Murphy countered that Fitzpatrick "thinks that we all have amnesia. The Bush-Fitzpatrick years were disastrous for our economy," he said, adding that he sometimes felt "like the cleanup crew after an Eagles game."
The barbs came during a 30-minute taping of Larry Kane's Voice of Reason program on Comcast Network. It was the first of several planned Murphy-Fitzpatrick debates over the hotly contested seat in the Eighth Congressional District, comprising Bucks County and slivers of Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia.
Four years ago, Murphy, an Army veteran of the war in Iraq, ousted freshman incumbent Fitzpatrick by less than 1 percent of the vote, riding a national wave of antiwar sentiment and voter antipathy toward President George W. Bush.
This year, the roles have reversed, with President Obama's popularity ebbing and voters disillusioned by a chronically flagging economy. A recent poll showed Fitzpatrick leading in a race seen by some as a bellwether for the respective parties' national fortunes in November.
Fitzpatrick said he would extend all tax cuts enacted under Bush, saying that would give employers the confidence to invest in their businesses and create jobs. Questioned by Kane, he said keeping the cuts would not deepen the federal deficit.
"More people working, more people paying payroll taxes - ultimately the revenues to the federal government will go up," he said.
Murphy countered that eight million jobs were lost under Bush - 800,000 per month at the end of his administration.
Murphy said he reluctantly voted for Obama's stimulus and bailout plans because "we were sliding into a depression." Fitzpatrick, he added, "thinks that we can wait out a recession."
Murphy said that he would end tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans and that employers would not be taxed for earnings reinvested in their businesses. He said he had helped create 3,000 jobs in Bucks County, many of them in green-energy manufacturing firms.
Fitzpatrick said the stimulus measures have added to federal deficits that would be passed along for years to come. "It's immoral what we're doing to future generations," he said.
Both said they supported the push for more troops in Afghanistan.
"The problem is that guys like Mike Fitzpatrick and the former president . . . got us into Iraq," Murphy said, "where we spent $3 trillion and we lost 4,400 American heroes."
Fitzpatrick, noting that he became a congressman well after the Iraq war started, criticized Obama's mid-2011 deadline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.
"It is dangerous, a mistake, to forecast a date we are leaving," he said.
Murphy took a closing shot at Fitzpatrick's opposition to abortion even in cases of rape or incest, saying, "That's not like a moderate Republican from Bucks County, that's like an Alabama Republican."
Fitzpatrick said he was among the most independent members of Congress, while Murphy "votes with [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi 97 percent of the time."
The debate will be aired on Comcast Network at 9:30 p.m. Sunday and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Contact staff writer Larry King at 215-345-0446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.