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Rep. John Campbell Squares off Against Rep. John Murtha on House Floor

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 9, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated

RICH LOWRY, GUEST CO-HOST: Early Sunday morning, while Congress was finishing up the amendments on the Defense Appropriations Bill, Congressman John Campbell began to question Congressman John Murtha about $2 million he earmarked for the Sherwin Williams paint supply company.

Murtha got a little defensive. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Our staff went over every one of these earmarks very carefully. And it's not in our highest priority list, but I'm sure that the military is interested in this kind of research, because it's so important to the military.

REP. JOHN CAMPBELL (R), CALIFORNIA: If I may inquire further, Mr. Chairman, you said you're sure the military. So you're not aware if, in fact, the military has asked for this kind of technology?

I guess the answer to that is no.

What investigations have been done to determine that this technology could actually even be effective? And I'm happy to yield to the gentleman?

MURTHA: We have a $459 billion bill. We look at every one. We attend — we ask the members to vet them. Our staff vets them. We go over every single earmark.

We don't apologize for them, because we think the members know as much about what goes on in the district and what needs to be done for the Defense Department as the bureaucrats in the Defense Department.

CAMPBELL: Then I'm sure if the gentleman goes over every single one that he can answer the question. What investigations, what research has been done to determine that this technology could be effective and is worth $2 million of taxpayer funds?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOWRY: Joining us now is California Congressman John Campbell.

Congressman, thanks for being with us and congratulations on that line of questioning. It was a great moment there on the House floor.

CAMPBELL: Thanks, gentlemen. Good to be with you.

LOWRY: Now Congressman, one thing I was struck by, it doesn't seem as though John Murtha is used to, or particularly likes being questioned about his earmarks.

CAMPBELL: I don't think so. And this actually wasn't an earmark that Murtha himself put forward. It was put forward by Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Cleveland, Ohio. But she wasn't there to defend it. I'm not quite sure why. And so he was defending it.

And he was defending all of these earmarks. There's 1,300 of them in this bill, amounting to $3 billion of taxpayer funds. And I went on in the questioning, as you no doubt heard, but asked him, "Well, you know, have you shopped the price? Have you shopped the suppliers? And even if you've done all that, if we're going to spend $2 million on this, does the taxpayer then own the rights to the technology?"

And the answer is, of course, no, the taxpayers don't. It's just $2 million giveaways to various companies around the country.

LOWRY: There was also a great moment. We weren't able to play in that clip, but where Congressman Murtha says to you, "Well, I don't know what paint company you represent," as though every congressman out there must have some paint company he's trying to funnel congressional earmarks to.

CAMPBELL: I tell you what, that comment told me a lot. He assumed that the reason I didn't want this money to go to Sherwin Williams Paint is because I want it to go to some paint company in my district.

I mean, I was shocked by the question. And I told him I don't know of a paint company in my district or anywhere near me. That's not why I'm questioning this. I'm questioning this because it's $2 million that appears to me to be going to something that the Defense Department doesn't want — technology we haven't proven that hasn't been shopped. We don't know if this is the right supplier.

And in the end, even if it works, the taxpayer will have to pay for it again to buy it back from Sherwin Williams' paint. So this is part of what's driving this culture of spending that's going on in Washington.

LOWRY: Yes. Also, Congressman, Democrats swept to power in November on the pledge to clean up Washington and to change business as usual. And it's just been amazing how fast they've gone back to defending the old rotten practices.

CAMPBELL: This earmark culture is very much ingrained in D.C. and it has a lot of the problems — I mean, there are members of Congress in jail tonight because of earmarks. There are members of Congress being investigated today because of earmarks.

And yet the process continues and continues. And we spend billions of dollars. And it's not just the money we spend on the earmarks, but it's the culture of spending that it creates.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: It's not just, Congressman Campbell, about Democrats, as Rich Lowry would like to believe.

And it's not just about Jack Murtha, who you acknowledged wasn't even his district; it was Stephanie Tubbs Jones’. And isn't it the biggest earmarker, Bill Young of Florida, the king of the earmarks?

And Don Young of Alaska, who went to the floor one day to defend his Bridge to Nowhere. I could go on and on, about how many Republicans do this.

So to single out John Murtha is rather disingenuous, isn't it?

CAMPBELL: Well, yes, Alan, you're right, the earmark problem is a bipartisan problem. There are people that are abusing the process, both Republicans and Democrats.

However, there are a group of us who are fighting this process and fighting for reform. All of the people fighting for reform are Republicans. John Murtha is defending this indefensible process. That's not good. There are Republicans who will also defend...

COLMES: John Murtha is an easy target, because he's anti-war. He becomes a very easy target for those who don't like his stance on the war. So he's become higher profile.

The FBI, for example, is investigating whether Ted Stevens of Alaska used a $1.6 million congressional appropriation to help an Alaska marine center purchase property from a business partner of his son. And there have been calls for him to step down from his leadership position. Should he be asked to step down?

CAMPBELL: I think that's a legitimate question to ask and perhaps he should be, depending on the evidence that is there.

COLMES: What's your position? While all this is going on, should he step down from those positions?

CAMPBELL: I think perhaps he should. I'm not familiar with all the details on that. But let me tell you, those of us who are going after earmarks are going after both Republican earmarks and Democratic earmarks.

COLMES: Have you ever put a Democrat on the stand and questioned him the way you just questioned Murtha? Have you put a Republican on the stand like that and done that?

CAMPBELL: I absolutely have. In this case, it was — the reason Murtha was there is he's the chairman of the subcommittee that handles these defense earmarks.

But I've also questioned the Republican ranking member on — I think it was education bill and questioned him on one of his earmarks. I absolutely have.

LOWRY: Congressman, thanks so much.

CAMPBELL: As much as you might like to think it's not the case.

LOWRY: Thanks so much, Congressman. It is a bipartisan problem, but Murtha represents the worst sort of...

COLMES: Not the worst. The worst guy is this guy...

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