Pennsylvania’s Murphy Likely to Take Murtha Seat on Appropriations

Posted May 4, 2010 at 8:21pm

The late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) leveraged his seat on the House Appropriations Committee to become a power center in Congress. Now, one of his home-state acolytes — sophomore Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) — is poised to take his place on the exclusive panel.

Murphy on Tuesday night won the endorsement of the House Democratic Steering Committee to claim the seat, vacant since Murtha’s death in February.

To do so, he edged out a field of hopefuls that included Reps. Travis Childers (D-Miss.), Phil Hare (D-Ill.) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa). The full Democratic Caucus needs to confirm Murphy to the seat, a move that will likely come Wednesday.

While the Steering Committee apparently approved Murphy for the seat by consent, his nomination wasn’t lacking for drama. Sophomore Rep. Christopher Carney (D-Pa.) was also vying for the assignment, and their intrastate competition divided the state delegation. After Murphy beat out Carney for the delegation’s nod, Carney accused his northeast Pennsylvania neighbor, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D), of casting a deciding vote against him — thereby injuring their corner of the state. The brawl threatened the state’s claim on the seat altogether.

But Murphy had the support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who keeps a tight rein on the Steering Committee. On Tuesday, she spoke in favor of keeping the seat in the Keystone State’s region, despite the fact that it is overrepresented on the panel even with Murtha’s vacancy. Leaders take regional equity into account when they dole out exclusive committee assignments, and Pennsylvania’s region, which also includes Ohio and Kentucky, claims four seats on the panel while most others have three.

After receiving the go-ahead from the Steering panel on Tuesday, Murphy reflected on the prospect of replacing his mentor. “I’ll never be able to fill his shoes. No one will be able to fill his shoes,” he said. “But I’ll put my head down and work hard and try to do the right thing for my country.”