DeLeo benches Murphy during tense caucus

‘I have done nothing wrong,’ Murphy says

House Majority Whip Charles Murphy resigned today from his leadership post moments before he was about to be removed from that position by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who elevated three Boston delegation representatives on his leadership team.

“The speaker and others in his leadership team are not happy that I have the audacity to speak to members about the future of the House,” Murphy, a Burlington Democrat, said after a brief House caucus called by DeLeo to announce leadership team changes. “In their view, my actions may disrupt their plan of an orderly transfer of the gavel when the time comes for Speaker DeLeo to move on. I will resume my position on the back bench with my head held high for I have done nothing wrong.”

Murphy has met with colleagues recently to let them know of his interest in becoming speaker some day. “Let me be very clear, the speaker’s actions today have nothing to do with me being disloyal,” said Murphy. “Rather, this is about who is going to be the next speaker.”

DeLeo recently told reporters he hoped to remain speaker through 2016, the maximum eight years allowed under a House rule that he helped pass. He didn’t explain why he removed Murphy from his leadership spot.

“I’m not going to get into reasons why,” said DeLeo, whose ascension to the speaker’s post followed a private meeting over succession with former Speaker Salvatore DiMasi and a lengthy behind-the-scenes battle with Rep. John Rogers for the speaker’s gavel. “I would just like to leave it to the fact that myself, as speaker, one of my jobs is to put forth an agenda and I want to go in there with a leadership team that I think is best to pursue that agenda.”

The House Democratic caucus ratified DeLeo’s plan to elevate Rep. Byron Rushing of Boston to fill the whip’s post vacated by Murphy. DeLeo shifted Election Laws Chairman Rep. Michael Moran of Brighton into one of the House’s four division chair posts and inserted Rep. Aaron Michlewitz of the North End as Moran’s successor on the Election Laws Committee. Murphy was assigned to become a member of the Election Laws, Tourism, and Veterans Affairs committees. He will lose the extra pay he received for serving in leadership.

DeLeo and his deputies suggested the Murphy-less team was better equipped to tackle issues like health care, the state budget, and state government financing law changes.

“It’s the speaker’s prerogative and unfortunately he felt he needed to make some midseason changes to the lineup that benefits his agenda for next year for the body and one of the things we do is we elect a speaker and give him the ability to do that and he decided now is the time,” Moran said.

Murphy said he chose to resign in an attempt to avoid requiring his colleagues to ratify his ouster in the closed caucus.  Rep. Thomas Calter of Kingston said Murphy gave a “passionate speech” about his vision for the House and wished DeLeo’s leadership team well before the caucus ended. Calter described the Murphy’s demotion as “very disappointing.”

One House Democrat said Murphy during caucus said he looked forward to a day when there was a “great leader” in charge of the House.

Another House Democrat said DeLeo deputies were calling House members on Monday and asking for their support in caucus for leadership changes, but declining to detail the personnel moves. In the caucus, the House Democrat said, Murphy alleged such blind loyalty to the speaker was “dangerous” and part of a culture dating back to Speakers DiMasi and Thomas Finneran.

House Democrats who reported to the closed caucus in a State House hearing room told reporters heading in that they knew it was about leadership changes but nothing more.   DeLeo on Monday took an unusual step, calling upon House Democrats to break from their winter recess to attend the caucus.

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Matt Murphy

State House News Service
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A thorn in the side of Speaker Thomas Finneran, Murphy was DeLeo’s handpicked Ways and Means chairman before DeLeo switched him out of that post to the lower profile whip’s position.

Members said that only DeLeo and Murphy spoke at the caucus before leadership changes were approved. House Democrats said they were given a packet listing leadership changes and that Murphy departed the caucus before the changes were approved. No one voiced opposition to any of the changes.
Asked whether Murphy deserved to be demoted, Rep. Carl Sciortino (D-Medford) said, “This is the politics of the building.”