Rep. Chris Murphy told the New England Council in Boston Wednesday that voters are frustrated with Washington – and he is, too.
“I can’t live with government on the back of a napkin,” said Murphy, D-5th and a candidate for U.S. Senate, explaining his vote against the last-minute debt ceiling deal.
Murphy, a Cheshire resident, faces former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, of Middletown, and Stamford state Rep. William Tong in the Democratic primary. He had a fundraiser scheduled Tuesday night in the Boston area, according to staff.
“This was a deal cut in the middle of the night with a gun to our head,” he said. “The gun was an utter collapse of the world economy.”
“There is not a corner of the state in which I don’t hear this utter, almost historic frustration with what’s happening in Washington,” Murphy said.
He said voter anger is turning into exhaustion, especially after the response to Hurricane Irene.
According to Murphy, the debate over disaster relief funding is a symbol of two philosophical divisions: government’s role in enforcing compassion and its relationship with the private sector.
“There’s absolutely no weakness in reaching out a helping hand to somebody that lifts them back up. I think that’s exactly why a lot of us believe in government in the first place,” Murphy said.
He said government has a role in doing things that are best done communally, “but we also have a degree of compassion that we want enforced through an organized mechanism and that is government.”
“I actually don’t disagree with the idea that we should pay for disaster assistance,” Murphy said, but he does oppose debating the issue during the cleanup.
He said that debate could “greatly chill disaster response in the future.”
“If states and municipalities aren’t sure they’re going to get reimbursed, are wondering whether or not they’re going to have to wait for a political deal in Washington before they get their money, then they’re probably not going to respond as fast,” he said.
“But I do think we should have a conversation about where the money comes from.”
Murphy said he also opposes the idea that “the government should have nothing to do with the private sector. There should be little to no cooperation between the two sides in trying to plan for this country’s economic future.”
He said that view of the “Tea Party crowd in Washington” is “incredibly wrongheaded.”
“If you look around the world, we are the only country that is still having this debate about whether there is a proper role for government to have in helping the private sector capture new economies that are emerging throughout the globe like the renewable energy sector or invest in the foundations of a strong economy like infrastructure and education,” Murphy said.
Murphy said government, in addition to promoting new industries, should protect current ones.
“I would argue that there is forceful government intervention that needs to be had to do that as well,” he said. “I put financial services and defense at the top of the list.”
He said defense spending is on a “downward trajectory,” but American companies can be protected by “making sure that even as the pie starts to shrink a greater portion of that pie is spent at home.”
“The default should be to buy it here,” he said.
Murphy said by closing loopholes in buy America regulations the government can create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
“We’re really the only, frankly, advanced or quickly developing country in the world that really doesn’t have an industrial policy,” he said.
“We should have a strategy about how we invest in industries that will grow and come here. We just don’t do that,” Murphy said. “We don’t have a renewable energy policy in this country. We don’t. Government kind of picks a handful of winners and losers.”
“I don’t want the government coming in and picking, on their own, what industries are going to rise and fall,” he said.
Asked what he admired about his former boss, former Sen. Chris Dodd, Murphy said Dodd’s colleagues found him to be among the most partisan and the most willing to cross the aisle.
“I consider myself a protégé of his, in a way,” he said.
Murphy said Dodd also did a lot for the financial industry. “I think Chris did a pretty good job over the years, you know, both representing that industry’s interests but also being a pretty solid consumer advocate, as well.”