In a blow to House Republicans who had made him one of their favorite targets of scorn and derision, U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) died today at age 77 of complications from gallbladder surgery.
Although he’d earned wide renown amongst D.C. insiders for his pork-barrel prowess (you know, the kinda bring-home-the-bacon politics folks here in our Washington like to abuse Rep. McDermott for not plying), Murtha didn’t become a lightning rod for Republican criticism until 2005, when the normally hawkish Democrat prominently came out in favor of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. A former marine whose honors include the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, Murtha was the first Vietnam War veteran to be elected to the U.S. House.
And in a curious historical note, Murtha has now become the third in a direct line of succession to have died in office, joining his immediate predecessor John P. Saylor (1973) and Saylor’s predecessor Robert L. Coffey (1949). So a word of caution to those seeking to succeed Murtha: few who hold this office manage to return alive.
Speaking of pork, Murtha’s death bumps WA’s own Rep. Norm Dicks to the number two position on the all powerful House Appropriations Committee, where he will likely take over Murtha’s chair of the lucrative Defense subcommittee. Say what you want, but that can’t be bad for the military-industrial complex here in WA state.