Dems save Murtha a slap

House Democrats spared Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) from a parliamentary slap on the wrist by defeating a resolution aimed at reprimanding him for allegedly threatening to revoke another lawmaker’s earmarks.

Democrats successfully killed the privileged resolution by a vote of 219-189 as Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) joined Democrats to table the motion while Democratic Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerLobbying world Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Progressives oppose spending stopgap measure over surveillance authority extension MORE (Ore.) and Jim Cooper (Tenn.) voted with the Republicans. Thirteen lawmakers voted present.

Democratic leaders did not whip the vote, said Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.).

At a late afternoon closed-door caucus meeting called to discuss the Iraq war supplemental spending bill, Murtha apologized to his colleagues for his behavior that led to Rogers’s resolution, said sources in the room.

During the vote, several Democratic lawmakers joked and laughed with Murtha as they sat in the so-called Pennsylvania corner of the House floor.

The earmark drama began last week when Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said that Murtha approached him on the floor and told him “in a loud voice” that there would be consequences for offering a procedural motion, which would have abolished $23 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center, which is based in Murtha’s district.

On Monday, Rogers introduced a privileged resolution calling on the House to reprimand Murtha. House rules state that lawmakers cannot make spending projects conditional on how another lawmaker decides to vote.

House Democrats privately said that they were frustrated that Murtha had not apologized or explained himself, but that they were resigned to defend him on the floor.

Democrats did not mount a public defense of Murtha, except to table to the motion. A senior appropriator said the attitude among Democrats was that, “The less said, the better.”

Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Pa.) was the only member on the ethics committee who voted to table the GOP resolution. Every other member on the panel voted present, except for ethics committee chair Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), who did not vote.

The seven Republicans who voted present were ethics panel Reps. Gresham Barrett (S.C.), Jo Bonner (Ala.), Doc HastingsRichard (Doc) Norman HastingsCongress just resolved a 20-year debate over Neolithic remains Boehner hires new press secretary GOP plots new course on Endangered Species Act reform MORE (Wash.), Mike McCaul (Texas), and John Kline (Minn.) as well as Reps. Wayne Gilchrest (Md.), Walter Jones (N.C.),

The six Democrats who voted present were ethics panel Reps. Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenTexas New Members 2019 Two Democrats become first Texas Latinas to serve in Congress Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 MORE (Texas), Bill Delahunt (Mass.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.) as well as Reps. Heath Shuler (N.C.), Vic Snyder (Ark.) and Jim MathesonJames (Jim) David MathesonTrump EPA eases standards for coal ash disposal Utah redistricting reform measure likely to qualify for ballot Trump's budget targets affordable, reliable power MORE (Utah).
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who crushed Murtha in the race to become majority leader last year, deflected a question about whether Murtha should apologize.

“Mr. Murtha will have to do in terms of what he believes to be appropriate,” Hoyer told reporters yesterday.

Asked whether the ethics committee should investigate the matter, Hoyer responded, “I believe the ethics committee needs to take under consideration items that are made public that assert that violations of the ethics code … I think I have said on the subject what I am going to say.” 

But the vote does put Democrats in the odd position of defending a practice — threatening retaliatory action against another lawmaker’s earmark requests — which they castigated during the last election and tried to prohibit through a series of changes to the House rules. Although procedural in nature, the vote would put Democrats on the record defending the chairman of the chairman of the defense appropriation subcommittee.

Nevertheless, Murtha, a former Marine Corps colonel, has many supporters within the caucus for opposing the Iraq war in 2005 after voting for it in 2002.

Moreover, other Democrats were unwilling to accept Rogers’ side of the story.

“This is a he said, he said situation,” said Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.). “I don’t believe anything as absolute gospel. I have had things made up about me that are 100 percent false and it has made me a lot more sensitive about prejudging things.”

Murtha has not commented on Rogers’s account.

Hoyer questioned the accuracy of Rogers’s claims: “I think there has been an assertion made and that remains to be seen as to whether he said what he is alleged to have said...“

Seeking to capitalize on the Murtha-Rogers flap, the National Republican Campaign Committee released a web advertisement titled, “You Don’t Know Jack.”  The advertisement features a grainy video set to ominous music of Murtha chiding Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) followed by the infamous ABSCAM footage – where Murtha turns down a bribe, but says he might be open to taking one at another time.

“You would think Murtha would recognize an FBI agent when he saw one,” the ad asks, referring to Rogers’ former profession and the ABSCAM controversy. “Rogers wasn’t even undercover.”