WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s Democratic challenger has called him too conservative for the Western Maryland district he represents.
“He has supported the Contract with America, including the more extreme measures,” Democrat Stephen Crawford of Frederick said of Bartlett. The University of Maryland lecturer also described some of Bartlett’s positions as “out of touch with reality.”
Yet when Bartlett and Crawford were recently questioned on 10 problems facing the country, the two agreed on solutions about 70 percent of the time – including on whether a constitutional amendment is needed to balance the federal budget. They both agreed an amendment is needed by the year 2002.
“The sooner, the better,” Bartlett said.
“If we can’t balance the budget in these … times, we’re in trouble,” Crawford said.
When their similarities were pointed out, Crawford conceded, “We’re both fiscally conservative.” But, he said, when it comes to such issues as gun control and the environment, their views are very different.
For instance, Bartlett supports making it easier for businesses, states and localities to meet water quality standards, while Crawford said the present law is fine.
“We didn’t need it,” said Crawford, 53, of the clean water act overhaul passed in the House in 1995. The overhaul is an example of the House catering to big polluting industries, he said.
Bartlett, 70, of Frederick, disagrees. The two-term congressman said the House recognized that regulations approved after enactment of the 1972 act went beyond the intent of the law. He said Congress tried to return to the law’s original intent.
The Sixth District is one of the more conservative parts of the state, with registered Republicans edging out Democrats, 150,839 to 139,317, state elections board figures from February show. The district includes the five most western counties along Maryland’s northern border along with a large portion of Howard County.
Here is what the candidates are saying about issues of concern to voters in the district:MINIMUM WAGE
Bartlett voted against a bill signed by President Clinton in August that raised the minimum wage in October from $4.25 an hour to $4.75, and then raises it to $5.15 an hour next September. The Republican congressman cited figures from the Employment Policies Institute, which said few families support themselves on the minimum wage. He said of the 4.2 million workers earning it, 66 percent work part-time and 37 percent are teen-agers.
Bartlett said there are other ways to increase the take-home pay of Americans, such as tax breaks for low-income workers.
Crawford said he would have voted for the bill. He said he supports a modest increase in the minimum wage to make up for inflation and the decreasing value of wages.ABORTION
Bartlett voted to override Clinton’s veto of a ban on “partial-birth” abortions, a late-term procedure in which the doctor does a partial vaginal delivery before performing the abortion.
The only exception the bill made for allowing the procedure was if the life of the mother is threatened and no other procedure was possible.
“This is not a question of whether you’re pro-life or pro- choice,” Bartlett said. “It’s a question of whether you’re civilized or not.”
Crawford agreed with Bartlett that the late-term procedure should be outlawed. But, he said, there should also be an exception for when the physical health of the mother is threatened.
“There has to be a compelling medical reason” for them to be performed, he said.
Both said they support the welfare reform bill Clinton signed in August, although Crawford said he did so “without enthusiasm.”
The measure gives states most of the control over aid to mothers and children. It says states must make sure most of those receiving aid find jobs within two years. Also, legal immigrants cannot get aid for five years after they arrive.
Crawford said this bill is flawed, since it will give states a lot of discretion over federal money without strings attached. But, on the flip side, he said, it is good to give states discretion to apply the money to local conditions.
Bartlett said he likes the new discretionary power handed the states. The standard “one-size-fits-all” model coming out of the Washington bureaucracy does not help towns, cities and regions with varying transportation and employment issues, he said.
In July, Clinton pushed unsuccessfully for an anti-terrorism measure to allow more government wiretapping and to commission a study of chemical identifiers that would allow black and smokeless gunpowder to be traced.
Bartlett said he opposes the wiretap and gunpowder provisions. In opposing the wiretaps, he said he wants to prevent a “police state” situation from arising in this country.
He said gunpowder tags would not prevent terrorism, since the terrorists could get bomb-making supplies outside the United States.
Crawford said he is reluctant to give the government more authority regarding wiretaps unless there is a national crisis. “It’s extremely important” to protect civil rights, he said. But Crawford said he does not see how gunpowder tags would violate a person’s rights. -30-