Stephanie Murphy's defiant long game to keep Dems in power

“I feel obliged to reflect the voices of the districts that don’t look like the majority of our group,” Murphy said in an interview.

This position, along with a few others who have done her no favors in the party, affects not just her own battlefield district. The senior member of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition sees part of her role as pouncing on political grenades for vulnerable members who are threatened with hurtful voices, even if they do means that every one of Murphy’s public is against spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, and Biden reads like a threat to untangle the agendas of their party leaders.

For example, when Biden visited the house in early October, Murphy said she was stunned by the president’s decision not to get members to vote for his infrastructure plan that day. Instead, he bowed to the increasing pressure and gave the green light to delay the Infrastructure Act.

“He took an historic, bipartisan victory and turned it into a partisan club against his own party,” Murphy said.

The Florida Democrat has taken on this more confrontational role amid questions about her own political future and weighed her options as she faces a likely fierce redistribution struggle to keep her seat. While she was once considered certain to run for the Senate in 2022, she skipped a brutal primary fight to challenge Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) And could set her sights on a 2024 race for the upper chamber, according to the People close to her.

“I try to do things outside of the media’s glare,” Murphy said, adding that she feels protected from her fellow moderators, “because decisions are often made and they don’t consider what a purple or red or blue border looks like to like.”

The real centrist coat that Murphy now puts on in the house was once worn by a MP who is now better known for her silence: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Before Sinema moved from the House of Representatives to the Senate in 2018, she was a swing state scrapper who defended Murphy when the leadership pushed her to a tough vote.

When the Democrats tried to corner Murphy in a tough vote, the Florida Democrat recalled Sinema stepping in to tell her privately, “You do what you have to do.”

Like Sinema, Murphy has an independent streak, an aversion to cable TV antics, and is a mystery to many of her deep blue counterparts.

“If you want to break out of the partisan stalemate and achieve sustainable results for our country, you want Stephanie Murphy by your side,” Sinema said in a statement to POLITICO. “Stephanie is a tireless, well-prepared and – above all” – independent voice for her state. “

Some Democrats have grumbled privately that Murphy and her moderates taped work on Biden’s broader spending plan, such as when she and three other centrists voted against parts of his bill in committee this summer. They point to Murphy’s role on Pelosi’s Pelosi team and her seat on the speaker’s hand-picked jury examining Jan. 6 as reasons they were surprised by her public criticism.

But Murphy rejected the idea that any place on the Plum Committee should mean curbing any of their public or private statements: “Had someone offered me the January 6th committee in exchange for a future vote. I wouldn’t be on this committee. ”

Murphy’s allies also point out that she has played a key role in tacit legislative and consensus-building within the centrist Democratic bloc for years, preferring to work behind the scenes with Pelosi, House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md. ) and other leaders.

The decision to speak out publicly this year was in part because the centrist bloc of the house felt they needed a counterbalance to the larger and louder progressive wing of the house as Biden’s agenda moved through the hill.

“She was never shy,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), Another co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition. “I think there are very few people who fit into the Murphy form, who, quite frankly, puts the country and county before party loyalty … It speaks for itself.”

If Murphy stays in the House of Representatives, other Democrats have speculated that she might have a place in the next generation of leaders. They point to her compelling personal history as a Vietnamese refugee who later worked in the Pentagon and the trust she has built among vulnerable members.

“Stephanie Murphy is a smart, hardworking, thoughtful, and principled leader in the Democratic House of Representatives, and her voice is important,” said Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.), chairwoman of the caucus. He added that their 2016 victory helped create “one of the building blocks” for the Democrats to recapture a majority two years later.

It wasn’t always clear, however, that she would seek re-election to the House of Representatives next November.

In the early months of that year, Murphy had announced a national run against Rubio, only to give way after her Florida counterpart, Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) Announced their run.

Since then, Murphy has pledged to be re-elected to the House of Representatives. But below-average fundraising in recent months – just $ 140,000 last quarter – left some wondering if she’d changed her mind. People close to Murphy said she had no intention of giving up her re-election bid, although they acknowledge that her seat in Florida’s GOP-controlled redistribution process could be much more difficult to maintain. Allies like Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) Said, “If she wants to run, she has all the resources she needs.”

Murphy still insists that with the right strategy, the Democrats can retain their majority next November – a strategy she is working on reorienting after last year’s elections cost the seats of dozens of moderates. Even before November 2020, Murphy and her team were ringing some alarm bells, particularly in their home state of Florida, where they feared the Democrats would lose ground with Latino voters.

Murphy openly spoke out against socialism and ran an ad for the 2020 Biden Campaign race in South Florida far outside of her own district to bolster support for her party there. This year, she and her team say they are spending more resources helping protect established businesses.

Murphy believes Biden’s agenda could be a key factor in keeping the Democrats in power, a main reason she continues to address issues with the broader $ 1.75 social spending plan.

“No money can overcome bad politics. And so no amount of messaging, no money spent, can transcend messaging that is inconsistent with what voters want, ”Murphy said.

It is this concern that has led the Florida Democrats to take such a public – and sometimes combative – role in the negotiations. That summer, Murphy was among about 10 Democrats who upheld Biden’s social spending bill to secure a vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill.

But plans for that vote in late September were eventually thwarted, thanks to a counter-threat from progressives to block the infrastructure bill without the broader bill. This deepened the trust gap many centrists felt with the leadership this fall and further fueled tensions within the party.

Months later, much of the dynamic remains the same: progressives and centrists have made competing demands just to see none of Biden’s laws passed. Meanwhile, Murphy argues that these progressive maneuvers have only delayed the vote on infrastructure – without noticeably changing the position of the Senate centrists.

“Sen. Manchin is not a red cent higher than it was in July, ”Murphy said.

Heather Caygle and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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