Murtha Accused of Threatening Michigan Rep.’s Earmarks, Violating House Rules

Posted May 18, 2007 at 10:42am

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) has accused Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) of breaking House rules by threatening to block all of Rogers’ spending requests because the Michigan lawmaker challenged one of Murtha’s pet projects on the floor last week.

Rogers is planning to bring a privileged resolution to the floor Monday to reprimand Murtha for the exchange.

In an account by Rogers — which Murtha’s office did not confirm nor deny Friday morning — the senior lawmaker and second-highest ranking Democrat on the powerful Appropriations Committee approached Rogers on the floor Thursday. Irritated that Rogers had the previous week offered an alternative motion on the floor to strip money from a Murtha earmark to provide funds to the National Drug Intelligence Center located in Murtha’s Pennsylvania district, Murtha allegedly threatened Rogers’ own projects.

“I hope you don’t have any earmarks in the appropriations bills because they are gone and you will not get any earmarks now and forever,” Murtha said, according to Rogers.

“This is not the way we do things here, and is that supposed to make me afraid of you?” Rogers said.

“That’s the way I do it,” Murtha replied.

Rogers is now seeking a public reprimand of Murtha in a resolution that states “that the Member from Pennsylvania, Mr. Murtha has been guilty of a violation of the Code of Official Conduct and merits the reprimand of the House for the same.”

In a statement, Murtha did not address the floor confrontation. “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 is accusing Murtha of breaking a new House rule passed by Democrats at the start of the 110th Congress whose intent is to prohibit any lawmaker from conditioning the inclusion of any earmarks on a Member’s support or opposition to a piece of legislation. The rule states that no Member can “condition the inclusion of language to provide funding for a congressional earmark, a limited tax benefit, or a limited tariff benefit in any bill.”

It is up to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to allow debate on the resolution once it is introduced, but House rules order that it must be considered within two days of its introduction. It is likely that the resolution will fail on a party line vote. Rogers said in an interview that he will not pursue a formal ethics complaint. He said there were several other Members who witnessed the exchange, but declined to name them publicly.

While it is a bold move to challenge a powerful senior appropriator for a code of conduct violation, Rogers said Murtha went too far.

“It definitely crossed a line with me, I’ve been in some spirited debates here, and if this were — in my mind — a Member who had lost his cool for a moment, I would be fine by that,” Rogers said, “but this was none of that, this was not done in the spirit of debate. This was clearly done to intimidate someone … this was clearly cajoling, bullying, threatening intimidation.”