(Updated 5:46 p.m.) U.S. Senate candidate Chris Murphy defended his “work in progress” jobs plan Monday against criticism from Republican candidate Linda McMahon.
Murphy and McMahon are front-runners in their campaigns for their respective party nominations and, with about a week left before the Aug. 14 primary, both have recently spent more time attacking each other than their primary opponents.
The McMahon campaign has been airing a TV spot criticising Murphy’s jobs plan and Monday issued a statement accusing Murphy, a current member of the U.S. House, of conducting photo ops without having a plan in place to create jobs.
“Maybe this is news to Chris Murphy, but attending photo ops has never created one job,” McMahon’s campaign manager Corry Bliss said in a written release. “He hides behind his ‘Buy American’ rhetoric, but conceals from voters that he actually voted against his own legislation – TWICE!”
Speaking to a group of senior citizens Monday at an assisted living home in New Haven, Murphy stressed how much he still had to learn as a representative of his constituents. He asked the group for their help in identifying what issues were important to them.
Murphy said listening and adapting is a crucial part of the jobs plan McMahon has attacked.
“If you turn on the TV today, Linda McMahon’s got an attack ad against me and she’s criticizing me because my jobs plan, I said, was a work in progress. Well, you know what? I don’t back down from that. What I said when I unveiled my jobs plan was I’m going to listen to people. And if people come up with better ideas, I’m going to put them in my jobs plan,” Murphy said.
“I’m going to never stop listening to people. You know what? That’s okay. There’s not enough listening that happens in government today,” he added.
After the event Murphy said he wasn’t surprised that the “Linda McMahon attack machine” has set its sights on him. But he said he thought it was a political mistake for the McMahon campaign to attack him over his willingness to continue listening to voters.
“I just think this is about, you know, are you going to continue listening to people or are going to shut yourself down from good ideas that you hear,” he said.
But McMahon spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Murphy should know by now what it takes to create jobs.
“Chris Murphy has held public office for 13 years. If he hasn’t heard people who want jobs and an improved economy by now, I recommend he see an ear specialist,” Murtaugh said.
In defending his jobs plan, Murphy accused McMahon of spending tens of thousands of dollars to buy her plan from a consultant. He said her plan seems more designed to give McMahon, the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, a $7 million tax break than to help the average citizen get a job. Murphy said that if McMahon was still listening to voters, she likely wouldn’t have include a tax break for herself in her plan.
Murtaugh said Murphy was trying to “muddy the waters” with an irrelevant number. The vast majority of McMahon’s income comes from stock dividends, not earned income, so her plan to cut the middle class tax rate from 25 percent to 15 percent wouldn’t save her $7 million, Murtaugh said.
He said McMahon’s proposal to reduce taxes for the middle class shouldn’t be confused with the current debate in Congress regarding the extension of the Bush tax cuts.
“As far as the debate in Congress over whether the existing tax brackets should stay the same or go up, Linda does not believe that now is the time to raise taxes on anyone,” Murtaugh said. “When the economy improves, however, she would be willing to pay more herself. That is a wholly separate issue from our proposal to actually cut taxes for the middle class.”
But according to the Murphy campaign, he wasn’t basing the figure off of McMahon’s middle class tax cut proposal, rather another proposal which would fix the capital gains and dividends tax rate permanently at 15 percent. If the Bush-era tax cuts are permitted to expire, that tax rate would revert to 39.6 percent, which using the McMahon’s 2010 tax filings, would cost them an extra $7 million in taxes.
Still Murtaugh said there’s a difference between keeping tax rates where they are and proposing a “tax break.” He said Murphy voted to allow the tax cuts to expire for all brackets recently.
“The surest way to kill a recovery is to start raising taxes. If Murphy’s jobs plan is to kill growth, I guess he should say so,” he said.
Murtaugh said Murphy has been dishonest with voters about his Buy American agenda.
During his time in the House, Murphy has promoted legislation to encourage the federal government to purchase goods made in the U.S. over products made in other countries. But so far he’s been unsuccessful in seeing the language adopted into law.
This year a Buy American provision was included in two defense spending bills, but Murphy voted against the underlying bills in May and July. Despite Murphy’s “no” votes, the underlying bills each passed the House but has yet to be raised by the Senate.
A press release from Murphy’s congressional office referred to the passage of the Buy American amendment as a “major victory” and did not mention his opposition to the underlying bill.
Murtaugh said it was dishonest to tout the passage of a bill he opposed.
“To vote against a bill that contains your legislation then brag about its passage is exactly what career politicians do and it’s what people are sick of,” Murtaugh said.
Murphy said he was proud of his work on the defense bill, even if he couldn’t vote for it. He said having to vote against legislation he worked on is a reality that comes with being a member of the minority party.
“When you’re a minority member of the House of Representatives you don’t control what’s in the bill so you spend time trying to make the bills better, even if they’re not good enough in the end,” he said. “. . . It’s easy for Linda McMahon to sort of criticize from the outside, having never served in government.”
At the end of the day he said couldn’t support the legislation because it continued an open-ended timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Murphy will face former Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz in next week’s Democratic primary election. McMahon is seeking the Republican nomination in a contest against former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays.