WASHINGTON – Baltimore-area congressmen said President Clinton presented a generally laudable State of the Union address to the nation under the trying circumstances of an impeachment trial.
Even Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, gave generally high marks to the president, while remaining skeptical about the details of some of the proposals.
Meanwhile, Democrats from the region — Reps. Benjamin Cardin and Elijah Cummings — had nothing but praise for both the president’s performance and his proposals.
“The president carried out his responsibility with the State of the Union by putting out a roadmap for the future of the nation for all the problems that affect our communities,” said Cardin, D-Baltimore.
Both Ehrlich and Cardin approved of the president’s call for educational accountability, although Ehrlich said state and local governments, rather than the federal government, should be responsible for implementing it.
Additionally, Cardin said he was particularly pleased by Clinton’s proposal to increase the return on the Social Security investment and to encourage more pension savings by individuals.
Cummings, D-Baltimore, also cited Social Security as a high point of the president’s address.
“This president has been consistently addressing the concerns of the average citizen: Medicare, Social Security, education,” Cummings said, referring to Clinton’s call to build or renovate schools across the nation.
He said Clinton’s call for a higher minimum wage will be felt in his district, as will the president’s proposed reform of managed health care.
“One of the biggest complaints from my constituents is too much red tape,” in health care, Cummings said. “This will resonate with my constituents more than anything else.”
Despite general approval of Clinton’s proposals, Ehrlich criticized the president for neglecting to include tax cuts in his speech.
“One issue that he did not address was the lack of tax refunds for working people,” he said.
Additionally, Ehrlich cautioned that the extra $1 billion Clinton wants to allocate for welfare-to-work could lull local governments into thinking the money will always be there. The federal funding will be limited, he said, and administrators must “be very careful about how they spend it.”
But despite some disagreement with Clinton’s initiatives, Ehrlich said Clinton was right to uphold his “constitutional obligation” to update the nation on the state of the union. He said that most Republicans felt the same way, with only a few boycotting the impeached president’s speech.
Democrats Cardin and Cummings hailed the president’s performance under the circumstances.
“The president did a great job, with all of the pressure, looking out into the eyes of the people who can determine his future and the eyes of the House, which has already voted to impeach him,” Cummings said.
Cardin said Clinton “has provided leadership and has focused on the issues and has not been distracted” by impeachment.
“Now, it’s up to Congress to do what we have to do,” he said. — Capital News Service reporter Kristin Vaughan contributed to this report.