Rep. John Murtha passes away.

John Murtha Democratic Rep. John Murtha (PA), who served in Congress since 1974, passed away today. Murtha had been in intensive care after complications arose from his gall bladder surgery a couple of weeks ago. The statement from his office:

Congressman John P. Murtha (PA-12) passed away peacefully this afternoon at 1:18 p.m. at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA. At his bedside was his family.

Murtha, 77, was Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in February of 1974, Murtha dedicated his life to serving his country both in the military and in the halls of Congress. A former Marine, he became the first Vietnam War combat Veteran elected to the U.S. Congress.

This past Saturday, February 6, 2010, Murtha became Pennsylvania’s longest serving Member of Congress.

Murtha was close to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who supported his bid to become Majority Leader, but he was eventually beaten by Steny Hoyer (MD). During the Bush administration, Murtha became a forceful, outspoken voice for Iraq redeployment. In November 2005, the former Marine and Iraq war hawk came out and called for an immediate U.S. withdrawal in Iraq. His stance was a turning point in the war debate, clearing the way for more Democrats to speak up. “The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home,” he declared. Murtha had also been dogged by ethics allegations regarding earmarks and his relationship with defense contractors.