Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Watch the Governor of Pennsylvania Compare Gay Marriage to Incest

| Fri Oct. 4, 2013 11:15 AM EDT

On Friday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) was asked by a reporter a Harrisburg's CBS affiliate to clear the air about his views on same-sex marriage, after a legal brief filed on behalf of his administration compared same-sex marriage to letting 12-year-olds get married. But Corbett, who had previously called the comparison "inappropriate," wasn't in an apologetic mood. Instead, he offered up a comparison of his own. "It was an inappropriate analogy—I think a much better analogy would have been brother and sister, don't you?" Commence awkward silence.

Watch:

Why Congressmen Should Still Be Paid During a Shutdown

| Fri Oct. 4, 2013 10:31 AM EDT

#richforever

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill can agree on at least one thing: Members of Congress shouldn't be paid during the shutdown. "If Congress can't do its job and put the American people first, then they certainly shouldn't get paid during a crisis that they are causing," said Rep. Ami Berra (D-Calif.), explaining his decision to donate his check to charity. "Why should Senators or House members be paid for failing to fulfill one of their most basic responsibilities?," asked Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), while announcing he would give up his own salary for the duration of the impasse.

The answer to Buchanan's question isn't as obvious as it might sound. For one thing, taking away paychecks from members of Congress wouldn't save anyone any money. Unlike the 800,000 government workers currently on furlough, congressmen are prohibited by the 27th Amendment from raising or lowering their own pay until after a congressional election; any action they take now wouldn't go into effect until 2015, by which time the shutdown will, presumably, be over. To get around that, senators and representatives choosing to forfeit their paychecks have simply donated them to charity. But that leads to another problem with the pay cut demand: Those members of Congress who do give up their pay are doing so because it's a stunt they can afford. As the National Journal's Matt Berman notes, the median member of Congress' net worth of $966,001 is about 12 times higher than the median American family.

But logistics aside, the idea that congressmen should work without pay is based on a faulty, if widely held premise—that congressmen aren't doing their jobs. It's certainly true that Congress as a body isn't functioning properly, but on a district-by-district level, residents are getting what they voted for. People who elected mainstream Democratic senators didn't send them to Washington to defund the Affordable Care Act; people who stocked the House with arch-conservative Republicans in 2010 and 2012 didn't send their representatives to Washington to keep the Affordable Care Act intact. Why should a powerless House Democrat have to rearrange his finances because of John Boehner's intransigence?

If people really disagree with what their congressmen have done, of course, they have the same option a private employer would: Fire them. In 2011, House Republicans threatened to shut down the federal government and risk a default. In 2012, their constituents sent them back to try it again. Right now, they're getting what they paid for.

No, the House GOP Isn't Standing Up for Kids With Cancer

| Thu Oct. 3, 2013 12:51 PM EDT

Step aside, WWII vets; House Republicans have found their newest government shutdown prop: children with cancer. On Wednesday, having caught wind of the news that about 200 patients—including 30 children—would not be admitted for clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health, the House quickly passed a bill to fund the NIH. (It passed similar resolutions for the National Park Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the District of Columbia.) On Twitter, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) synthesized the new conservative talking points as only he could: "President Stompy Feet now says he'll kill funding for children's cancer treatment. Will the media still cover for him?" On Thursday morning, House Republicans who worked previously as doctors and nurses held a press conference on Capitol Hill to call once more for full funding of the NIH.

But missing from all of this is any explanation of what the Republicans' continuing resolution would actually do: Enshrine the severe cuts imposed on the institute by sequestration. NIH lost 5 percent of its budget—or $1.7 billion—when the cuts included in the Budget Control Act went into effect last spring. It has adjusted by eliminating at least 700 research grants, and slowed down priorities such as developing a universal flu vaccine. As NIH director Dr. Francis Collins told the Huffington Post in August, "God help us if we get a worldwide pandemic." (Making a bad situation worse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it will be unable to effectively monitor flu vaccination programs and virus outbreaks during the shutdown.) In September, Collins suggested that the cuts to research could put "the next cure for cancer" on ice.

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