WASHINGTON – Only two of Maryland’s eight representatives voted for a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on Congress, which became the first plank of the Republican’s Contract with America to be rejected by the House.
“We’re going to win one way or another – either with their vote or with their seat in ’96,” said Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Western Maryland before the series of term-limits votes, which stretched late into the evening Wednesday.
But even the most popular of the four proposals failed, 227- 204. That was 61 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for a constitutional amendment.
Bartlett voted for all four versions of the amendment, including one Democrat-sponsored plan calling for 12-year term limits that would apply retroactively to current members. It failed, 135-297.
Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest of the Eastern Shore supported only the most popular proposal, offered by Rep. Bill McCollum, a Florida Republican. McCollum’s version would have capped service in each house of Congress at 12 years and wouldn’t have allowed states to pass stricter congressional limits.
“It’s the most simple, straight-forward version of term limits,” Gilchrest said. “You serve 12 years – every state is the same – and you’re out.”
Maryland’s other two Republican representatives, Robert Ehrlich of Baltimore County and Constance Morella of Montgomery County, voted against all four term-limits proposals.
“I think it denies the public the opportunity to be the term limiters,” Morella said.
Ehrlich said his Republican colleagues never pressured him to vote for term limits.
He added that he considered voting for the Democratic proposal.
“The first one was tough because I believe that if the term limits should pass, it should be retroactive,” Ehrlich said.
Maryland’s four Democratic congressmen – Reps. Benjamin Cardin and Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore and Reps. Steny Hoyer and Albert Wynn of Prince George’s County – rejected every term- limits proposal, including the retroactivity plan proposed by members of their party.
“Every year the people consider the deliberations of Congress, and every other year, they make a choice,” Hoyer said. “We have term limits. That has been stated over and over – it is two years.”
The other two proposals supported by Bartlett included:
* One sponsored by Republican Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina, calling for a limit of six years of service in the House and 12 years in the Senate. It failed, 114-316.
* One proposed by Republican Rep. Van Hilleary of Tennessee, calling for a 12-year term limit in each house, but allowing states to set shorter limits. It was defeated, 164-265. -30-