Earmark Envy: Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.), a hero of the anti-war movement because of his strident anti-war rhetoric, has embarrassed his party once again with his classical modus operandi of favor-trading and pork-barrel politics.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) accused Murtha of threatening him with the loss of all future earmarks for his district. Murtha became upset with Rogers when the latter attempted to strip out a Murtha earmark (a duplicative government program in his district) from a spending bill by using a motion to recommit.
Rogers responded by bringing a privileged resolution to the House floor that would have reprimanded Murtha, and Democrats responded by tabling it in a 219-189 vote. Murtha voted to prevent his own reprimand. Only two Democrats, left-wing anti-earmark crusader Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and moderate Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), voted against tabling Rogers' motion -- effectively a vote against Murtha. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), Murtha's geographical neighbor in Southwest Pennsylvania, was the only Republican voting to save Murtha from censure.
Thirteen members voted "present" -- including eight members of the House Ethics Committee who abstained because Murtha's case could at some point come before their committee.
Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), a member of the ethics committee but also Murtha's colleague in his state's congressional delegation, voted to table anyway. The remaining member of the Ethics Committee -- Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-Ohio) -- did not vote.
The whole episode embarrasses a congressional majority that campaigned and won a majority partly on an anti-corruption message. That nearly all Democrats voted (some grudgingly) for what effectively amounts to a cover-up of unethical behavior is a black mark. Freshman members are already receiving a public relations beating for voting on Murtha's side.
This Murtha affair -- actually the latest of several -- reinforces the notion we have long propounded, that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made a grave error in judgment when she supported Murtha against Rep. Steny Hoyer in the race for majority leader following the November elections. Pelosi has publicly stated she does not believe Rogers' accusations, but Murtha has not denied anything.
The latest Murtha incident also stands as an affirmation of the corrupt practice of distributing congressional earmarks. That an Appropriations subcommittee chairman such as Murtha would wield such threats is a clear example of government corruption that is legal because of the power of congressional earmarking.
Prior to Murtha's bluster, Democrats had suffered a much smaller setback in keeping the lid on public exposure of earmarks. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) was forced to pull from her House website a press release boasting about an $8.7 million earmark attached to the supplemental appropriations bill. She had to cover it up because Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said (and maintains still) that the bill containing her earmark did not contain any earmarks...