Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie
U.S. Chris Murphy speaks to reporters in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Monday (Jack Kramer / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — He grilled President Donald Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary on the issue of guns in schools and said Rex Tillerson’s testimony “confirmed that he is not prepared to be our next secretary of state.” But that’s not stopping U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy from working with the president on an area where they agree.

At a news conference at the Legislative Office Building on Monday, Murphy said that he’d like to work with Trump on his pledge to put American workers’ interests above all others.

Murphy, who has been critical of many of Trump’s policies and cabinet nominees, said he and the president both have made buying American a priority.

“The list is pretty short of things with which I could work with Trump,” Murphy conceded, adding that he was on his way back to Washington to cast a vote against Tillerson as Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State.

But he added, “I want to test his rhetoric and I will applaud Trump” if he fulfills his promises on the campaign trail. Though Murphy did add that taking the president at his word is difficult.

“My job is not to be the political opposition to Donald Trump,” Murphy said. “My job is putting first the interests of the people of Connecticut.” 

Murphy conceded that some of his fellow Democrats in Congress might not agree with his decision to reach out to Trump.

In fact, Murphy added, he will be asking for a meeting with the president, or his advisors, to talk about American-first worker policies.

Toward that end, Murphy on Monday sent a letter to Trump outlining five executive actions that Trump could take to fulfill his campaign promise to put Americans workers’ interests above all others.

The letter said: “I was heartened by your statement in your inaugural speech that your administration ‘would follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American.’ As a founder of the Buy American Caucus in the House of Representatives, I have worked hard since arriving in Congress to push the federal government to follow those rules.

“As you likely know, the Buy American laws enacted by Congress have, over the years, been eroded by loopholes, exceptions, and outright fraud,” Murphy’s letter to Trump continued.

“My office has found, for example, that the Department of Defense (DoD), the largest purchaser of manufactured goods in the world, has spent almost $200 billion on manufactured goods made by foreign companies in the last decade through the use of hundreds of thousands of waivers of the Buy American Act and other government purchasing laws.”

Murphy said a Waterbury company, Platt Brothers, “just lost a $100,000 contract today” to a foreign competitor, by the use of a waiver.

The steps Murphy suggested Trump take are:

• Appoint a government-wide overseer of domestic purchasing policy;
• Conduct a government-wide audit of purchases that are subject to domestic content requirements;
• Require a “Job Impact Assessment” on large purchasing contracts;
• Require contracting personnel to do an exhaustive search for domestic suppliers before approving Buy American waiver requests, and;
• Create a centralized government website that lists all Buy American waivers for every agency.

On Monday morning, Trump, on his first full-day in office, formally signed an executive order to withdraw America from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, pulling away from Asia and scrapping Barack Obama’s most significant trade deal.

Trump sharply criticized the partnership agreement during the presidential campaign, calling it a bad deal for American workers.

In his inaugural address in Washington on Friday, Trump offered a grim view of the country but said he had a robust plan to energize its business sector and bring jobs back to the United States.

“One by one, the factories, shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind,” said Trump, who painted a bleak view of Americans plagued by globalization, crime, drugs, and abject poverty. “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

“From this day forward, it’s only going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families,” Trump said in his inauguration speech.

At another point in the speech, Trump added: “We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American.”

In his Monday press conference, Murphy stated that buying and hiring American first “was not a priority” of the Obama administration, a policy over which Murphy said he often clashed with Obama.

In his letter to Trump, Murphy said the Department of Defense found during an audit a significant level of non-compliance with existing buy American policies among Department of Defense personnel.

“This non-compliance coupled with the flood of illegally permissible waivers means billions of dollars are being used to purchase items manufactured by foreign firms,” Murphy’s letter said.

“The Economic Policy Institute estimated that simply enacting my 21st Century Buy American Act would create 100,000 additional jobs due to the ripple effect that increased domestic spending on manufactured goods has on local communities,” Murphy told Trump in his letter.

“I have seen first-hand in my state of Connecticut the impact our high-quality manufacturers have, as those jobs in turn fueled spending throughout the economy.”