Congressional Corner With Chris Murphy | WAMC

Congressional Corner With Chris Murphy

Oct 27, 2020

Experts say masks work.

In today’s Congressional Corner, Democratic Connecticut U.S. Senator Chris Murphy continues her conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This interview was recorded October 20.

Alan Chartock: Chris Murphy is our guest in the Congressional Corner today, Chris, again, I want to thank you for showing up and being who you are. Let me start with something may seem a little ancillary but you're talking about making mask wearing absolutely mandatory in the Capitol. Are you seeing a lot of people walking around without masks?

Senator Chris Murphy: You know, I would say that compliance in the Capitol is pretty good. But you definitely do see some people walking around without masks. And you've seen on TV, a bunch of Republican senators not wearing masks inside committee rooms. We know that there has been, you know, a spread within the Republican Senate caucus. It's possible that that is also spread to certain Republican staff members. And you know, well, I worry about everybody on the Capitol campus. Because it's where I work, it's where my staff works. I in particular, worry about these really low income workers, the people who serve the meals in these Republican caucuses where they were positive, as they were sitting next to each other without masks eating food. I think about the janitors, the janitorial staff who have to come in and, you know, clean up every night. Those folks should be in a safe workplace. That's why I believe in a masked mandate on the Capitol campus, but they should also have total access to testing. Right now, I can get tested and get results back within a couple hours as a member of the Senate. But Mitch McConnell has not made those rapid tests available to everybody, all staff, no matter if you're making $100,000 a year or $40,000 a year. And I just don't want to work in a workplace that doesn't value every single employee.

Now the last time we spoke, we spoke about Judge Barrett, and her nomination to the Supreme Court. I've spoken to Chuck Schumer about this, and there's so many other people. And the question is when I come down to it, you know, he said, well, we're going to do everything possible. But is it possible? Is it possible to put a stop to this nomination, which is so clearly atrocious in terms of the President of the United States, and I'm putting her there, so I can bring it to the court and win?

I mean, I'll be honest now and we're talking with only a few days to go before the expected vote in the Senate floor, it's feeling less and less possible every day. They are changing the rules and prepared to further change the rules in order to expedite this nomination. They control the Senate and so they can set up whatever process that they want. We are going to attempt to slow this down as much as we can. But in the end, if they have 50 votes to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, then they're going to get it done. And we're going to have to bring this to the electorate and make sure that everybody that votes for this radical nominee ultimately pays a price, because she is being put there to overturn the Affordable Care Act. And that is likely to happen by the end of this year, the beginning of next year. So we're going to need a Democratic Senate to put back the pieces together. And so yeah, I'm not feeling great about our chances to stop her nomination. I'm gonna fight like hell, I'm gonna do my best to try to convince a couple more Republicans to vote no, but I can increasingly see the writing on the wall. And so I also need to be focused on the election at the same time to make sure that they don't get away with this, because the worst thing that could happen here is that they put Amy Coney Barrett on the court. And then Donald Trump wins and Mitch McConnell is back in charge of the Senate. I can't allow both those things to happen.

So let's just say, take a different tack. The Democrats win, they become the majority, and then we have seen this state of affairs. so what's to be done? I read an article that things could be changed if you just change the filibuster rules. That's one thing. I read something else that, you know, the court should be expanded? Where are you?

Well, I think, you know, I've always been a critic of the filibuster, I mean, I just don't understand why you set up a government with all these built in checks and balances, all these advantages to the status quo and then you add another one on top of it, which is the ability for a small handful of senators to be able to block the will of the public. So I've long been a proponent of filibuster reform, and I will be in 2021. You know, as far as these other changes that people are talking about, adding Supreme Court seats or admitting new states to the union, let's cross that bridge when we when we come to it. I haven't made up my mind. I've certainly said somethings, I've been supportive of making DC a state. I think that we need to really rethink Puerto Rico’s status. But let's get Joe Biden elected. Let's have a conversation with him about what his priorities are. I agree with Chuck Schumer that everything should be on the table right now, that we need to learn the lessons from what has happened in the Senate over the course of the past five years, and in particular the last few weeks. And I will be open to having all those conversations in January and February of next year.

Chris Murphy along those lines, what are your chances of taking the Senate?

I think really good. Yeah. The only way we win the Senate, as of Joe Biden wins the presidency. That's just sort of how things work these days. These are increasingly parliamentary elections. But if the election were held today, you know, I think we'd be sitting at 51, 52 seats. And we're competitive in some really unlikely places. Alaska, Kansas, Georgia. So I'm raising a lot of money online for candidates that are running in the seats and I hope that some people respond to my entreaties, because I just can't stomach doing this job with Mitch McConnell in charge. I mean, he's essentially a nihilist, he believes in almost nothing, except for power and power itself. And that's ultimately the death of democracy, if all that matters is power, rather than policy and quality of life. And we've got to change that if we have the opportunity.

Chris Murphy, have you ever had the chance to stand, you know, opposite him and tell him what you think of him?

I mean, I've had a lot of conversations with Senator McConnell, I think he knows that I'm not a big fan of his leadership style. I don't know that me sitting down in his office and telling him what I think of him face to face would necessarily get him to change his disposition. I think he’s got a clue about my thoughts.

When's the last time you ever had a fistfight?

It's been a long time. But those days, that used to be a regular occurrence here on the Capitol grounds. I don't think we want those days to come back again.

How do you think this coronavirus thing is going right now? Are we are we heading in the wrong direction? Are we doing the right things?

We're 100% heading in the wrong direction. You got 42 states right now that are seeing increases in hospitalizations. In Connecticut, we are seeing a pretty disturbing uptick in case rates, positivity rates. Obviously, we're starting at a really good place because we got our positive rates down below 1%. But this is the consequence of the president refusing to have a national strategy. There's only so long that Connecticut could protect itself, that New York could protect itself. When the virus is raging in other parts of the country, of course, it's eventually going to find its way to us. And so it's just absolutely unconscionable that the President has refused to lead, is actively trying to spread the virus. I mean, that's what he's doing. He is actively trying to spread the virus, by discouraging mask wearing, by discouraging social distancing, by trying to shut down testing. We have a pro COVID President right now and until you change the person that's in the White House, we are going to see a third spike, you're going to see a fourth spike, you're going to see a fifth spike. Because we don't have an administration that is modeling the right behavior or setting up the systems that will allow us to track trace and quarantine in the way that we know we have to turn the corner.

We're out of time. But I wanted to ask you real quickly. Is he a murderer?

Well, he's intentionally killing people. I mean, and I've said this before, and I know it sounds harsh. You know, I don't know that I'd use that term. But he knows what he's doing. He knows that his actions are killing people. And he's doing it anyway. And so I just think we have to acknowledge what's going on.

You are terrific. Chris Murphy. We so appreciate your being with us. And you're following through with us and we all appreciate it. Again, thank you very much. When you come back the next time let's talk a little bit more about some of the things you really, really, really are excelling in which is foreign policy.