Congressman reflects on what he accomplished for 20th district
GLENS FALLS — With little more than a month left of his year and a half representing New York’s 20th Congressional District, Representative Scott Murphy (D) still has a few things he’d like to accomplish before he leaves office.
Late last week he spoke with The Columbia Paper by phone about his term, saying he departs without regrets and takes pride in his efforts on behalf of farmers, businesses, taxpayers and healthcare consumers.
Mr. Murphy, a Glens Falls businessman, ran the office of a venture capital firm before he narrowly won a special election in 2009 following the appointment of his predecessor, Representative Kristen Gillibrand (D) to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s. Earlier this month, Mr. Murphy lost his bid for reelection to Chris Gibson of Kinderhook, who takes over as congressman for the district at the beginning of January. The 20th District includes all of Columbia County and extends from the middle of Dutchess County in the south to the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, with a spur the reaches through the Catskills.
Even as the current session of Congress winds down, the lame duck House and its Democratic majority have many bills under consideration, some of which will come to a vote before the new Congress controlled by the GOP takes office. One thing Mr. Murphy hopes to do is to help pass a federal budget, because he believes without it the country might face a government shutdown similar to the one during the late 1990s.
He is also continuing to work for tax relief bills, including the extension of Bush era tax cuts for middle class earners; and he hopes that Congress will raise the income level that triggers the federal Alternative Minimum Tax, so the tax will affect fewer Americans. But Mr. Murphy objects to a continuation of tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.
When asked what struck him as most surprising about his time in Congress, Mr. Murphy answered, “how partisan the process is, how separate the Democrats and Republicans are. They don’t have the opportunity to see each other or work together.”
Mr. Gibson paid a visit to Mr. Murphy in Washington, D.C., last week while the congressman-elect was in the capital for freshman orientation. Asked what advice he has for his successor, Mr. Murphy said, “Like me, he has young children. We talked about how to cope with being far away from family. We shared ideas on how to break down partisan issues, about district specifics, about case work, and outstanding issues, including agriculture.” Congressman Murphy served on the House Agriculture Committee, an assignment in which Congressman-elect Gibson has also expressed an interest.
Congressman Murphy is proud that he visited every one of the 137 towns and cities in his district during his abbreviated term. He also held 150 healthcare town-hall-style meetings.
“I helped get money for bridges, high speed Internet and broadband. I enjoyed listening and learning, and working to access federal support for people. Going forward they need to work with their congressman. We helped with loan programs, grants for fire departments for equipment and materials. We worked to reform Wall Street so that never again will Main Street have to bail out Wall Street. We worked to make the economy stronger at both levels, micro and macro.”
Congressman Murphy said helping constituents, whether that meant working on the healthcare bill, helping someone get a visa, earn a slot at a service academy or receive the military decorations they had earned but not received, has been a favorite part of his job as congressman. He gave credit to his “amazing staff” for their help. Now, he says, he is trying to help them figure out what to do next.
After the current Congress ends its session January 3, Mr. Murphy looks forward to returning to his home in Glens Falls and full-time family life with his wife, Jennifer Hogan, and their three young children, Lux, Simone and Duke. While in the capital, the congressman said he slept on his office couch some of the time and later found an apartment. Although he says he is not sure what he will do in the future, he refrained from mentioning political plans and most likely will return to entrepreneurial business activities.
Asked whether his congressional healthcare coverage would continue for the rest of his life, he responded, “Good question. What they say about congressional healthcare plans on the Internet is untrue. I get asked that question all the time. My healthcare will be canceled in its entirety on January 3. I will have access to Cobra just like every other departing federal employee, and I was not in office long enough to get a pension.” Cobra is the federal law that permits workers who lose their jobs to pay themselves for the medical plan they had on the job for up to 18 months after the job ends. Federal healthcare plans pay two-thirds of medical expenses, with the individual covered picking up the rest.
Mr. Murphy refuted another campaign rumor, which charged that as a businessman he had been responsible for outsourcing jobs abroad. While in business prior to serving in Congress, he invested in a company in India, but says he never sent jobs to India. “There’s lot of misinformation out there. It makes it trickier to explain what’s really going on,” he said.
During his time in Washington, although not invited to dinner at the White House, he did attend a Congressional picnic held on the White House lawn.
When asked what constituents in Columbia County should do going forward to get the most benefit from the federal government, Representative Murphy said, “I hope they stay involved in public life and keep talking with their congressman.”