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Breakfast and politics: House hopeful Murphy visits EC

Greg Murphy Campaign Elizabeth City

State Rep. Greg Murphy (right), a doctor and state lawmaker from Greenville, has breakfast with Danny Gray (left), a local Republican leader, and Dianne Layden, a Murphy campaign supporter, at the IHOP restaurant in Elizabeth City on Saturday. Murphy talked politics with Gray during the stop. Murphy is running against Dr. Joan Perry, of Kinston, for the GOP nomination in next month's 3rd Congressional District runoff primary.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Friday, June 14, 2019

Breakfast came with a side of politics for Dr. Greg Murphy late last week, when the congressional candidate visited Elizabeth City to meet with local Republicans.

Murphy, a GOP state House member from Greenville, stopped by the IHOP restaurant in Elizabeth City to meet with longtime Republican organizer and former Dare County Party Chairman Danny Gray.

Murphy and Dr. Joan Perry, of Kinston, are running in the Republican primary slated for July 9. The winner will face Democratic candidate Allen Thomas, plus third-party candidates, in a general election in September. The winner will finish the term of late 3rd District Congressman Walter Jones, R-N.C., of Farmville, who died in February.

Murphy's visit came days after Perry spoke with Pasquotank County Republicans and opposed a version of Medicaid expansion that Murphy supports.

In an interview, Murphy said he stands by his Medicaid legislation, and even suggested Perry was going against her Hippocratic oath by opposing the expansion. He also discussed President Donald Trump's use of tariffs and addressed Perry's recent charges about negative campaigning.

Defending Medicaid expansion

The 2010 Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, called for states to expand Medicaid to cover hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans, including those who work but are still near the federal poverty level. Through federal and state dollars, Medicaid covers the very poor as well as the disabled. Though 36 states and Washington, D.C., have expanded Medicaid, growing the government program remains controversial among North Carolina Republicans.

Murphy and several other House Republicans support a version of the expansion proposed in House Bill 655. Filed in April, the bill would allow more people to be eligible for Medicaid. People covered by the expansion would be required — with some exceptions — to work and to pay 2 percent of their income in premiums. The bill also states the expansion would end if federal revenues, participant premiums, and revenues such as hospital assessments could no longer cover its costs.

Perry opposes the expansion and her campaign has even created a “Medicaid Murphy” website critical of his position. However, Murphy said he stands by his legislation, arguing it's the right thing to do, and would bring federal dollars back to North Carolina.

“I think it's very unfortunate that another physician is trying to attack another physician for trying to offer a conservative option to Medicaid expansion,” Murphy said. “I think it's actually disingenuous, to be honest with you.”

Perry explained last week she's concerned a Medicaid expansion would overburden health providers, citing a shortage of physicians statewide. The expansion could make it harder for patients with the greatest needs to get care, she argued. She instead called for other approaches, such as expanded use of health savings accounts and federally qualified health centers, which charge patients based on ability to pay and are federally subsidized.

Responding to Perry's specific claim that the expansion would overburden providers, Murphy responded: “Does she want to take care of people, or does she just want to let them languish in emergency departments?”

He argues the expansion would be much needed and provide timely coverage.

"We're working also on trying to get provider shortages remedied, but telling someone, 'don't worry about their cancer, just let them have a delay in diagnosis,' goes against our Hippocratic oath,” Murphy said.

Murphy also said the expansion would help people who currently make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford “skyrocketing premiums caused by Obamacare.”

He also said state residents continue paying taxes to support Obamacare in other states, and argued the expansion would help return those dollars to North Carolinians.

“We give away, today, in North Carolina, $800 million a year to pay for health care in New York, Massachusetts, and California,” he said, notably citing states where Democrats are in control of the government. “We're merely asking, until we can get Obamacare turned over, we're merely asking for our money back to take care of a problem created by government.”

Murphy accused Perry of “preying on people's health care needs for political purposes.”

Tariffs need to be tried

Murphy also commented on President Donald Trump's use of tariffs as a negotiating tool against other countries. Trump has imposed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods in response to unfair trade practices. While those tariffs discourage trade with China, American businesses and consumers are often paying those costs, according to published reports.

Additionally, Trump recently threatened to impose tariffs on all Mexican goods unless the nation did more to control the flow of Central American migrants heading through Mexico to the United States. Business groups warned the tariffs could cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs, and Senate Republicans publicly warned they didn't support the move.

However, Trump has claimed to have exacted concessions from Mexico, announcing last week Mexico would use its national guard to control migration and would accept and care for Central American migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. There's still confusion over the deal, though, as published reports state Mexico had already agreed to use its national guard, and Mexico denies making other concessions Trump claims it's made.

As he's said before, Murphy said he's “generally not a fan” of tariffs, but defended Trump's use of them, including against the state-controlled economy of China.

As for Mexico, Murphy said that, if the nation isn't addressing the “border crisis,” then the president “is allowed to use all tools at his disposal to secure our borders.”

While commenting the potential tariffs weren't meant to punish the Mexican or American peoples, Murphy acknowledged they are a “double-edged sword” that cost Americans. Existing tariffs are hitting farmers and some manufacturers, he said.

Negative campaigning

Murphy also addressed Perry's claims about negative campaigning. In her recent appearance in Pasquotank, Perry recounted how Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, of North Carolina's 11th District and head of the Freedom Caucus in Congress, approached her about joining his caucus, if she was elected. She didn't commit to doing so, and afterward she saw Meadows endorse Murphy, followed by “thousands of what she described as scathing emails” that went out about her. Her insinuation was that Meadows played a role in online attacks against her.

“First of all, I haven't seen or heard of one email about anything about this,” Murphy said.

He said he was “dumbfounded” when Perry first raised the issue of the emails in a forum in Winterville, which came after he asked her to renounce third-party ads that misconstrued a comment he made about Trump in 2016.

Though not seeing the emails, Murphy said 3rd District constituents expect integrity, and he would “be happy to” renounce lies if he saw them.

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