House Kills Reprimand of Rep. John Murtha
WASHINGTON – On a partisan tally, House lawmakers on Tuesday voted to kill a reprimand of Rep. John Murtha after a Republican lawmaker introduced a resolution citing Murtha for earmark and ethics violations related to the intelligence authorization bill.
The vote of 219-189 with 13 voting present laid the motion on the table, meaning that the resolution was put in limbo. Two Democrats, Reps. Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, voted with Republicans not to table the resolution. Republican Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania voted with majority Democrats.
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The privilege resolution was introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. Rogers, 43, accuses Murtha, 74, of violating the House ethics rules passed in January that require each member who wants to slip into any bill a spending project for their district to identify himself or herself.
Rogers, a former FBI agent, claims he tried to cut $23 million in funding for the National Drug Intelligence Center because the program is redundant and wasteful. But the center is located in Murtha's Pennsylvania district, which Rogers says he didn't realize because Murtha, the seventh-ranking lawmaker in the House in terms of seniority, slipped the funding into the intelligence authorization bill without identifying himself.
The resolution says Murtha, a former Marine, then threatened Rogers with never allowing another spending project to come up for a vote in the House. It recounted the conversation in the House chamber on May 17.
"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," the resolution claims Murtha said in so many words.
According to the resolution, Rogers then responded, "This is not the way we do things here and is that supposed to make me afraid of you?"
Murtha then "raised his voice, pointed his finger and stated, in words to the effect, 'that's the way I do it.'"
House rules prohibit lawmakers from limiting others' projects based on their voting record.
Murtha's office issued a statement immediately after the run-in. "The committee and staff give every Democrat and Republican the same consideration. We have extensive hearings, and every request is carefully considered. And we will continue to do just that."
Asked over the weekend about the dust-up, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wasn't there, but "I do know that the Republicans caused quite a stir that was unjustified on the floor of the House, and I'm sure things were said on both sides."
"I have no idea what actually happened," she told ABC's "This Week." "What I do know is that Congressman Murtha enjoys an excellent reputation in the Congress on both sides of the aisle. 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."
On Tuesday, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he did not know if Murtha violated House rules, but was open to an ethics committee probe.
"I have said all along that the ethics committee needs to take under consideration items that are made public that assert violations of the ethics code or the rules of the House," Hoyer said.
According to House Minority Leader John Boehner, Murtha has not denied making the threat against Rogers. He added that Democrats have not lived up to the pledges they made to open up Congress to scrutiny and a higher ethical standard.
"The Democrats' decision not to reprimand Congressman Murtha for violating the very ethics rules put in place by this Congress in January represents yet another broken promise by the new majority. It sends a message to the American people that our ethics rules are meaningless, and that it is okay for Members of Congress to be threatened and intimidated when they try to crack down on wasteful spending. The American people have every right to expect the highest ethical standards of this Congress, not Washington-style political favoritism," Boehner said in a statement after the vote.
FOX News' Jim Mills and Molly Hooper contributed to this report.