Murtha dies at 77 after hospitalization

House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., died Monday afternoon at the age of 77. He had been hospitalized since last Tuesday after complications from gall bladder surgery.

According to a statement from his office, Murtha died at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington with his family at his bedside.

Murtha was the first Vietnam combat veteran elected to Congress when he won his seat in a special election in February of 1974. Just this past Saturday, he became Pennsylvania's longest-serving member of Congress.

The hawkish, gruff Marine shepherded Defense appropriations bills through the House with a minimum of time and opposition after working behind the scenes to strike deals to ensure support.

Murtha was a strong supporter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and unsuccessfully challenged House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., when Democrats regained the House majority in 2006.

Although he supported the original resolution sending U.S. troops to Iraq, he later had second doubts and argued that it was time to bring the troops home.

In December, Murtha was among several lawmakers who had received news that the Office of Congressional Ethics had recommended against a formal House Ethics Committee investigation regarding their ties to the defunct lobbying firm PMA Group.

Murtha had obtained nearly $2.5 million in donations from PMA and its clients, and the OCE was looking into allegations that he and others had gained those donations in return for undisclosed "official acts."

A House Ethics spokesman declined comment Monday on whether the panel had followed the OCE recommendation and had abandoned scrutiny of Murtha regarding his connections to PMA or any other issue.

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