A brand-new congresswoman from Florida is trying to keep white nationalist Steve Bannon off the National Security Council. On Wednesday, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat who was elected in November, proposed legislation that would help prevent political operatives from steering the national security agenda.
As Slate’s Fred Kaplan explained on Wednesday, Bannon’s appointment to the council’s Principals Committee was already illegal, since federal law establishes that the council must be composed of only Cabinet members and other department heads who are appointed “with the advice and consent of the Senate.” Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief political strategist, has not been confirmed by any legislative body, making him ineligible to serve in a decision-making role on foreign policy. But Murphy stepped up to strengthen the boundaries of the NSC, opposing the executive order Trump issued to try to fudge Bannon’s way in.
“As a former national security specialist at the Department of Defense and a current member of the House Armed Services Committee, I can tell you the last place partisan politics belongs is in national security,” Murphy said in a statement. “My bill will help depoliticize national security so that we never jeopardize the safety and security of the American people.”
The bill would hold that no White House employee “whose primary responsibility is political in nature” would be a member of the council or able to attend NSC meetings. It would also require that the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff have a “standing invitation” to go to meetings of the Principals Committee, since both of those positions got diminished by Bannon’s appointment.
“Historically, there’s been bipartisan consensus that the NSC debates should be divorced from the world of electoral politics,” Murphy said on the House floor, explaining that this was why George W. Bush excluded Karl Rove from the council. “It appears unprecedented for a political counselor so deeply enmeshed in domestic politics to serve as a permanent member of the NSC.”
Murphy’s stand is the latest in a series of recent heartening moves against Trump by women in elected office. On Thursday afternoon, Nancy Pelosi called Bannon a “white supremacist” multiple times in a speech, displaying a rare willingness to speak the truth about the worldview of Trump’s closest adviser. Two female Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, are so far the only ones in their party to oppose Betsy DeVos for secretary of education, putting her confirmation at risk. Kirsten Gillibrand is getting well-deserved props for being the only Democrat to vote against four of the five Cabinet nominees that have come up for a Senate vote. (Gillibrand approved Nikki Haley for United Nations ambassador.)
In the past week, women have formed the strongest defense against the executive order that turned away refugees in transit, kept permanent residents from returning to their homes, and barred immigrants from Muslin-majority nations from entering the U.S. Four female judges (and one man, yay) were the ones who took immediate action against Trump’s Muslim ban, issuing stays and restraining orders to mitigate the chaos and unconstitutional treatment the executive order had wrought. There’s also true heroine Sally Yates, the acting attorney general who was summarily fired after announcing that the Department of Justice would not defend the ban, and Emily Guendelsberger, the woman who snuck into the GOP retreat in Philadelphia and allegedly recorded party members saying embarrassing things.*
Murphy is a deserved addition to this crew, and a perfect symbol for the inside-the-Beltway Trump resistance. She’s a refugee, a Democrat from a swing state, and the first Vietnamese American woman elected to Congress. When I asked an EMILY’s List representative for examples of recent success stories, she pointed to Murphy as someone who’s new to electoral politics but already making bold moves in the House. “The Trump resistance will be led by angry women,” Slate’s Michelle Goldberg predicted after the Women’s March on Washington. That prophecy is already coming true.
Correction, Feb. 3, 2017: This post originally misstated that Emily Guendelsberger both snuck into the GOP retreat and recorded party members. Police have identified her as the woman who snuck into the retreat, but it has not been confirmed that she made the recording.