I almost have to admire US Rep. Tim Murphy, the Republican who somehow manages to cling to his seat representing Pennsylvania's 18th district. You have to respect the way he's able to contort himself in order to appease his GOP masters, while still convincing working Pennsylvanians that he's on their side.
Case in point: Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill. You'd think this would be a tough one for Murphy. He's claimed to represent the regular working guy, but his party wants this bill dead. So how to justify a vote against it? Let's see ...
I know! Let's insist that the bill doesn't go far enough to help American workers!
In a Jan. 28 statement, Murphy objected that "Buy American" provisions he proposed for the bill had been stripped out of it. Murphy apparently wanted to insert language "to require any health information technology system bought under ... the stimulus package be manufactured in the United States by American workers." But that provision didn't make it into the version passed by the House.
You could argue the merits of the measure up or down. Maybe Murphy's colleagues wanted to start saving lives with better IT today, no matter where it was bought from. But here's Murphy's real problem: There aren't THAT many IT guys in Murphy's district to justify voting against a stimulus bill that could help everybody else. So his statement subtly shifts ground, talking not about the IT industry but about ... steel:
"Let's not make the same mistake when we approved building a fence line at the border with Mexico, and then it was built with Chinese steel. Our concrete, our steel, the cars that are going to be bought with this spending ought to be made in America.
... From the iron mines to the manufacturers, to the mills, let's use it to buy America."
Very moving. Very well put. Except... well ...
Psst! Hey Tim! There actually is a provision of the bill that insists on the use of American iron and steel. It's Section 110, and it's titled, conveniently enough, "USE OF AMERICAN IRON AND STEEL."
It's right there on page 12, and the language says, quite clearly, "None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for a project ... unless all of the iron and steel used in the project is produced in the United States."
So Murphy tries a bit of a bait-and-switch here -- he offers a proposal that affects only the tech sector, but then acts as if he's fighting for all the steelworkers and other blue-collar folks in his district. And naturally, he doesn't bother to mention that they were covered in the bill ... or that he voted against it anyway.
But ironically enough, the "Buy American" provision may not last. Why? Because it's opposed by Murphy's fellow Republicans:
The US Senate should strip a "Buy American" clause from President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, the chamber's top Republican said Monday amid anger at the restriction from US allies.
"I don't think we ought to use a measure that is supposed to be timely, temporary, and targeted to set off trade wars when the entire world is experiencing a downturn in the economy," said Senator Mitch McConnell.
To be fair, the "Buy American" provision really is ticking off American allies, and Obama may well scrap it. Even so, if this isn't an example of Murphy having it both ways -- protesting the absence of something that's in the bill, but that his own party leaders want taken out -- I don't know what is.
It seems unlikely Murphy will pay any kind of price for this hypocrisy, though. This comes via Politico: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- which helps to bankroll and coordinate efforts to elect members of the House of Representatives -- plans to roll out a series of attack ads against Republicans who voted against Barack Obama's stimulus plan.
That would be every Republican in the House, of course. But only 28 Republicans are being targeted by the DCCC this time around. And guess who isn't on the list? Our very own Tim Murphy.