- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is defending a close Democratic ally whom Republicans want to reprimand for threatening a Republican lawmakers spending projects.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, said she had “no idea what actually happened” during a noisy exchange in the House chamber last week between Reps. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, and Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican.

“What I do know is that Congressman Murtha has enjoys an excellent reputation in the Congress on both sides of the aisle,” Mrs. Pelosi said in a broadcast interview taped Friday and aired yesterday on ABCs “This Week.”

“He writes the defense appropriation bill in a bipartisan way each year and with the complete involvement of the Republicans as to who gets what on the Republican side,” she said.

Mr. Murtha is a 35-year House veteran who leads the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. He is known for a fondness for earmarks carefully targeted spending items placed in appropriations bills to benefit a specific lawmaker or favored constituent group.

During a series of House votes Thursday, Mr. Murtha walked to the Republican side to confront Mr. Rogers, a former FBI agent. This month, Mr. Rogers had tried unsuccessfully to strike from an intelligence spending bill an item that would restore $23 million for the National Drug Intelligence Center, a facility in Mr. Murthas Pennsylvania district.

According to Mr. Rogers account, which Mr. Murtha did not dispute, the Democrat angrily told Mr. Rogers that he should never seek earmarks of his own because “youre not going to get any, now or forever.”

“This was clearly designed to try to intimidate me,” Mr. Rogers said Friday. “He said it loud enough for other people to hear.”

House rules prohibit lawmakers from placing conditions on earmarks or targeted tax benefits that are based on another members votes.

Mr. Murthas office 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.”

Mr. Rogers said he planned to file a “privileged resolution” today that would seek a House vote on whether to reprimand Mr. Murtha.

“I wasnt there” for the confrontation, Mrs. Pelosi said. “I do know that the Republicans caused quite a stir that was unjustified on the floor of the House, and Im sure things were said on both sides.”

She added, “I dont know that there was going to be a resolution. There was rumor that that might be the form it would take, but well deal with it if thats what comes forward. But I think Mr. Murthas reputation for bipartisanship will hold him in good stead.”

During leadership elections after Democrats regained control of the House in November, Mrs. Pelosi aggressively backed Mr. Murtha in his bid to become majority leader, the No. 2 position. He lost to Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

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