Stephanie Murphy and Kathleen Rice are the first to leave Congress – there are too many bones to pick.

Murphy (D-Fla.) and Rice (Dn.Y.), two best friends and roommates during their years in Washington, quit this month after a combined 12 years on the Hill and a shared determination to cause intra-party headaches. Will depart after faith. Rice, 57, famously led a rebellion against Nancy Pelosi’s second speaker bid, while Murphy, 44, emerged as a outspoken critic About the Democrats’ handling of their agenda last year.

And they’ve both felt the sting of ostracism for crossing their party, getting ostracized from outside groups and protesters, which Murphy said largely “punishes members of their own party for stepping out of bounds.” To do” exists.

But when the two sat down for an exit interview with POLITICO, it was clear they had some remorse about their reputations as thorn in the side of the leadership. In fact, they take the label literally: Murphy, Rice and their close friend, Sen. Kirsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), bought diamond-studded prong-shaped necklaces to celebrate their roles, as well as fist along with other moderates in finalizing President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill.

“The diamond-studded fork. There’s an analogy,” Murphy said. “But we did the bill. Sinema got it done on the Senate side, and we broke it on the House side. … We believe in celebrating victories sometimes, just with jewelry.

In a Capitol and a country where bitter partisan divisions have made centrists like Murphy and Rice ever more rare and frequent targets, his candidness about his rebelliousness is palpable — perhaps in stark contrast to the reticence of his friend Sinema. (Especially since the three have a habit of sharing souvenirs, which they buy after “class rings” or “we survived the rebellion” rings.) a narrow escape Retrieved January 6, 2021, from Sinema’s whereabouts.)

The conversation that follows—about his biggest frustrations with his own party, why he’ll never run for the House again—has been lightly edited for clarity and continuity.

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The two have been joined at the hip since Murphy’s first days in the House in 2016, when a friend of Rice’s, Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), suggested they get together during a group dinner. Rice now called him his “matchmaker”, and Peters was among the frequent guests at the shared rental for the next five years. They named it the “Smokehouse” after Rice and Murphy burned food in their ovens, filling the house with smoke as people showed up for their housewarming parties.

Murphy: I remember when we were having dinner or something, and [Peters] – As if I wasn’t there – Said, like, ‘Kathleen, she seems normal.’ [laughs] ‘You guys should probably live together.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, thanks.’ I was living on my own, and going back to a random apartment in DC was so lonely. Kathleen, when you set her on a mission, like, get out of her way.

Then, like three days later, we signed a lease for a place. Obviously [Reps. Josh] Gothimer [D-N.J.] And [Tom] Semolina [D-N.Y.] We were already looking at the place, and she was saying, ‘We have to beat her.’

rice: I don’t think we’ve seen it.

He is part of a tight bipartisan team of former and current House members that includes Sinema, Peters, Reps. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Former Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) and Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), retired Rep. John Katko (RN.Y), and others. Still-Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will walk out.

rice: Sometimes, we hang out with “back row heckler” types of people, like [Rep.] derek [Kilmer (D-Wash.)], [Rep.] ami bera [D-Calif.], and then ab [Spanberger (D-Va.)] and mickey [Sherrill (D-N.J.)]

Murphy and I have been having a lot of discussions about activities that we will do at our house… Always, it has to be bipartisan. Until covid happened, smokehouses were closed for a while. [When McCarthy came], His team has to come and like the place. We will play Jenga, card game.

Murphy: We used to work out together – solidcore. … i remember kevin [McCarthy] It was like, ‘Who thought it was a good idea to have cameras when we’re on our ass?’ [both laugh], I was a freshman. I was like, ‘Any press is good press.’

rice: We have been very protective about cinema, you know. Since Covid, and these past two years being so crazy, she’ll only come to the smokehouse.

Murphy: What I will say is: DC, the more people and meetings and things you do, it can be very isolating and lonely. Sometimes those relationships don’t seem real. The Smokehouse has always been a great place for us to make real friendships. Putting aside political viewpoints and really seeing each other as people. Learn about our family, complain about what happened at work that day.

Both Rice and Murphy have taken their share of heat for their outspokenness in a capital where diplomatic evasiveness can be the norm and women are not always celebrated for being as straight-talking as men. Rice recalled a male legislator calling her a “troublemaker” for speaking out about an issue, and Murphy was open about the same treatment from her gender. When he was asked to name the oldest tradition of the Congress, he did not hold back.

Murphy: It’s just the Democratic Caucus, but the whole seniority thing. If you look at the Republican model, it works better because it allows committees to switch for different priorities and viewpoints and ideas. … I think it really stunts the Democratic Party’s ability to generate new ideas and a new generation of leaders.

rice: I feel [Congress] If we do more things together, if we’re really here at the same time, we can be a more effective body as a whole. House and Senate.

Murphy: Many people in the House think that just passing a Bill through the House is enough. And it’s like, no, if you want to change people’s lives, it has to become law. If you look at some of our big demonstrations, it was because the House wanted to pass something that was never going to become law.

And his honesty didn’t waver when asked about what has been tagged as a problem for Democratic leaders.

Murphy: The infrastructure that is in place to ensure party unity is very powerful. It’s the outlaw groups that have the money to punish members of their party for stepping out of bounds, and you can see both the Republican side and the Democratic side.

They have dehumanized us as parliamentarians, and therefore it is okay to hurt someone if you don’t see them as a human being. I saw on the news yesterday, the chief of the Capitol Police said that there has never been a more dangerous time to be an elected official. So, people who have the talent and potential to pursue careers elsewhere are going to decide not to do so. We’re going to have weirdoes or insanely ambitious people running our country.

Or when the idea of ​​a bid for the second chamber came up…

rice: not me. Never run again.

Murphy: No. Not again in the house.

During the recently concluded 117th Congress, Murphy held a high-profile position on the Jan. 6 Select Panel, where a recent report suggested he feuded with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). True to form after criticizing the desire to incite “woman on woman violence”, The Floridian downplayed any tension.

Murphy: The January 6th Select Committee was the most important group project I was ever assigned. And as anyone who’s worked on a group project knows, you have to come to terms with compromise language. You have nine people with very different personalities and views. And all you have to do is figure out how to make the best of the product.

I have so much respect for Liz. And maybe it goes back to that sexism question. I don’t know why it happened that the staff or other members felt they needed to concentrate, whereas those conversations happened between all the members. It’s a huge group project, and there is dialogue. I don’t know whether people want to see us in a mud pit or something. Like, it’s silly to me. I’m really proud of the product that we came up with.

And when the two were asked what influenced their decisions to leave the house, Murphy talked about having to explain to her two young children that “mommy’s job opens them up to hurt,” emphasizing that Giving that she wants to give priority to her children. Rice took a more strident approach.

rice: I have seen every phase of power in my eight years. There has been a Democratic President, Republican President, Democratic House, Republican House, Democratic Senate, Republican Senate. When people say to me, ‘Oh, are you leaving because you know you’re probably going to be in the minority?’ I say, ‘Actually, no. But the irony is that the worst two years ever were the ones when the Democrats controlled everything.

This was the last Congress. We were acting – and the rhetoric of the Democrats – was like, ‘We have this mandate.’

Murphy: There is no mandate for five seats in the House [laughs],

Some of the House Democratic caucus advocates for powerful governance while the party maintains unified control of Washington, the progressives in what Rice and Murphy call the “Never Enough” caucus. Both apparently think of supporting the politically left-wing Democrats in the midterm elections, where the party largely exceeded cellar-less expectations.

Murphy: Defame the police. The Green New Deal. there were a lot of good intentions [pieces of] Law with horrifying nomenclature and impact on average Americans.

As crime is on the rise, your suburban housewife doesn’t want to rescue the police, does she? But I know that ‘defund the police’ means something different to our caucus. This means having wraparound services so that you don’t send law enforcement officers to mental health situations. There could be a myriad of ways to express this.

rice: Let me give you the example of New York. This is a blue, blue state, and that is why we lost the majority. We lost four seats in the House. I said [to party leaders]’You guys don’t understand, we’re going to lose Long Island. And we are going to lose some more seats, and up.’ He said, ‘No, no, no, your seat Biden was +13.’

[But] In a community like mine, when we had elections in November of 2021, every single Democrat on Long Island lost. Not because he was not popular and not because people did not like him. But he wanted to send a message to Washington.

Murphy: My other favorite thing is to hear my progressive colleagues say to me, ‘No, no. I have polling that says it is popular in your district.’ You know what, the people of Florida 7th elected me. I’ll tell you what they’re telling me. Your vote doesn’t matter.

Rice, known as a Pelosi critic, had warm words for the late speaker’s successor, fellow New Yorker and incoming Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

rice: I’m very excited to see what direction he takes the caucus. I think it’s going to be very difficult for him, because we’re becoming increasingly diverse. Every election brings more diversity, ideological diversity. It’s going to be tough. But I’m glad the torch has finally been passed on.

And despite all the daggers they’ve taken and dodged as women in politics, Rice and Murphy both said they would still encourage a daughter, niece or any other young woman to run for the House.

rice: 1,000%. And it’s funny because I tell people, especially young women, ‘If anyone ever asks you to run for office, just say yes. Don’t think about it.’ Because 17 years ago, if I would have thought, ‘What does this even mean?’ I might not have done that.

There are a lot of points for women entering politics, mostly financial barriers. [But] I would say absolutely, yes, 1,000%. Because honestly serving like this is the biggest honor of my life.

Murphy: I would say yes too. There are very few places where you can make the kind of difference in people’s lives that you can in the US House of Representatives. I’m actually particularly proud of the passing of that infrastructure bill, because the guy in front of me in the chair [House] transportation. When I got elected, everyone in my community underestimated me. well guess what. Historic investment in infrastructure.

I hate to sound so petty, but when you are as underrated as I think women can be, when you win yours, you just gotta take yours.

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