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Senator Chris Murphy

4/2/15

Senator Murphy is a member of three committees in the U.S. Senate.  He gave a brief presentation on some of the most important issues before each of those committees.

Appropriations Committee

Senator Murphy feels fortunate to be on this committee as it is rare for a senator with such a short tenure to get this appointment and it is an important committee for Connecticut.

 He chose to be on the Transportation Sub-Committee as it deals with the North East Rail system, which is vital for Connecticut.  This system has long been the only profitable rail line for Amtrak, generating $300 million in profits each year.  Amtrak has always plowed this money into subsidizing its other rail lines.  But the North East Rail system is badly in need of updates and repairs and now Senator Murphy has gotten the Sub-Committee to agree that the annual profits from this line will be used for these upgrades and repairs.

Considering that Metro North and I 95 are the economic lifelines of Connecticut because there is no rail freight and underuse of Connecticut’s deep water ports, this move is especially important, but these other modes of transportation for commerce must also be addressed if Connecticut is to prosper and grow.

Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee

Mental health is the critical issue here for Senator Murphy.  He sees this as a broken system that is vital for all, but inaccessible for many.  It is a non-partisan issue and Senator Murphy is working on a major reform bill for this system in conjunction with some very conservative Senators.

Foreign Relations Committee

Like everyone, Senator Murphy is awaiting the outcome of the nuclear negotiations with Iran.  He has supported the negotiations route.  Generally, he supports using a negotiations approach where feasible rather than relying on military might.  Senator Murphy feels that this approach is not as likely to make future enemies in the process of addressing present problems.  Senator Murphy feels that diplomacy is a goal achieving tool albeit an underfunded and underutilized one as only .2% of GDP is allocated for foreign aid while other countries such as China allocate 12% of their GDP to this purpose.

Senator Murphy stated that he is fully aware of the public’s frustration with Congress.  But he points out that in spite of the congressional difficulties and impasses we have experienced we are still the envy of Europe and much of the rest of the world.  Our economy is in better shape, we have lowered our deficits, we have achieved or are close to achieving energy independence and have one of the youngest work forces in the world due to immigration.  These factors place the country in an excellent position for the future.

Q&A

Q.  How do bridges get stronger if heavier trucks are allowed?

A.  There are proposals for tandem trucks and heavier trucks to be allowed in Connecticut.  But we have 350 bridges that are deemed structurally deficient.  We can’t allow heavier trucks until this is rectified.  Still, with the rail and deep water port problems, we have to look to trucks.

Q.  Are you an alternative to Hillary Clinton as a Presidential candidate and can you comment on the Saudi/Yemen conflict?

A.  I am not an alternative to Ms. Clinton in spite of the New York Times article.  The Saudis have stepped up because we have pulled out of the Middle East.  This administration wants the Middle East to solve their own problems with minimal help from us.  It is a transfer of responsibility.

Q.  What are your feelings about Senator Reid lying about Romney in the last election?

A.  Senator Reid avoided answering the question about his source for the allegations he made about Romney.  Until proven otherwise, I prefer to believe he has such a source.

Q.  How do you feel about approaching a group like Al Shabab using diplomacy?

A.  I don’t support using diplomacy in every situation.  Some situations call for military intervention and that group’s activities are probably one of them.

Q.  How do we get our deficits significantly reduced?

A.  A country always needs some debt, but we can’t let it get out of hand. It’s no problem as long as we are the world’s reserve currency, but that may not always be the case.  We will have to cut a deal that trades off some major spending reductions for increases in education and infrastructure, which will still be a small part of the overall budget.

Q.  How do you improve the civility in the congressional dialogue?

A.  We have a system that is set up to discourage reaching across the aisle.  It is a demonstrable fact that a politician can raise much more money by attacking his or her opponents than by attempts to reach accord. And all politicians need money, a lot of money.  Some of us try to be more down the middle, but the temptation is always there to attack.

Q.  Is a corporation a person?

A.  No

Q.  Can you trust Iran in the negotiations?

A. No you can’t.  That means you have to have robust inspections with a lot of inspectors.  It isn’t perfect, but consider the options.  There are always going to be problems.

Q.  What is the outlook for appropriations for flood control?

A.  There are proposals for coastal improvements.  We have a new center near New London that offers some expertise regarding Connecticut’s situation and Senator Blumenthal and myself are trying to leverage that expertise into increased appropriations for Connecticut.

Q.  Can’t we develop a plan to improve the roads running North and South?

A.  Some areas don’t want highways, but there can be improvements.

Finally let me make a plea for increased money for transportation.  Most states allot 50% of their budgets to transportation needs.  Connecticut only allots 20-30%.  The U.S. only allots 1% to transportation.  We haven’t raised the gas tax, which is the principle means of raising transportation money in over 20 years, and we desperately need more money for transportation.  We need to have some honest conversations about this situation.