The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

November 8, 2006

Murtha targets top post

Fresh off his victory in Tuesday’s general election, U.S. Rep. John Murtha already has his sights set on another round of voting.

With Democrats winning control of the House, Murtha now is one of two representatives in the running to become majority leader.

He already has been touted as one of the House’s most powerful Demo-crats.

Whether he wins the vote of his Democratic peers later this month will serve as a test of that assumption.

Murtha trounced Republican challenger Diana Irey, and Murtha told The Associated Press he “absolutely” will battle U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland – the House minority whip – for majority leader.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, minority leader, is poised to become the nation’s first female speaker of the House. If Murtha becomes majority leader, he would rank second among House Democrats behind her.

By virtue of his current position, Hoyer might seem a natural to ascend to majority leader.

But Murtha’s national profile has risen remarkably in the past year, largely due to his persistent criticism of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.

An aide to Pelosi said her boss has not weighed in yet on the leadership race.

“(Pelosi) has the highest respect for Murtha,” aide Jennifer Crider said. “His stance on Iraq changed the debate on the Iraq war in this country.”

The 32-year House veteran said voters had sent a message to President Bush and Republican congressional leaders.

“They don’t want a rubber-stamp Congress,” Murtha said Tuesday night. “They want a Congress that’s going to stand up.”

As for Bush’s future actions in Iraq, Murtha was blunt: “He’s not going to go on with this war.”

In the month before Election Day, Murtha also spent time stumping for Democratic House candidates – which won’t hurt when ballots are counted for majority leader.

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