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Moderate Democrat Stephanie Murphy Discusses The Fate Of The Infrastructure Bill

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This was the week that the Senate finally passed two measures critical to President Biden's agenda - the $1 trillion bipartisan hard infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion budget framework. And that was passed along party lines. It's packed with progressive policy initiatives left out of the bipartisan legislation, and it includes money to combat climate change, funding for universal preschool and sweeping reform of immigration law. Both packages now move to the House, but some Democrats still have questions and doubts about the cost of that larger bill. Florida Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy is one of them. She joins us now.

Welcome to the program.

STEPHANIE MURPHY: Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will not pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill before the House passes the reconciliation bill. I understand you don't support that approach. What have you said to the speaker about why?

MURPHY: I have called on an immediate vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed through the Senate. I believe that that infrastructure bill is meaningful, significant. It is a historic investment in much-needed investments in our infrastructure. And, you know, it was a bipartisan accomplishment and a legislative victory.

CORNISH: So it sounds like the symbolism of that is important to you. Like, if that works, then maybe you're more inclined to consider these other things?

MURPHY: I think that they're separate things. And the investment into our infrastructure is so critically important. It needs to happen now. And I am open to having a conversation about the reconciliation bill and what the contents of that will be. But it's really wrong to tie a bill that has been completed and passed in a bipartisan way out of the Senate with a bill that has just top-line numbers and no details. I know that...

CORNISH: Let's talk about those numbers for a second. I want to jump in just for the content. Some key moderates in the Senate - Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema, you know, is one of those who said, look; 3.5 trillion is too much money to spend in a reconciliation bill. Is that your concern as well?

MURPHY: I'm concerned not just about the overall spending amount, but what exactly we're spending it on and how we make sure that we make investments that actually have an impact on the lives of American families.

CORNISH: Is there something in there you think does not?

MURPHY: It's unclear what is in there exactly. And I think that's the real problem here, is that we are leveraging a bill that is not yet written against a bill that is already completed. And that's a real problem. That's not how you legislate.

CORNISH: We heard from one of your fellow Democrats, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. She argues that there are needs for issues like climate change, especially in the wake of this climate report from the U.N. earlier this week, that essentially override financial concerns. Here's a sample of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

AYANNA PRESSLEY: Any vote on a narrow bipartisan infrastructure package must also come with a movement on a massive investment in tandem for workers and families. And that's care economy, housing, combating climate change and a pathway to citizenship for millions of our immigrant neighbors. To meet the moment, to be responsive to the needs of the people, we have to be bold, and we can't tinker at the edges.

CORNISH: Can you respond to that?

MURPHY: I think it overlooks the fact that the infrastructure bill does quite a bit to address climate change and clean energy and make investments that grow jobs and support working families. So it's not an either/or thing. But we know the details of the infrastructure bill that is in front of us. We need to take a vote on that. We cannot allow the partisan package to be the enemy of the good package.

CORNISH: But to her argument also she made with us was that this is maybe not the time to be frugal.

MURPHY: And each package should be negotiated on its own merits. But it is really unheard of to tie a yet-to-be-developed package to a package that already has the details built out and that will deliver billions of dollars to Florida and make necessary investments in districts like mine.

CORNISH: That's Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat representing Florida's 7th Congressional District. Thank you for taking the time out to speak with us.

MURPHY: Great to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.