Democrat Rep. John Murtha Dies

An aide to the House leadership has confirmed that Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha died today as a result of complications from an operation to his gallbladder last week.

From Fox News:

Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. John Murtha, the first veteran of the Vietnam war and one of the most powerful lawmakers in Congress, died Wednesday morning at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA, after complications from gallbladder surgery. Murtha was 77.

A native of New Martinsville, W.Va., voters elected first elected Murtha to Congress in a 1974 special election that spelled impending doom for President Nixon and congressional Republicans. That fall, Democrats wrestled away 49 House seats from the GOP, reeling from the scourge of Watergate and a presidency in shambles.

Murtha rose to become the chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee that controls spending for the Pentagon. Chairs of the appropriations subcommittee panels are viewed with such prestige on Capitol Hill that they’re called “cardinals.” That’s a nod to Rome because of the eminence these lawmakers hold over spending for their federal fiefdom.

Murtha was also the endorsed candidate of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to become majority leader when Democrats won control of Congress in 2006. But current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) overwhelmingly defeated Murtha by secret ballot in a hard-fought leadership contest.

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