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Murphy heading to D.C. to talk infrastructure with Biden and dine with German chancellor

Gov. Phil Murphy is making his first trip to Washington since attending the January inauguration of the President Joe Biden.

Murphy will be among the state and local officials meeting with Biden at the White House on Wednesday to discuss infrastructure legislation, which the governor has called “a huge game changer” for New Jersey.

The following day, the governor will attend a dinner on Thursday with Biden, a fellow Democrat, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will be in town for talks at the White House. Murphy served as U.S. ambassador to Germany when Biden was vice president under then-President Barack Obama.

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This week’s visit to the nation’s capital is one of the rare out-of-state trips Murphy has taken since the coronavirus pandemic began gripping New Jersey in March 2020. He notably left the state a month after that to meet with then-President Donald Trump at the White House and make a plea for more federal assistance.

Murphy — who was slated to leave New Jersey Tuesday and return Thursday night — is in the middle of his re-election campaign where he leads his Republican challenger, former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli, by double digits in recent polls.

Biden, who visited New Jersey twice in 2017 to help Murphy win his first term as governor, endorsed him for re-election last month.

New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states with gubernatorial contests this year, and the results sometimes serve as a bellwether for the 2022 midterm elections.

Biden and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators have agreed to spend $579 billion on roads, bridges and other physical infrastructure. Congressional Democrats also are moving ahead with separate legislation to spend trillions of dollars on education, child care, combatting climate change, and other programs.

A draft budget resolution, the first step toward allowing Democrats to pass that larger spending bill by majority vote and not worry about a Senate Republican filibuster, also would include $120 billion to help restore the federal deduction for state and local taxes, which Republicans capped at $10,000 in their 2017 tax law.

“From major investments in rail, roads, bridges, tunnels, clean energy, and high-speed broadband to generational investments in human infrastructure like child care and education, the president’s plans will bolster our economic competitiveness and deliver for working families across our nation,” Murphy said in advance of his trip to Washington.

Murphy and Merkel have a choppy past. As ambassador to Germany from 2009-13, Murphy was forced on the defensive when confidential cables from him and other embassy staff were released by Wikileaks, the same organization that disclosed hacked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, during the 2016 election.

One cable quoted Murphy as calling Merkel “insecure” in dealing with America and “rarely creative.” That led some German officials to call for Murphy to be recalled.

Murphy told the German publication Der Spiegel that “the buck stops with me” but he would not “apologize one speck” for what his staff had done.

He also called Merkel “as good an ally as we have got. Period.”

Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver will serve as acting governor while Murphy is out of state.

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