The Cable

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House loses its leader on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Patrick Murphy, the charismatic, young two-term Democratic Congressman from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, led the successful effort in the House of Representatives to repeal the ban on gay soldiers serving openly. He lost his bid for a third term Tuesday night to the same man he narrowly defeated in 2006, Republican Mike Fitzpatrick. Murphy was not ...

Getty Images
Getty Images
Getty Images

Patrick Murphy, the charismatic, young two-term Democratic Congressman from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, led the successful effort in the House of Representatives to repeal the ban on gay soldiers serving openly.

He lost his bid for a third term Tuesday night to the same man he narrowly defeated in 2006, Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

Murphy was not only the first veteran of the Iraq war elected to Congress. He was a West Point graduate, served with the 82nd Airborne Division, and was a law professor at the Army War College, all before being elected to Congress at the age of 33. Heavily courted by Hillary Clinton, he passionately endorsed then-underdog Barack Obama early in the presidential race.

Patrick Murphy, the charismatic, young two-term Democratic Congressman from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, led the successful effort in the House of Representatives to repeal the ban on gay soldiers serving openly.

He lost his bid for a third term Tuesday night to the same man he narrowly defeated in 2006, Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

Murphy was not only the first veteran of the Iraq war elected to Congress. He was a West Point graduate, served with the 82nd Airborne Division, and was a law professor at the Army War College, all before being elected to Congress at the age of 33. Heavily courted by Hillary Clinton, he passionately endorsed then-underdog Barack Obama early in the presidential race.

Murphy took over the leadership of the drive to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2009 when Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) left Congress to become the State Department’s top arms control official. Murphy toured the country lobbying for gay service members’ right to be honest about their identities. He argued that as a war veteran, he knew that this generation of troops did not care about the sexual orientation of their brothers in arms.

"Arguments for keeping this policy in place are weak and outdated," Murphy often said. "To remove honorable, talented and patriotic troops from serving contradicts the American values our military fights for and our nation holds dear."

Murphy wasn’t only active on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. On the House Armed Services Committee, he introduced legislation to increase oversight of military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. He opposed the 2007 surge in Iraq, going against his patron, the late Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA).

As one of Murtha’s top lieutenants, Murphy benefited from Murtha’s powerful post as head of the defense appropriations subcommittee. In his second term, Murphy was named to the appropriations committee, leapfrogging several unhappy lawmakers. He brought home millions for his notoriously purple Philadelphia suburb. But none of that could save him from the tidal wave of political energy that swept out scores of Democrats on Tuesday.

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law still has not been repealed by Congress. The Senate may vote on it as part of the defense policy bill after the election. But the House passed the bill 289-186 in May, so Murphy leaves Congress with that accomplishment intact.

And don’t take him off your radar yet, Bucks County is known to go back and forth, and went to Barack Obama in 2008. The district is also the childhood home of your humble Cable guy.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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