the nomination, Murphy said "a year before the election is a long time ...but, hey, I've been called worse."