Old and busted: Tim Murphy plans to retire. New hotness: Murphy quits ASAP, with a gentle nudge out the door from Paul Ryan. The pro-life Congressman who urged his mistress to consider an abortion changed his exit date from January 2019 to October 21st as more details about his office’s abusive environment began to spill out on Capitol Hill.
Perhaps the nudge wasn’t really that gentle:
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy decided to resign from Congress Thursday — one day after the beleaguered Congressman said he would serve out his term, and just two days after the Post-Gazette reported claims that he mistreated staff and urged a woman to have an abortion despite his anti-abortion politics.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said he received a letter of resignation, effective Oct. 21, from the Upper St. Clair Republican. “It was Dr. Murphy’s decision to move on to the next chapter of his life, and I support it,” Mr. Ryan said in a statement. “We thank him for his many years of tireless work on mental health issues here in Congress and his service to the country as a naval reserve officer.”
Notably, the Congressman and his office didn’t issue any statement at all yesterday, which may be one indication of just how hard that nudge was in Ryan’s meeting with Murphy on Wednesday. In fact, Murphy took an abrupt leave of absence, the Post-Gazette’s Julian Routh reported, after his tête-a-tête with the Speaker, which made Ryan’s announcement a surprise on Capitol Hill:
There was little indication the news was coming. A handful of staffers worked through the day at Mr. Murphy’s third-floor office at the Rayburn House Office Building, while the Upper St. Clair representative began a leave of absence to take “personal time” with his family. Capitol Hill had been abuzz earlier in the week about Mr. Murphy’s political future after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on documents that indicated problems in his office — and text messages that suggest he urged a woman with whom he was having an extra-marital relationship to get an abortion.
The leave of absence kept Mr. Murphy away from the House’s vote Thursday to authorize a $4.1 trillion budget for fiscal year 2018. Outside the chambers, Rep. Ryan Costello, one of Mr. Murphy’s colleagues in the Pennsylvania Republican delegation, offered very little about his fellow congressman’s plans to retire. “I wish him well in retirement,” he said, adding that he thought Mr. Murphy had made the right decision. Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican from North Carolina who chairs the House’s conservative Freedom Caucus, said Mr. Murphy’s plans to retire were “his personal decision based on his personal life.”
In the early afternoon, Carly Atchison, the congressman’s communications director, wouldn’t say if her boss was in D.C. or back in Pittsburgh — or elsewhere. Ms. Atchison said only that “once he is ready to weigh in, he will.” At times, staffers poked their heads out of the office’s wooden double-doors to glance down the long hallway, where lawmakers typically roam in and out of their quarters to various meetings and votes.
If Ryan gave Murphy a shove, he managed to do so before the dam broke. Just a few hours later, Politico published a lengthy story about multiple allegations of an abusive and harassing environment in his congressional office, allegations which include his chief of staff Susan Mosychuk. Mosychuk had written a letter to Murphy detailing his need to improve his treatment of employees, but former Murphy aide Nick Rodondo told KDKA that Mosychuk was at least as bad as Murphy:
“It was one of the worst places I have ever worked in my life. There was screaming. Intimidation. Nothing you ever did was right,” Nick Rodondo, Murphy’s former district director, told Pittsburgh radio station KDKA’s “Marty Griffin Show.”
Rodondo said the two of them were fond of each other — he said he saw them feed each other at events — but terrible to many others.
“Susan Mosychuk was no better than [Murphy]. She wrote that memo to cover her butt,” he continued. “I know, Marty. I know what these people are like. To call them creeps is an affront to creeps.”
On top of that, questions have been raised about whether Murphy and Mosychuk evaded caps on outside compensation for his chief of staff:
Prior to his resignation, POLITICO had begun seeking information from Murphy office’s about whether Mosychuk earned more in outside income than was allowed under House rules. For several years, she received payments from Murphy’s congressional office as well as his campaign.
During 2008, Mosychuk was paid $231,500 — $156,500 for her official duties and $75,000 from the campaign, according to House disbursement records and her annual financial disclosure form. But permissible outside income for top aides that year was capped at $25,830, according to the House Ethics Committee.
Murphy’s office denies any violation of compensation caps, but that may be the least of their problems, politically speaking. Now that Murphy and Mosychuk no longer have the ability to retaliate, there may be a lot more coming out about their work environment and behavior, none of which will reflect well on the GOP. According to Politico, the toxic work environment in Murphy’s office was well-known, but the House has few mechanisms to deal with it as each elected representative is accountable to his or her district rather than a “boss” on Capitol Hill. The best they could do was to advise potential employees to “turn around and run” rather than accept an offer to work in that office. Ryan was smart enough to see the bad news coming and took steps to clean his own House, as it were.
What next? Governor Tom Wolf will have to call a special election, but that could take place in the state primary next spring, the Post-Gazette explains. The district is reliably Republican — Trump won its constituent counties by 2-1 margins in 2016 and Romney won by nearly the same margins in 2012 — so it probably won’t matter whether it’s sooner or later. Get ready for Democrats to litigate Murphy’s behavior in detail, though, so the GOP should prepare itself with a candidate who can best project a sense of reform rather than business as usual.