Chris Murphy (Connecticut politician)

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Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy, official portrait, 113th Congress.jpg
United States Senator
from Connecticut
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Serving with Richard Blumenthal
Preceded by Joe Lieberman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's 5th district
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Nancy Johnson
Succeeded by Elizabeth Esty
Member of the Connecticut Senate
from the 16th district
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
Preceded by Steve Somma
Succeeded by Sam Caligiuri
Member of the Connecticut House of Representatives
from the 81st district
In office
January 3, 1999 – January 3, 2003
Preceded by Angelo Fusco
Succeeded by Bruce Zalaski
Personal details
Born Christopher Scott Murphy
(1973-08-03) August 3, 1973 (age 45)
White Plains, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Cathy Holahan (2007–present)
Children 2
Education Williams College (BA)
University of Connecticut, Hartford (JD)
Website Senate website

Christopher Scott "Chris" Murphy (born August 3, 1973) is the junior United States Senator from Connecticut, in office since 2013. He previously served in the United States House of Representatives, representing Connecticut's 5th congressional district from 2007 to 2013. Before being elected to Congress, Murphy was a member of both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly, serving two terms each in the Connecticut House of Representatives (1999–2003) and the Connecticut Senate (2003–07). He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Murphy ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012 after long-time incumbent Joe Lieberman announced in January 2011 that he would retire from politics rather than seeking a fifth term in office. He defeated former Connecticut secretary of state Susan Bysiewicz in the Democratic primary, and subsequently defeated Republican candidate Linda McMahon for the open seat in the general election. Aged 39 at the time, Murphy was the youngest Senator of the 113th Congress. Arkansas' Tom Cotton, elected at age 37, later surpassed Murphy as the youngest incumbent Senator, two years later.

Early life, education, and early career

Murphy was born on August 3, 1973, in White Plains, New York, the son of Catherine A. (née Lewczyk) and Scott L. Murphy.[1] He is of Irish and Polish descent.[2] Murphy's father is the managing partner of Shipman & Goodwin, a Hartford law firm, and his mother is a retired ESL teacher from the Hamner Elementary School in Wethersfield. Murphy has two younger siblings, a sister, Susannah, and a brother, Ben.[3]

Murphy is a graduate of Wethersfield High School. He received his B.A. from Williams College, and his J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law. As an undergraduate exchange student, Murphy also studied at the University of Oxford, where he was a member of Exeter College.[4] On May 19, 2013, Murphy received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of New Haven.[5]

In 1996, Murphy was campaign manager for Charlotte Koskoff's unsuccessful campaign for the House against Nancy Johnson; a decade later, Murphy himself would unseat Johnson. From 1997 to 1998, Murphy worked for Connecticut State Senate Majority Leader George Jepsen. Murphy was first elected to office in 1997, when he won a seat on the Planning and Zoning Commission in Southington.[6]

Connecticut Legislature

House of Representatives


In 1998, at age 25, Murphy challenged 14-year incumbent Republican State Representative Angelo Fusco. Murphy was endorsed by the six largest labor unions in the state. The CT Employees Independent Union endorsed Murphy, the first time the union endorsed Fusco's opponent.[7] Fusco described himself as a union member, an environmentalist, and a moderate.[8] Murphy defeated Fusco 55%-45%.[9] In 2000, he won re-election to a second term, defeating Barbara Morelli 68%-32%.[10]


As early as March 1999, he criticized U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Johnson's vote for impeaching President Bill Clinton.[11]

In 2001, he was a co-sponsor of a bill to eliminate child poverty.[12] He also proposed legislation that would give free tuition to students of the state's community-technical colleges.[13] He proposed legislation that would ban smoking in state colleges and universities.[14] He co-sponsored a bill that would create an earned income tax credit.[15]

He was a supporter of same-sex marriage as early as 2002.[16] During his tenure, he served on the Judiciary Committee.[17]



After two terms, Murphy decided to run for a seat in the Connecticut State Senate at the age of 29. The open 16th district had been held by a Republican for more than a decade. He defeated Republican State Representative Ann Dandrow, 53%-47%.[18] In 2004, he won re-election to a second term, defeating Republican Christopher O'Brien, 60%-37%.[19]


In 2003, he joined the Clean Car Alliance and supported California-like environmental standards on auto manufacturers.[20]

In 2004, Murphy supported a bill that would ban smoking in all restaurants and bars.[21][22]

In 2005, Murphy authored legislation establishing the new Office of Child Protection, to "better coordinate advocacy for abused and neglected children".[23] Murphy also wrote Public Act 05-149, an act permitting stem-cell research while prohibiting human cloning.[24][25] The act, signed into law by Governor Jodi Rell, made Connecticut the third state in the nation to permit taxpayer-subsidized stem-cell research.[26]

During his tenure in the State Senate, Murphy was one of the first ten co-sponsors of a civil union bill that passed the General Assembly in 2005. On his Senate campaign website, Murphy summarized his stance, "Let me be clear and simple: LGBT rights are human rights. Marriage equality and nondiscrimination in the military, workplace, classroom and healthcare system, based on real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, are civil rights that must be protected under law."[27] During his tenure he served as Chairman of the Public Health Committee.[28]

U.S. House of Representatives

Murphy campaigning for presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008.


Murphy chose not to run for re-election to the State Senate in order to seek the U.S. House seat held by 12-term incumbent Republican Nancy Johnson. In order to challenge Johnson, Murphy moved from Southington to Cheshire.[29] Murphy was elected in 2006 with 56% of the vote, defeating Johnson by a margin of about 22,000 votes; among incumbents, only John Hostettler lost by a larger margin that year. He carried 35 of the district's 41 cities and towns, including several that had reliably supported Johnson for decades. He defeated Johnson by a significant margin in her hometown of New Britain, which she had represented for over 30 years in both the state senate and in Congress.[citation needed]

He was re-elected again in 2008 and 2010, with 60% and 54% of the vote, respectively.


Murphy has received high scores from liberal groups such as Americans for Democratic Action, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and various labor unions; and low scores from conservative groups as the Club for Growth, American Conservative Union, and FreedomWorks.[30]

In August 2008, Murphy sent a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer expressing support for increased oil drilling as part of a bipartisan energy bill.[31]

Murphy supports reform of federal supportive housing programs, which assist low-income people with severe disabilities. In 2008, the House of Representatives passed the "Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act", which Murphy authored to modernize and streamline Section 811, which governs federal supportive housing grants.[32]

Murphy has called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp;[33] however, in February 2011, Murphy voted to extend provisions of the Patriot Act.[34]

Health care reform

In 2009, Murphy helped draft HR 3200, the House health-care reform bill. Murphy defended his role in supporting the bill at a contentious town hall meeting in Simsbury in August 2009.[35][36]

A longtime supporter of health insurance reform, Murphy is a strong proponent of the public option, which entails the creation of an independent, government-sponsored health insurance plan to compete with private companies. Murphy has argued that such a plan would not require government financing and would help to introduce competition into monopolized health insurance markets and help bring down costs.[37]

When singer Justin Bieber said in an interview with Rolling Stone that he admired the health care system in his native Canada, Murphy sent a tweet to The Huffington Post expressing approval of Bieber's comments. Shortly thereafter Murphy noticed that Bieber, in the same interview, spoke out against the practice of abortion, so Murphy sent out another tweet to distance himself from Bieber on that issue.[38]

Ethics reform

In May 2007, Murphy organized a group of freshmen House members to support the creation of an independent, non-partisan ethics panel to review complaints filed against members of the U.S. House of Representatives.[39] He has been credited with helping to shape the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which was passed into law by the House in March 2008.[40]

Murphy sponsored a bill that would subject Supreme Court Justices to the same ethical code that applies to other federal judges, and suggested in 2011 the possibility of an investigation to decide whether Justice Clarence Thomas had committed ethical violations that would justify removing him from office. The matter in question was Thomas's connection to Harlan Crow[41] and other supporters of the Republican Party.[42] Murphy circulated a draft letter to other members of Congress asking the House Judiciary Committee leadership to hold a hearing on the Supreme Court Transparency and Disclosure Act, which would end the Supreme Court's immunity to judicial ethics laws.[43]

Contractors operating overseas

As a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Murphy was highly critical of for-profit government contractors operating in Iraq, which functioned with little government oversight and scrutiny. He introduced and successfully passed into law the "Government Funding Transparency Act of 2008" which required private companies that do the majority of their businesses with the federal government to publicly disclose their top executives' salaries.[44]

Local issues

Two home invasions occurred in Murphy's district in 2007 and 2008; the latter in Cheshire being especially brutal, with the rape and murder of a mother and her two young daughters. In response, Murphy proposed making home invasion a federal crime.[45]

Murphy has been a proponent of the proposed New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Commuter Rail Line, an effort to use existing railroad tracks owned by Amtrak to provide daily commuter service on par with Southwestern Connecticut's Metro-North service into New York. In 2008, Murphy successfully added an amendment to rail legislation making it easier for Amtrak and the state of Connecticut to cooperate on the rail project.[46]

Murphy proposed reforms of the nation's 'missing-persons' databases, introducing "Billy's Law" in 2009 to improve coordination of law-enforcement efforts to locate missing persons. The legislation was named in honor of Billy Smolinski, Jr., a one-time resident of Murphy's district who disappeared in 2004.[47]

Committee assignments

U.S. Senate

2012 election

Murphy announced on January 20, 2011, that he would run for the Senate seat held by Joe Lieberman, who was retiring. It was announced in mid-July that a group spearheaded by a state Capitol lobbyist was forming a Super PAC for his campaign, hoping to raise $1 million to combat a possible opponent.[48]

Murphy defeated former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz in the Democratic primary and defeated 2010 Republican candidate Linda McMahon in the general election.[49][50] After McMahon's negative ads left Murphy "on the defensive virtually nonstop" and struggling to respond, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent additional staff and money to Murphy to help with his campaign, saying they are "100 percent behind [him]."[51]

On November 6, Murphy defeated McMahon with 55% of the vote, winning every county except Litchfield County. At the time, it was the most expensive political race in Connecticut history,[52] and one of the most expensive Senate races in 2012.[53]


Murphy took office on January 3, 2013. Murphy pledged to support filibuster reform in the Senate, which would change a passing requirement of 60 votes to a simple majority.[54]

Health care

On September 27, 2013, Murphy voted to restore funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as part of an amendment to legislation funding government operations for 45 days, and which also omitted House-passed language prioritizing debt payments if Congress fails to increase the nation’s borrowing limits.[55]

Economic issues

Murphy has introduced two pieces of legislation, the American Jobs Matter Act[56] and the 21st Century Buy American Act[57] to close loopholes in the existing Buy American laws and encourage the U.S. government to purchase American-made goods.

Gun violence

Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Murphy became a leading voice in the movement to prevent gun violence, supporting numerous policies including universal background checks and ending the ban on gun violence research at the CDC.[58] Murphy supported the bipartisan Machin-Toomey background checks proposal, which would have strengthened and expanded the existing background check system and established a National Commission on Mass Violence to study in-depth all the causes of mass violence.[59] When the proposal failed to meet the 60 vote threshold for advancement, Murphy remarked, “This is a day when the Republican filibuster stood in the way of 90% of Americans.”[60]

Murphy has a 100% rating with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.[61]

In his first month in office, he criticized the National Rifle Association and Apple Inc. for a video game involving shooting with guns that was labeled appropriate for children as young as four.[62]

On June 24, 2015, Murphy stated that: "Since Sandy Hook there has been a school shooting, on average, every week." The Washington Post described this statement as misleading.[63]

On June 15–16, 2016, Murphy staged a filibuster regarding gun control following the deadliest mass shooting in US history in Orlando, Florida. The filibuster entered the list of the top 10 longest filibusters in US history.[64]

Foreign policy

Murphy is one of the first members of Congress to come out in opposition to US support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.[65] In a speech on January 29, 2016, he recommended that the US stop supporting this military campaign and suspend military sales to Saudi Arabia until the US receives assurances that the war will not distract from Saudi efforts against al-Quaida and ISIS and Saudi Arabia lessens its worldwide support of Wahhabism.[66] Murphy is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the ranking Democratic member of the subcommittee on the Middle East and Counter-terrorism.[67] In the edition of June 8, 2015 of Foreign Affairs, Murphy co-authored "Principles for a Progressive Foreign Policy," proposing a framework for a Democratic foreign policy strategy.[68]

In March 2016, Murphy authored the bipartisan bill the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, along with Republican Senator Rob Portman.[69] Congressman Adam Kinzinger introduced the U.S. House version of the bill.[70] After the 2016 U.S. presidential election, worries grew that Russian propaganda spread and organized by the Russian government swayed the outcome of the election, and representatives in the U.S. Congress took action to safeguard the National security of the United States by advancing legislation to monitor incoming propaganda from external threats.[69][71] On November 30, 2016, legislators approved a measure within the National Defense Authorization Act to ask the U.S. State Department to take action against foreign propaganda through an interagency panel.[69][71] The legislation authorized funding of $160 million over a two-year-period.[69] The initiative was developed through the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act.[69]

Committee assignments


In May 2013, Murphy was awarded[clarification needed] $60 million of a total $75 million to house 55 of the 330 homeless veterans living in Connecticut.[72][73]

Personal life

Chris Murphy and his wife Catherine (née Holahan) married in August 2007. They have two sons, Owen and Rider.[74]

Financial problems

Murphy has been sued for nonpayment of his mortgage and non-payment of rent, and has also failed to pay taxes when due on several occasions.[75] In 2007, Chase Home Finance sued for foreclosure against Murphy, whose campaign initially responded by claiming that Murphy had missed "a couple of mortgage payments." Murphy claimed that he did not know he was in default until legal proceedings started. Murphy received a loan at the rate of 4.99% from Webster Bank in 2008 to consolidate his previous mortgages after being sued for foreclosure.[75] At the time of this loan, Murphy was serving on the House Financial Services Committee. In 2008, Webster Bank's political action committee made numerous donations to Murphy's campaign and in 2005 and 2006, Murphy worked for Webster as an attorney. In 2008, Murphy voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program which Webster received $400 million in 2009. Murphy's 2012 Republican opponent Linda McMahon accused him of receiving what she called "special interest loans," and called on Murphy to release his financial records. Bank officials and outside experts claim there was nothing improper about the loans made to Murphy.[75][76][77]

During a Senate campaign debate in 2012, he apologized for his past financial problems, saying “I'm not perfect. I made these mistakes and I fixed them. The point is, everyone who has looked into these allegations [of getting a special deal on a line of credit] has found they are completely false."[75][76]

Electoral history

Year Office District/Class Democratic Republican
1998 Connecticut House of Representatives Connecticut's 81st District Chris Murphy 55% Angelo Fusco 45%
2000 Connecticut House of Representatives Connecticut's 81st District Chris Murphy 68% Barbara Morelli 32%
2002 Connecticut State Senate Connecticut's 16th District Chris Murphy 53% Ann Dandrow 47%
2006 U.S. House of Representatives Connecticut's 5th District Chris Murphy 56% Nancy L. Johnson (inc.) 43%
2008 U.S. House of Representatives Connecticut's 5th District Chris Murphy (inc.) 59% David Cappiello 39%
2010 U.S. House of Representatives Connecticut's 5th District Chris Murphy (inc.) 54% Sam S. F. Caligiuri 45%
2012 U.S. Senate Connecticut Class 1 Chris Murphy 55% Linda McMahon 43%

Note: In all elections to the House, Murphy also ran on the line of the Connecticut Working Families Party, on a fusion ticket.


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External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Nancy Johnson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Connecticut's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Elizabeth Esty
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ned Lamont
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Connecticut
(Class 1)

Most recent
United States Senate
Preceded by
Joe Lieberman
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Connecticut
Served alongside: Dick Blumenthal
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Brian Schatz
Baby of the Senate
Succeeded by
Tom Cotton
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Joe Donnelly
Seniority in the United States Senate
Succeeded by
Mazie Hirono