WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is defending a close Democratic ally whom Republicans want to reprimand for threatening a GOP lawmaker's spending projects.
Pelosi, D-Calif., said she had "no idea what actually happened" during a noisy exchange in the House chamber last week between Reps. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., and Mike Rogers, R-Mich.
"What I do know is that Congressman Murtha has — enjoys — an excellent reputation in the Congress on both sides of the aisle," said Pelosi in a broadcast interview taped Friday and aired Sunday.
"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.
Murtha is a 35-year House veteran who leads the House Appropriations subcommittee on military spending. 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, Murtha walked to the GOP side to confront Rogers, a former FBI agent. This month, 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 Murtha's Pennsylvania district.
According to Rogers' account, which Murtha did not dispute, the Democrat angrily told Rogers he should never seek earmarks of his own because "you're not going to get any, now or forever."
"This was clearly designed to try to intimidate me," Rogers told The Associated Press on 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 member's votes.
Murtha's office said in a statement: "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."
Rogers said he planned to file a "privileged resolution" Monday that would seek a House vote on whether to reprimand Murtha.
"I wasn't there" for the confrontation, Pelosi said. "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."
She added, "I don't know that there was going to be a resolution. There was rumor that that might be the form it would take, but we'll deal with it if that's what comes forward. But I think Mr. Murtha's reputation for bipartisanship will hold him in good stead."
During leadership elections after Democrats regained control of the House in November, Pelosi aggressively backed Murtha in his bid to become majority leader, the No. 2 position. He lost to Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Pelosi spoke on ABC's "This Week."