Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy (D-District 8) remarked that bipartisan work won't be a stretch for him — after all, it's a part of his life.
His mother, Margaret Murphy, works for retiring State Sen. Joseph Conti (R-District 10), and his wife, Jennifer, was once a member of the College Republicans. He himself voted for President George W. Bush in 2000, and has said that it was largely the president's conduct of the war that turned him against the GOP.
But he joked that his infant daughter — also named Margaret — just born on Nov. 24, was already a Democrat.
'Back in the Right Direction'
Murphy is one of nine new additions to the 44-member Blue Dog coalition, a group of moderate to conservative Democratic lawmakers who are also considered strong on defense issues.
One of the biggest questions regarding the new Congress is whether the Blue Dogs or the more fiscally and socially liberal block lead by Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the next speaker of the house, will set the tone on Capital Hill.
"The Blue Dogs are committed to winning as a team," said Murphy, 33, who had to undergo extensive interviews to be admitted to the voting block.
"As a caucus, we will work to make sure we move our party and this country back in the right direction," said Murphy, who defeated Republican incumbent Michael Fitzpatrick by less than 1,600 votes, a result that surprised some analysts.
"People want change — they want to believe again in our government."
Touting his conservative credentials on a crucial hot-button issue, Murphy reiterated his opposition to creating a citizenship path for undocumented immigrants. Along those same lines, he noted that he plans to work for tougher security on the U.S. border, as well as for stiffer fines against employers who hire illegal workers.
But Murphy, an Iraq-war veteran, was elected largely on the groundswell of voter dissatisfaction with the situation in the Mideast, and he stressed that asking tough questions of the administration would be a top priority for the new Congress.
"We need to win the war on terrorism, but I believe we need to refocus our effort on Osama bin Ladin and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan," said Murphy, a onetime instructor at West Point.
More than that, he said, "we need to bring our troops home from Iraq."
In regard to Israel, Murphy insisted that it's possible for the United States to become more engaged in the region, and to act as a facilitator for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, without exerting undue pressure or demanding exorbitant military and diplomatic concessions from the Jewish state.
"We need to make sure that we become an aggressive diplomatic leader in the Middle East," said Murphy. "Israel has always been willing to reach across the table and talk to her neighbors."
Regarding the latest cease-fire — which the Palestinians have already violated more than two dozen times by firing rockets into southern Israel — Murphy said that he's "hopeful, but pragmatic."
He said that he's even begun carrying a picture in his wallet of Michael Levin — the 22-year-old originally from Newtown, Pa., who made aliyah and entered the Israel Defense Force.
Levin was killed in action on Aug. 1 in the Lebanese town of Aita al-Shaab.
Murphy said that the photo is a way to express his identification with the State of Israel, the Levin family and Levin himself, who, like Murphy, served as a paratrooper.
Said the Congressman-elect: "It's personal for me."