WASHINGTON – Most of Maryland’s Republican congressmen said this week they would not support President Clinton’s decision to send U.S. troops into Bosnia, while the state’s Democratic members remained undecided.
Republicans said they were not convinced 20,000 American soldiers need to be sent into the region – some as early as this weekend – as part of a NATO peacekeeping mission.
“We support the peace process, but putting our people in harm’s way is counterproductive to peace,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick. “How can we be neutral if we have troops there? Many of them already see us as the enemy.”
The Senate is expected to vote next week on a resolution supporting the Bosnia mission, according to a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, R-Kan. A House vote would likely follow, said Michelle Davis, spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas.
Three of the four Maryland Republican House members said they would vote against the Senate resolution. A spokeswoman for Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, said she was undecided.
“I almost wish it wouldn’t come to a vote,” Bartlett said. “How do we express our lack of support for the president’s plan and still show our support for our service personnel?”
All four of the Maryland Democratic members interviewed said they were undecided on how they would vote.
Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Mitchellville and Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Baltimore could not be reached.
“I think it’s safe to say that there is considerably more support for Clinton’s plan in the Senate right now than in the House,” said Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Baltimore.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Baltimore, said in a written statement she still has questions concerning the mission’s goals and the possibilities of success.
Both Democrats and Republicans said they wished they had been supplied with more information on the mission, designed to implement a peace accord signed last month by leaders of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, said that although Clinton has a constitutional right as commander-in-chief to authorize the deployment of forces, “Congress has the obligation and responsibility to question the actions of deployment.”
He added, “I think that before a president commits troops to a situation that is potentially dangerous to American lives, he should have an open dialogue with Congress and there should be a good flow of information.”
Cardin agreed the president is “fully within his power to announce this plan.” But, he added, “Congress should still play a critical role in the decision whether to send troops.”
Bartlett said he thinks the American people are even less supportive of the Bosnia mission than some members of Congress. He said he has received 161 calls from constituents denouncing Clinton’s plan, compared to just nine calls supporting it. “If there is really a compelling reason for us to be there, then I would like to see a full campaign to educate Congress and the public,” Bartlett said. -30-