The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, that aired on Feb. 11, 2024.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. He was a top negotiator on the immigration deal that collapsed last week. The Senate is now focused on trying to pass aid to Israel and Ukraine. Senator, good to have you here.
SEN. CHRIS MURPHY: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get to the border later. I want to talk with the pieces you’re trying to pick up here with this, what $95 billion emergency spending bill, do you have any sense yet, if there are 60 votes to pass all of this aid?
SEN. MURPHY: I think we’re going to pass the spending bill for Ukraine, we have already moved past several procedural hurdles that require 60 votes. I think there will be 60 votes in the end and there has to be. On many days, Ukraine is firing one quarter of the artillery shells that Russia is. Some days, they are only interrupting half the missiles that are being sent at Ukrainian cities. We are on the precipice of a disaster for Ukraine and for the world. Nikki Haley is right. Putin has made it clear that if he wins Ukraine, he is going to continue on ultimately to a country that’s going to get the United States directly involved in a confrontation with Russia. So it has been hard to get Republican votes to support Ukraine, made very difficult by Donald Trump’s opposition to Ukraine funding, but I think we’re gonna get this done in the Senate by early to mid next week.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So on the border, the President has said the border is not secure. You are working to try to pass this legislation. In the absence of that, should he take executive action? And if so what?
SEN. MURPHY: Well, I think there’s limited executive actions the president can take. He does not have the legal authority to shut down the border. Our bill, our bipartisan bill, would have given him that authority. If crossings were too high on a daily basis, the President could shut down portions of the border. The asylum system is broken. He can’t fix that by executive order. It takes 10 years for people to get an asylum claim processed, many of them don’t have legitimate claims. Only legislation can fix that. Our bill would have done that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SEN. MURPHY: As soon as Republicans realized that it was actually going to fix the border, they voted against it en masse because they want the border to remain chaotic, because it helps President Trump and his reelection efforts.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We have more in-depth to talk about on this issue. I have to take a break. Please stay here with us Senator. We’ll be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face The Nation. We continue our conversation now with Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Murphy. You are optimistic that this massive security supplemental will pass this week. But there is pressure within your party to add some strings on when it comes to Israel aid. Why is it that the White House appears to be so powerless to rein in Benjamin Netanyahu when they are clearly uncomfortable with how he’s waging this war?
SEN. MURPHY: Well, I think we saw an important development last week. The White House released a letter in which they made clear that if we approve new aid to Israel, they are going to make sure that it is used in compliance with US and international human rights law. And I think that’s incredibly important. Right now, the level of civilian casualty inside Gaza is unacceptable. And it does not accrue to the national security goals of the United States, nor Israel, because it is going to essentially keep Hamas in business inside Gaza, and around the region as they use this grievance structure as a means to continue to recruit. So I do think that that clarification will be important. I think the President’s willingness to speak up a little bit more strongly about the way in which this campaign is being conducted will likely have a change in the operational pace. And I think it’s incredibly important for the United States and for Israel, for Hamas to be defeated. But for there to be a dramatic reduction in the number of civilians that are being killed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: To your point, the White House sent a group of officials out to Michigan to meet with Arab-Americans there who are very upset with- with how the President has communicated, specifically. CBS has a recording of one of the conversations the deputy national security adviser had. He said, “I do not have any confidence in the current government of Israel.” He also said the administration has left a “very damaging impression as to how much the President values the lives of Palestinians.” Should there be more strings attached to this aid package you’re about to vote on?
SEN. MURPHY: So the President does believe deeply in the importance of preserving life inside Gaza, and has continually pressed for more humanitarian aid to get into Gaza. There would not nearly be the number of shipments coming in today. If this president wasn’t pushing hard for change. But yes, there are many of us who believe that it is very important for us to make clear with this aid package, that if Israel is going to use these dollars to perpetuate this campaign inside Gaza, it has to be done in a way with less civilian life being lost. I think that’s important to members of Congress. I know that’s important to this administration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And they’re going to speak more about that?
SEN. MURPHY: I think you will clearly hear the president. My guess is that based upon what the President said last week, that you’re going to hear the President continue to stand up for a campaign that defeats Hamas, but it’s done in a way that is much more respectful of civilian life.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When I asked you about the President, as you know, he has mixed up the names of the French and German leaders. He referred to Egypt as Mexico. Adam Smith, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee said on Friday, Biden does not have the normal strength to go out there and campaign. I think we have the soundbite.
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REP. ADAM SMITH: He does not have the normal strength to go out there and campaign, you know, to do rally after rally in conversation after conversation…. I’d rather have someone who’s good at the job and not great at the campaigning, than the other way around. But it’s going to be a challenge…. You go out there and win that campaign.
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MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you agree with him?
CHRIS MURPHY: I don’t. Joe Biden is the only person who’s beaten Donald Trump. And there is absolutely a corollary between being good at the job and being good at explaining to the American people why you should be reelected. Listen, I’m somebody that’s worked intimately with the President, right. I worked with him on the bipartisan gun bill. He was involved in every step of that process, not only constructing the bill, but winning individual Republican votes; it would not have passed, if not for Joe Biden. And what has happened since we passed that bill, a 12% reduction in urban homicides in this country. There are literally thousands of people alive in this nation today. Because Joe Biden is incredibly competent, and he’s incredibly effective. And this partisan- and this partisan hit job by somebody that is looking for a better–
MARGARET BRENNAN: — That was a Democrat, we just played.
CHRIS MURPHY: — No, I’m talking about the special counsel, who’s looking for a better job in the next Trump administration, is not going to dissuade Americans who actually see with a real world impact on their lives is of Joe Biden’s administration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But you know there is a difference here that we’re talking about. Your fellow Democrat was talking about the ability to go out there and campaign. You just acknowledged a failure to communicate on a very important issue in regard to Palestinian lives. Is there a problem here?
CHRIS MURPHY: There’s- there’s not a problem. This President is going to be able to sell a record. That is extraordinary. Unemployment at record lows, factory construction booming, crime down, inflation under control, and he is also somebody that has been the only one member of our party who has effectively beaten Donald Trump in a general election. So I know that he is ready for this campaign. I have seen how effective he has been up close and personal. And I am not going to let my constituents be distracted by a special prosecutor who’s trying to gain favor within the MAGA movement.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sen. Murphy, good to have you here. We’ll be right back.