The House Thursday rejected a Republican effort to withhold federal funds for a controversial airport that bears the name of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) in Johnstown, PA.
Murtha has directed $200 million in federal money to fund the facility over the years. Republicans and some Democrats have derided the airport as the "Airport to Nowhere." That's a take on the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" earmark requested by Rep. Don Young (R-AK). Fiscally-conscious lawmakers ask why the airport should receive such a hefty federal endowment since so few commercial flights land there each week. However, the military extensively uses the same facility.
Republicans tried to rub out federal dollars for the airport on a procedural vote during debate on a $70 billion Federal Aviation Administration funding measure. The effort failed 263-154. Eleven Democrats sided with Republicans on the issue. Most were either freshman from vulnerable districts who didn’t want to be associated with appearing to back pork-barrel spending. But 28 Republicans sided with Democrats to nullify the GOP proposal.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) railed against the Republican effort to defund the Murtha airport, calling it "an assault on essential air service to rural America."
Republicans in the House chamber chortled and laughed, raising Oberstar's ire.
"If those on the other side are laughing now, I wonder what they'll say when an amendment comes to ban essential air service in their area. I wonder if they'll be laughing now. This is a harsh amendment," Oberstar said.
In a statement, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said he was "disappointed that House Democrats are forcing taxpayers to keep their wallets open to pay for this and other wasteful pork-barrel projects."
Murtha didn't name the airport. Cambria County, Pennsylvania commissioners attached the Congressman's name to the title of the facility. Its formal name is the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport.