The Hammer's Back!
WHEN THE Democrats swept into power in January, they instituted an ethics rule that barred the old games of pork-for-votes and vote-my-way-or-else. Both had been played masterfully -- and to obscene excess -- by former representative Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican. Unfortunately, it appears that Mr. Delay's Democratic Party pork-barrel twin, Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), is having trouble adjusting to the new rule.
The action unfolded on the Republican side of the House floor May 17. That's where Mr. Murtha, chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee, laced into Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) for trying to stop a $23 million earmark for a drug intelligence center in Mr. Murtha's district. According to Mr. Rogers, Mr. Murtha threatened him in an explosive tirade complete with a slew of F-bombs and a barnyard expletive here and there. The ultimate Murtha message: "You will not get any earmarks now and forever." As a result, Mr. Rogers tried to get the BMOC of House Democrats reprimanded for such bald intimidation. That bid, unfortunately but not surprisingly, failed Tuesday.
For students of Murthanomics, this episode won't come as a shock. He's been doing this sort of thing throughout his 33-year career in the House. And it almost got him in trouble in the past. Back in 1980, Mr. Murtha got wrapped up in the Abscam scandal when he was caught on hidden camera rebuffing offers of $50,000 made by FBI agents posing as aides to an Arab sheik seeking asylum in the United States. But then he volunteered, "I want to get the [expletive] jobs in the area, you know, a few bank deposits. . . . Later on, after we've dealt awhile . . . we might want to do more business." Named an unindicted co-conspirator by the FBI, Mr. Murtha testified against two members of the House. In all, one senator and five congressmen were brought down.
Camp Murtha wasn't inclined to respond to our inquiries about the Rogers confrontation. "He's just not going to comment on it," a spokesman said. But Mr. Murtha did reach out to Mr. Rogers on Wednesday. In a handwritten note, Mr. Murtha said he was sorry if his outburst offended Mr. Rogers. But as long as House Democrats keep giving a pass to one of their own, you can expect repeat offenses.