U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who is the ranking minority-party member on the powerful House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee, has accused U.S. Rep. Robert R. Simmons, R-2nd District, of making false claims about securing funds for construction of two new nuclear attack submarines. But Simmons' chief of staff, Todd Mitchell, says his boss has done no such thing, adding that Murtha has backed away from the assertions contained in an e-mail sent out under Murtha's name last week to Connecticut newspapers. Mitchell today called the dust-up "one of the most bizarre incidents I've ever had to deal with."Here's what's causing this dispute to linger:
"It has come to my attention that Mr. Simmons has publicly stated that he has, or is in the process of, securing funds to guarantee the procurement of two Virginia-class submarines during the coming fiscal year," [Murtha] wrote. "Regrettably, these claims are untrue."It's widely known that Rob Simmons is one of three Connecticut politicians involved in a tight reelection race. It's also widely known that John Murtha desparately wants to be House Majority Leader. Putting those factors together, it isn't unreasonable to conclude that John Murtha is telling Mr. Simmons one thing face-to-face while not retracting the public accusation.
Murtha said that the fiscal 2007 Department of Defense Appropriations Act covering the federal fiscal year that will begin next Oct. 1 contains no funding for such a program. As such the Pentagon "will not spend any money on such a program over the next 12 months," added Murtha, whose criticism of the U.S. occupation of Iraq has become a rallying point for many Democratic congressional candidates this fall.
"I understand how important the submarine industry is to southeastern Connecticut," the e-mail continued. "I hope that in future years the Congress will be able to provide funding for the construction of multiple Virginia-class submarines. However, any claims that this will occur in the coming fiscal year are simply false."
Mitchell said that when Simmons confronted Murtha about the e-mail Friday on the floor of the House, the Democrat "said he never saw the letter and never OK'd it and that he didn't agree with the letter." But Mitchell also said that when Murtha's spokeswoman was later asked about the matter by a reporter, she said the Pennsylvania lawmaker was standing by the letter. Simmons then confronted Murtha again, he added, with Murtha repeating that he "didn't agree with the letter." "It became clear as the day went on that somebody had got their foot stuck in their mouth here," he said.
Isn't it time that John Murtha set the record straight both in Pennsylvania and Connecticut? Isn't it time that Pennsylvanians elected someone whose integrity isn't an issue?
Technorati: Election 2006, Murtha, Rob Simmons, Department of Defense
Cross-posted at LetFreedomRingBlog