Murtha Earmark Threat Called 'Blatant Abuse of Power'

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

( - A resolution being introduced on Monday calls on the U.S. House of Representatives to reprimand Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) for threatening to kill any earmarks proposed by a Republican congressman in any defense appropriations bill "now and forever."

According to the text of the resolution, Murtha sponsored an earmark to H.R. 2082 -- the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 -- to authorize $23 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center, a government agency based in Johnstown, Pa., which is within the Democrat's district.

However, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) filed a motion on Friday, May 11, to cancel the funding in accordance with the Bush administration's desire to close the office, which has received repeated low marks from several federal review boards.

In a statement on his website, Rogers charged that "this expensive facility duplicates programs already operating in multiple other agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Justice."

After his proposal was rejected in a party-line vote, Rogers said that "unfortunately, politics and pork barreling triumphed over policy and common sense."

Last Thursday, Murtha - who chairs the chamber's Defense Appropriations Subcommittee - approached the Michigan Republican on the House floor.

"I hope you don't have any earmarks in the defense appropriation bill because they are gone, and you will not get any earmarks now and forever," the resolution quotes Murtha as telling Rogers.

"This is not the way we do things here," Rogers replied, adding, "And is that supposed to make me afraid of you?"

Murtha had then "raised his voice, pointed his finger and stated, in words to the effect, 'That's the way I do it,' " the document states.

In the resolution, Rogers cites House Rule XXIII, Clause 16, which states that a member "may not condition the inclusion of language to provide funding for a congressional earmark ... on any vote cast by another member."

The resolution then asks other members of the chamber to agree that "Murtha has been guilty of a violation of the Code of Official Conduct and merits the reprimand of the House for the same."

When contacted by Cybercast News Service seeking comment for this article, Matthew Mazonkey, Murtha's communication director, declined to discuss the incident specifically but released a statement saying that Democrats and Republicans are treated fairly and equally by his committee.

"We have extensive hearings, and every request is given careful consideration," it said. "We will continue to do just that."

Aides to House Democrats told Congressional Quarterly on Friday that "members of the Democratic caucus respect John Murtha" and would join forces to defeat any resolution offered by Rogers.

But in a statement of his own on Friday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that he "strongly backed" Rogers in the matter.

"The resolution offered by Congressman Rogers outlines a blatant abuse of power stemming from a Republican-authored proposal to cut wasteful earmark spending from legislation pending before the House," stated Boehner, who also called Murtha's behavior an "egregious action" that is "beneath the dignity of this institution."

Murtha's clash with Rogers came a week after the Pennsylvania Democrat reportedly confronted Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) in a similar manner on the House floor.

According to a Fox News Channel report, Murtha approached Tiahrt and "berated him for voting to close a program in Murtha's district. Those familiar with the conversation said Murtha, who oversees military spending, threatened to cut off funds for defense projects in Tiahrt's district."

Murtha's ethics have long been the subject of controversy. The congressman's war hero status and Abscam involvement were investigated by Cybercast News Service

Nevertheless, Murtha -- who gained national prominence in November 2005 when he began calling for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq -- was supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to become the chamber's majority leader after the Democrats won marginal control of Congress in the 2006 elections.

However, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who had served as Pelosi's minority whip in the past, easily defeated Murtha for the post.

Murtha's latest project has been to secure passage of the 2008 intelligence spending bill. Along with funding for the agency in his district, the measure contains a mandate that the intelligence community produce reports on global warming.

"This is exactly why Americans are disgusted with out-of-control federal spending," Rogers said in a statement on Friday.

"In order to restore the faith of the American people in Congress, we must do better," he stated. "We can't allow members to be threatened and intimidated when they stand up for hard-working taxpayers' money.

"We are a nation at war, and when we find wasteful spending, we must stop it," Rogers added. "This comes down to a choice between spies catching terrorists or pork barrel spending in a congressional district."

See text of resolution

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