Murtha Goes Overboard

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Too many old bulls in the House of Representatives consider themselves masters of all. They regard their seniority as a right to dominate and bully others.

Such is the case of 18-term Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Johnstown, Pa.

Jack Murtha, who represents a small city and environs in the western part of the state, has become too big for his britches. He needs to be taken down a big peg.

In the most recent example of his power plays,

Murtha berated Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan for opposing an earmark in Murtha's district. Murtha reportedly told junior member Rogers that he would never get a pork barrel earmark "now or forever." As chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee on defense, Murtha occupies a strong position to throw his weight around. He obviously thrives on it.

Recall that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi favored Murtha in the fight for majority leader earlier this year. Democrats went with Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, defying both Pelosi and Murtha in the process.

Murtha has come a long way from the young upstart who first ran for Congress in 1974 in a special election. As a reporter covering that first race to test the effect of the Watergate scandal on Republicans, I recall Murtha as an attractive Democrat who was approachable, with none of the big-headed traits of today.

Murtha has earned the respect of many Democrats with his unyielding opposition to the war in Iraq. A decorated Marine officer in Vietnam, he knows about combat, something about which the president has no firsthand knowledge.

But Murtha's no-holds-barred way of doing things has rankled not only Republicans but some in his own party.

Jack Murtha needs to be reminded that he may be a 34-year fixture in Congress, but he is only one of 435 members of the House.