Tuesday night House Democrats refused to reprimand Rep. John Murtha (D.-Pa.) for threatening a Republican colleague in a manner that violates newly installed, Democrat-crafted ethics rules.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R.-Mich.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, alleges after he tried to strip a $23 million earmark that Murtha inserted into an intelligence spending bill for his district, Murtha lashed out.
Rogers claims that Murtha shouted the following threat: “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.”
Rogers reiterated this in his May 21 floor statement that introduced a resolution that formally reprimands Murtha. Rogers said that his response was to shout back at the Pennsylvania congressman: “This is not the way we do things here and is that supposed to make me afraid of you?”
As Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Murtha is a key decision maker in determining which districts will receive federal defense dollars. Murtha does not deny saying he would withhold federal dollars from Rogers for voting against his earmark.
Unfortunately for Murtha, the code of conduct package his close friend Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) ushered in when she took over the House contains a two-line provision that prohibits exactly the kind of threat Murtha made to Rogers. Rule 16 of the House’s new Official Code of Conduct states no members may condition any earmark on any vote cast by another member.
After the incident, Murtha issued a brief statement that only said, "The committee and staff give every Democrat and Republican the same consideration. We have extensive hearings and every request is given careful consideration. We will continue to do just that.”
The House voted 219-189 against Rogers’s resolution on Tuesday evening.
Two Democrats, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) and Rep. Jim Cooper (Tenn.) crossed party lines to vote in favor of the reprimand. Rep. Tim Murphy (Pa.) was the only Republican to support to tabling the resolution.
Murtha’s disputed earmark funds the National Drug Intelligence Center located in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Last year, the House Government Reform Committee said the center should be shut down and, in his proposed budget, President Bush designated $16 million to close it. Murtha, however, used his powerful position on the Appropriations Committee to secure funding for the NDIC.