Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania has passed away at age 77 from complications of gall bladder surgery.
A key member of the Democratic House leadership at the time of his death, Murtha served with distinction as a Marine during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and first came to Congress in 1974. His career was not without controversy; he was caught in the Abscam sting operation in the 70s, and gave evidence against other legislators, but suffered no electoral ill effects.
Murtha’s opposition to the Bush war policies made his name a rightwing swear word in the last decade (in the New York Post Zev Chafets called him “‘Bananas’ Jack,” and bloggers called him a Copperhead and worse.) During the 2008 campaign he was attacked for saying that the Western part of his state “years ago, was really redneck.”
Obama carried Pennsylvania that year, and Murtha retained his seat, perhaps because he had become a reliable bringer of federal funds to his district. Murtha was chair of the House defense appropriations subcommittee at the time of his death, and resisted retirement despite his gall bladder problems. A special election will be held to replace him.