Michael Arcuri is set to take one of his first actions as a member of Congress, voting for majority leader of the House of Representatives. There's a real contest for that seat, between Steny Hoyer and John Murtha. Steny Hoyer is the longtime Democratic Party Whip in the House of Representatives, and John Murtha gained nationwide fame recently by coming out in favor of ending the Iraq War.
John Murtha is to be thanked for supporting an end to the Iraq War, and giving cover to other Democrats on the issue. However, Murtha has a right wing voting record on many issues that makes him a troubling pick for Majority Leader in a Democratic House. Murtha voted in favor of starting the war in Iraq in the first place, for one thing. Murtha has also supported attacks on the Endangered Species Act and voted in favor of ridiculous measures such as amending the Constitution in order to ban flag burning.
Worse than John Murtha's affinity for parts of the right wing agenda is his long history of corruption. The Democrats promised to clean up corruption in the House, but that promise looks like a sham with the nomination of Murtha. Melanie Sloan, the Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, comments, "Pelosi's endorsement suggests to me she was interested in the culture of corruption only as a campaign issue and has no real interest in true reform."
Steny Hoyer doesn't have the long history of corruption that John Murtha has had, but he does share Murtha's propensity for abandoning the Democratic Party mainstream in Congress in order to vote with the Republicans on important issues. For example, Hoyer recently crossed party lines in order to vote to renew the Patriot Act in spite of serious concerns about the law's use in assembling gigantic government databases filled with information about the private, legal activities of American citizens. Hoyer's job as Democratic Whip was to make sure that as few Democratic members of the House crossed party lines as possible, so what was he doing crossing working with George W. Bush and the Republicans? Hoyer's failures as Democratic Whip, serving during a time when the Congressional Democrats became famous for their lack cohesion, suggests that he won't do a good job as Majority Leader.
Then there's Congressman Hoyer's support for the Iraq War. Like Murtha, Hoyer voted against the will of the majority of Democratic voters in 2002 when he helped George W. Bush start the war. At least Murtha eventually saw the error of his ways. Not Hoyer. Steny Hoyer has kept on supporting the Iraq War, long after any rational justifications for doing so fell away.
Who will new Congressman Michael Arcuri vote for in this election for Majority Leader? Arcuri says he supports Steny Hoyer. That's not a good choice. On the other hand, voting for Murtha wouldn't be a good choice either. Arcuri's worth as a member of Congress cannot be judged by this vote.
However, the Democrats of the House of Representatives in general certainly can be judged for this vote. Steny Hoyer and John Murtha may be powerful, but they are not at all the most qualified for the job of Majority Leader. The Democrats said they'd run things differently if they got the majority back, but the Murtha-Hoyer contest does not instill confidence.