It’s no secret that Rep. Jack Murtha loves his pork-barrel projects. The Pennsylvania Democrat has for years played the role of broker for his own party and the GOP to get deals done in exchange for lucrative earmarks.
But with Democrats now in control of Congress and Murtha gaining celebrity status among anti-war liberals in his party, the spotlight shines a bit brighter on the 33-year House veteran.
So when Murtha faced Republican opposition for a $23-million earmark to fund the National Drug Intelligence Center, an operation in his hometown of Johnstown, Pa., he blew a gasket -- “unleashing a loud, finger-jabbing, spittle-spraying piece of his mind,” according to The Hill.
Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), a fellow appropriator, was the recipient of Murtha’s tirade for voting against the earmark in committee. Murtha threatened to pull a pet project from Tiahrt’s district to exact revenge. Fortunately for both members, the situation was resolved, and they walked away from the squabble with their projects intact.
Such is life in Washington, where members of Congress still don’t get it.
Voters sent a clear message last November when they flipped 30 seats in the House and another six in the Senate, handing control to Democrats. Congress’s love affair with pork-barrel projects -- and the secrecy associated with them -- was viewed as a defining factor in the election.
Yet today, six months after the elections, the Senate still has not enacted rules making earmarks transparent. Democrats have repeatedly rebuffed efforts by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) despite promises to govern more openly.
In the House, Democrats have had difficulty following a new set of earmark rules adopted earlier this year. When an intelligence spending bill came up last week, Democrats hadn’t even told the ranking committee Republican, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), about pork projects in the bill, let alone other members or the public.