WASHINGTON Maryland’s two Democratic senators praised President Clinton’s State of the Union address Tuesday, just hours after they sat in judgment of him during his impeachment trial.
Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, said the president’s problems did not taint the 77-minute address or the senators ability to separate their duties.
“Tomorrow we resume our responsibilities as a court … but tonight everyone was there to hear the speech,” Sarbanes said.
“There didn’t seem to be a sense in the chamber of that (impeachment) hanging over it,” he said. “We do the one in one place and we do the other in another place.”
But Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D- Baltimore, declined to elaborate on her dual role of senator and juror.
Mikulski, who did not speak to reporters after the speech, said in a prepared statement released before Clinton’s speech that “it would be inappropriate to discuss specifics of the trial until its conclusion.”
“I believe, clearly, we are operating on two tracks here in the Senate,” Mikulski said in her statement. “First, I am fulfilling my constitutional judicial responsibilities …. But I am also focused on a national agenda to meet day-to-day needs of Maryland and the long-range needs of the nation.”
On those needs, both senators gave Clinton high marks.
Sarbanes supported the president’s proposal to invest the budget surplus in an effort to save Social Security, calling it “far-seeing” and “a wise and prudent investment.”
He also pointed out the strength of the economy, saying the president “made clear that the existing state of the economy is very dynamic.”
Sarbanes said several of the issues the president touched on would have a particularly strong impact on Maryland, citing the environment and the continued emphasis on community-oriented policing.
“And finally the education proposals, of course, are very significant,” Sarbanes said. “At the state level, we’re doing very significant things on trying to improve education.”
Mikulski also praised the president’s commitment to saving Social Security, which she said is her “absolute top priority.”
She also lauded the president’s proposal for a $1,000 yearly tax credit for long-term care patients or their caregivers.
Mikulski said she hopes to expand the availability of long-term care insurance by requiring that federal agencies offer the insurance to their employees and retirees. She said she and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D- Baltimore, plan to introduce bills to require that coverage, the first step toward creating a national market for the insurance that could ultimately drive down costs.
Mikulski also praised Clinton’s plan to triple funding for after-school and summer youth programs under the “21st Century Community Learning Program.” Mikulski said she would fight for funding for programs activities like the Police Athletic League and Baltimore’s SuperCamp.
“In Maryland, 81 percent of women with children between the ages of 6 and 17 are in the workforce,” Mikulski said in her statement. “Moms and dads need to know that their kids are in safe, educational environments especially during after school hours when juvenile crime peaks.”
Sarbanes, who sat on the House Judiciary Committee when it considered the impeachment of President Nixon, said Clinton gave a very good speech despite the circumstances.
“I thought it compared very favorably with his past State of the Union addresses,” Sarbanes said.