- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2007

Rep. John P. Murtha is the latest political target of Republicans aiming to embarrass Democratic leaders and expose hypocrisy within the new congressional majority.

Republican leaders pushed what is known as a privileged resolution `yesterday, charging that the Pennsylvania Democrat violated House rules in a heated exchange last week with Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican.

Mr. Murtha, angry over Republican efforts to kill one of his earmarks, warned Mr. Rogers that any of his earmarks would be stripped from an upcoming defense spending bill that falls under Mr. Murtha’s purview, according to Republican accounts of the verbal tussle.

“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,” Mr. Murtha said, according to the Republican resolution calling for the senior Democrat to be admonished.

Mr. Murtha has not disputed or denied the exchange, which happened Thursday. Mr. Rogers said he has submitted some earmark requests for the defense spending bill, to be considered by the full House in July, “through the normal process.” He said yesterday that he felt “threatened” by Mr. Murtha.

House rules state that earmarks cannot be controlled by conditions such as another member’s vote. Mr. Murtha, a decorated Vietnam veteran known for — sometimes loudly — speaking his mind, is chairman of the defense subpanel of the Appropriations Committee.

Earlier this month, Mr. Rogers was unsuccessful in his attempt to use a parliamentary maneuver to cut $23 million in funding from the National Drug Intelligence Center during debate on the intelligence authorization bill.

Republicans that day were happy to note that the center is located in Mr. Murtha’s district and knew that their efforts would frustrate him.

“The motion to recommit will make him apoplectic,” bragged a top Republican aide before his party moved to strip the drug center funding. “That center is his baby.”

Republicans argue that the drug center didn’t deserve the money and cite a U.S. News & World Report story from two years ago calling the facility “rocked by scandal.”

“No member of Congress should ever be threatened because of his or her efforts to crack down on wasteful spending and protect the interests of taxpayers,” Mr. Rogers, a former FBI agent, said in the House Republican weekly radio address.

“Mr. Murtha’s threat violated more than the House rules — it violated the public’s trust.”

Democrats last night did not set a time to vote on the privileged resolution, which said Mr. Murtha’s behavior “merits the reprimand of the House.” They have two days to respond to the resolution, which they are expected to scuttle.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi employed the resolution tactic herself several times last year to highlight Republican ethics scandals. Then in the majority, Republicans swiftly defeated the measures, including one charging corruption in the way the Medicare prescription-drug plan was passed.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, this weekend defended Mr. Murtha, one of her top allies and whose bid for majority leader she endorsed this winter.

“Congressman Murtha enjoys an excellent reputation in the Congress on both sides of the aisle,” she said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”

Now, Republicans say the Murtha-Rogers exchange exposes Mrs. Pelosi and other Democrats as hypocrites for promising to run an open and ethical Congress.

The National Republican Congressional Committee seized on television reports of the Rogers resolution, distributing a video designed to raise money for Republicans.

It was not clear whether Mr. Murtha was present yesterday, as he did not participate in the only two votes of the day about 7 p.m.

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