Ef­fort to rep­ri­mand Murtha falls short

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Christina Bellantoni

All but two House Democrats backed Rep. John P. Murtha on May 22, killing a res­o­lu­tion that sug­gested he be rep­ri­manded for threat­en­ing a Repub­li­can mem­ber over ear­marks.

The House voted 219-189 with­out de­bate to kill a priv­i­leged res­o­lu­tion of­fered by Rep. Mike Rogers, Michi­gan Repub­li­can, de­tail­ing his con­fronta­tion with Mr. Murtha, Penn­syl­va­nia Demo­crat.

Mr. Murtha sat in the back of the House cham­ber dur­ing the vote, laugh­ing and ac­cept­ing pats and hand­shakes from at least two dozen Democrats.

“This is for John Murtha,” an­nounced Rep. Henry Cuel­lar, Texas Demo­crat, as he voted.

“Thank you,” Mr. Murtha, 74, told Rep. Diane Wat­son, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, af­ter kiss­ing her hand.

Two Democrats — Reps. Earl Blu­me­nauer of Ore­gon and Jim Cooper of Ten­nessee — were not so will­ing to em­brace Mr. Murtha, a 34-year vet­eran of the House who has faced crit­i­cism for be­ing a bully.

Mr. Blu­me­nauer said that be­cause the facts aren’t known, “the is­sue de­served de­bate or a re­fer­ral to the ethics com­mit­tee.”

“If [for­mer Ma­jor­ity Leader] Tom De­Lay had been ac­cused of threat­en­ing a Demo­crat on the House floor, I would ex­pect the same,” he said, not­ing the dis­cus­sion “is in or­der if we are go­ing to be the most eth­i­cal and trans­par­ent Congress in his­tory.”

The res­o­lu­tion had ac­cused Mr. Murtha of vi­o­lat­ing House rules in an ex­change with Mr. Rogers, who at­tempted to strip Mr. Murtha’s $23 mil­lion ear­mark for the Na­tional Drug Intelligence Cen­ter ear­lier this month.

Mr. Murtha con­fronted the Re- publi­can on the floor dur­ing a vote and said any ear­marks that Mr. Rogers had sub­mit­ted for the de­fense ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill are “gone” and that the Repub­li­can would not get any ear­marks “now and for­ever.”

House rules state that ear­marks can­not be sub­ject to how a mem­ber votes on leg­is­la­tion.

Mr. Murtha, a dec­o­rated Viet­nam vet­eran and vo­cal Iraq war critic, is chair­man of the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee on de­fense and con­trols that im­por­tant spend­ing bill.

There were 13 mem­bers who voted “present,” in­stead of cast­ing a “yea” or “nay” on the res­o­lu­tion. Of those, eight serve on the ethics panel.

Be­cause the panel’s work is done in se­cret, it is not known whether it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mr. Murtha. Chair­man Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio did not vote, but panel mem­ber Rep. Mike Doyle, Penn­syl­va­nia Demo­crat, voted to kill the res­o­lu­tion.

Rep. Tim Mur­phy was the only Repub­li­can to join the cham­ber’s Democrats in sup­port­ing his Penn­syl­va­nia col­league.

Within 90 sec­onds of the vote, Repub­li­cans sent out a press re­lease with a head­line that blared: “It’s Of­fi­cial: Democrats Vote to Cover Up Murtha Ethics Vi­o­la­tion.”

The res­o­lu­tion was first sub­mit­ted on May 21, but Ma­jor­ity Leader Steny H. Hoyer moved to “ta­ble” it, prompt­ing Repub­li­can boos.

Ear­lier in the day, Mr. Hoyer, Mary­land Demo­crat, said it “re- mains to be seen” whether the Rogers ac­cu­sa­tions are true.

“I have said all along that I be­lieve the ethics com­mit­tee needs to take un­der con­sid­er­a­tion items that are made pub­lic that as­sert that vi­o­la­tions of the ethics code of the rules of the House have been made,” Mr. Hoyer said.

When asked whether Mr. Murtha should apol­o­gize, Mr. Hoyer said the con­gress­man “will have to do in terms of what he be­lieves to be ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Repub­li­cans say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in sup­port­ing her key ally, is vi­o­lat­ing her cam­paign prom­ise to run the “most hon­est and open Congress in his­tory.”

“If the new ma­jor­ity is sin­cere about keep­ing its pledge to run the most open and eth­i­cal Congress in his­tory, they will join Repub­li­cans in up­hold­ing the House rules we adopted in Jan­uary which clearly pro­hibit the threats made by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Murtha,” said Mi­nor­ity Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio be­fore the vote.

Mr. Boehner said the May 17 con­fronta­tion, which Mr. Murtha has not de­nied, is “part of a grow­ing pat­tern of abuses that show the House has moved away from ear­mark re­form un­der Democrats, rather than to­ward it.”

The Hill news­pa­per re­ported on May 22 that Mr. Murtha sub­mit­ted the drug cen­ter ear­mark five weeks af­ter the intelligence panel’s dead­line for re­ceiv­ing ear­marks. The news­pa­per also said Mr. Murtha failed to no­tify the panel’s rank­ing Repub­li­can, in a vi­o­la­tion of rules.

Getty Images

Big bully? Demo­cratic Rep. John P. Murtha (right) has not de­nied a con­fronta­tion on May 17 with Repub­li­can Rep. Mike Rogers, in which Mr. Murtha re­port­edly threat­ened to kill his ear­marks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.