U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is bringing his brash reputation to bear in his Senate campaign, calling his Democratic primary opponent U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy "ineffective" as a legislator.
In an Aug. 12, 2015, statement, Grayson, D-Orlando, offered to help Murphy learn how to legislate. Grayson posted the video for the old Schoolhouse Rock song "I’m Just A Bill" and cited an InsideGov.com listicle that called Murphy one of "the least-effective members of Congress."
"Patrick Murphy is one of the least effective members of Congress, in part because he hasn't passed a single bill out of committee," Grayson said in the release.
Murphy, D-Jupiter, is competing with Grayson for the Democratic nomination to run for the Senate seat now held by GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio. Murphy has already been attacked by some Democrats for allegedly not being progressive enough, but we wondered whether the second-term congressman hadn’t gotten any bills out of committee. It’s time for us to take our own roll call.
We’re not going to rate Murphy’s effectiveness as a legislator, because that’s a subjective measure. We’ve also noted time and again that passing bills is not the only way to determine a lawmaker’s effectiveness. There’s simply more to the job, such as writing language that gets included in other bills, proposing amendments, being a co-sponsor, holding hearings or negotiating with other legislators, as well as constituent services.
Murphy was first elected in 2012, so he has largely been a freshman with little seniority. He’s also a Democrat, which means he’s in the minority party in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Grayson cited an InsideGov article as evidence for Murphy's lack of action, but we found two problems with that evidence.
First, the article sticks to a single measure: How many bills a member of Congress sponsored and passed out of committee (that is, having them sent to the House floor for debate) as a percentage of all the bills they introduced. Murphy is listed as having zero during his freshman term. Florida Republicans Richard Nugent and Daniel Webster are on the list, too. The list is stacked with rookies — 21 of the politicians named have served four years or less. It’s also overwhelmingly filled with Democrats, the minority party in the House since 2011.
But there are other ways to get legislation out of committee. Murphy’s campaign disputed the list, and pointed out two instances of him getting bill language out of a committee as a freshman:
• In May 2013, Murphy introduced HR 1974, a bill that would have changed how the Small Business Administration gave out loans for businesses rebuilding after a disaster. Instead of being reported out of committee, Murphy’s language was attached to HR 4121 as an amendment along with other SBA-related changes and sent from the Small Business Committee to the House. No action was taken on the bill.
• In October 2013, Murphy was a co-sponsor and co-author of HR 3329, concerning banking regulations. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., was listed as the sponsor, but Murphy’s campaign noted he and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., managed the bill in the House. In the Congressional Record, Capito credited Murphy for writing the bill with Luetkemeyer. The bill eventually became law.
The second problem is that the article didn't look past 2014, so it's out of date. In addition to highlighting several amendments passed on the House floor, Murphy’s campaign said that the House Committee on Veterans Affairs moved HR 456 forward in May 2015. That Murphy-sponsored bill's language amended HR 475 to cover application fees to post-secondary institutions for veterans. HR 456 came during Murphy’s second term, and wasn’t covered by the InsideGov list.
Several experts told us the list Grayson is citing isn’t providing a good picture of what lawmakers do. Washington University in St. Louis political science professor Steven Smith told PolitiFact that party-line voting in committees usually keeps Democratic-sponsored legislation from getting anywhere. He called the InsideGov article "disappointing" because of its limitations.
"It lists only legislators at the low end of the scale, so we cannot see the majority party bias built into the legislative process and their measure," he said.
Grayson, in case you’re curious, passed two resolutions about honoring Rollins College and when high schoolers should learn about the U.S. Constitution during his first term in 2009-10. He also was behind a law passed giving gold medals to astronauts.
Grayson said Murphy "hasn't passed a single bill out of committee."
He cited a source that only looked at Murphy’s first term, not his second. Experts said the source is flawed, and is not a good way to measure how government works. Murphy had a hand in at least two items coming out of committee in 2013: One bill became an amendment, and he co-authored a second that became law. A third bill that Murphy sponsored moved out of committee as an amendment in 2015.
We rate Grayson's statement False.