Pennsylvania rep. John Murtha dies at 77





Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), 77, a Vietnam veteran who staunchly supported military spending and became a master of pork-barrel politics, died today at Virginia Hospital Center following gallbladder surgery last month.

Elected to Congress in 1974 from a southwestern Pennsylvania district that has been economically devastated by the decline of America's coal-mining and steel industries, the gruff and jowly Murtha was beloved by his constituents for tapping billions of dollars in federal funds to seed new industries there.

He was revered among Democrats -- and even some Republicans -- for his skill over 19 terms in using the power of the federal purse to make kings and deals. A right-hand man of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he was considered one of the most influential lawmakers on Capitol Hill and credited with her ascension.

Critics dubbed Murtha, the chairman of the powerful subcommittee that controls Pentagon spending, the "King of Pork" for the volume of taxpayer money he could direct to the area around his home town of Johnstown. Most of the largesse came in defense and military research contracts he steered to companies based in his district or with small offices there....


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