GOP slams McNerney on Murtha vote

Less than an hour after House Democrats averted a vote on a resolution that would have reprimanded one of their own, the GOP issued a press release panning Democrat Rep. Jerry McNerney’s support of his party’s decision.

Angela Kouters, McNerney’s chief of staff, called the criticism unwarranted.

What? McNerney and the GOP in disagreement? Shocking, just shocking.

Here’s what happened.

The House tabled earlier today a resolution offered by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., that would have censured Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., for allegedly threatening to withhold earmarks from the Michigan lawmaker during an angry exchange. (Click here for the full New York Times story.)

“Jerry McNerney was faced with an opportunity to stand up to unethical behavior in Congress and instead he balked and fell in line with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat leadership,” said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “His vote to kill a resolution calling for the reprimand of an ethically challenged member of Congress is unconscionable and it is a vote that he will come to regret.”

Kouters called the resolution a conviction without a trial, pointing to its language that said, “Resolved, 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.”

“When the House votes to reprimand someone, it is almost always based on an investigation by the ethics committee,” Kouters said. “We would support sending the matter to the ethics committee.”

This exchange may seem like petty partisan bickering leading up to a hotly contested election, and it is.

But watch for ethics to become a central theme in the upcoming election as the Republicans try to deflate one of the driving reasons that voters elected McNerney in November and replaced seven-term incumbent Richard Pombo.

In the last election, Democrats, environmentalists and other critics of Pombo successfully painted the incumbent with GOP ethical lapses in Washington. The GOP will now try to turn the table on the Democrats and accuse them, as the majority party, of failing to hold members of their own party accountable.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen