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Washington State Dem In Line For Murtha's Chairmanship

February 9, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The death of Rep. John Murtha [D, PA-12] means not only an open House seat in Pennsylvania, but also an open chairmanship in one of the most significant House subcommittees.

Murtha was the chair of the defense appropriations subcommittee, which oversees Pentagon spending. Rep. Norm Dicks [D, WA-6], the new ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, is expected to be chosen by the House Democratic Caucus to take Murtha’s chairmanship.

A lot of attention has been given to Murtha’s anti-war stance, but he also was known for his ability to secure earmarks, moreso than any other House member, for his district. While not as prolific as Murtha, Dicks is also known for obtaining earmarks for his district. You can view Rep. Dicks’s earmark requests for the current fiscal year here.

And also like Murtha, Dicks has attracted attention for his ethics record. The Seattle Times explains:

Dicks, Murtha and James Moran Jr., a Virginia Democrat also on the panel, were investigated last year by the Office of Congressional Ethics over $137 million in contracts they directed to defense companies that had hired a lobbying firm, PMA Group, founded by a former subcommittee staffer.

The ethics office dropped the probe in December without taking action. The House ethics committee is conducting its own investigation, although the ethics office recommended that review be dropped, too.

Should he get the chairmanship, Dicks will have considerable sway over a controversial $40 billion air-to-air refueling tanker contract that is being sought by Northrop Grumman, European firm EADS and Boeing. Boeing has long been the top donor to Dicks and has a major manufacturing plant in his district.

Incidentally, that contract was a major reason why Sen. Richard Shelby [R, AL] recently placed a blanket hold on all of President Obama’s appointees. If awarded the contract, Northrop Grumman and EADS would build the tankers in Alabama.

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