By Amanda Costikyan Jones
WASHINGTON – Congressional representatives from Maryland’s Washington suburbs, both Democrat and Republican, were united in their praise of President Clinton’s delivery of the State of the Union address Tuesday in the midst of his impeachment trial.
“The president did a splendid job of including almost every issue imaginable,” said Rep. Constance Morella, R-Bethesda, one of only four House Republicans to vote against all four articles of impeachment in December.
“He obviously felt it was important [to give the speech now] and he worked very hard on it,” she said.”He wanted to point out that he’s still the president and that these issues need to be addressed.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, concurred, saying the president “was not distracted” by the impeachment trial in the Senate.
“He was focused, and he was dealing with the issues that Americans care about and did not become mired in either partisanship or in focusing on current controversy,” Hoyer said. “He knows that he’s got 24 months left to serve and the American public obviously, in every poll, indicates that they want him to stay on the job.”
Hoyer also praised the content of Clinton’s speech.
“I think the president did exactly what the American public wanted him to do, (which was to) focus on an agenda for them and their families and their future,” he said.
Hoyer cited Clinton’s proposals to preserve Social Security and improve health care and education as examples.
Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, expressed particular admiration for the president’s plan to re-invest the budget surplus in the Social Security system.
“I was very impressed with his analysis and vision,” Wynn said. “I thought his approach reflected sophistication.”
Both Democrats cited the education initiatives outlined by the president as high points.
Hoyer said he particularly liked Clinton’s call for “manageable class sizes and [school] accountability.” Wynn said school modernization and construction and the elimination of social promotions are especially important to his constituents in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
Wynn also said he would like to further explore the idea of creating more public charter schools, which was mentioned briefly by the president. Wynn called charter schools “a unique wrinkle” that could have bipartisan appeal.
“I think it’s got tremendous potential,” he said. “It has the advantage of providing school choice within the context of public schools …. I think it’s a vehicle for innovation in education.”
Morella said she was pleased to hear the president touch on nuclear disarmament, health care and the Y2K computer problem in his speech.
Morella, who leads a congressional panel exploring the Y2K problem, stood alone and clapped when the president mentioned the issue, drawing an ad-lib from Clinton.
“We had one member of Congress stand up there!” the president quipped.
But Morella criticized Clinton’s failure to mention the District of Columbia, which she says is “emerging from the doldrums.” She was also distressed that there was no mention of the “hard work of our federal workers.”
She praised the performance of both the president’s prosecutors and his defenders in the impeachment trial, which she called a “very somber” situation.
Wynn said he believes the president’s ongoing trial in the Senate did not detract from his performance.
“I happen to believe that Bill Clinton is one of the best in terms of staying focused and executing under pressure,” Wynn said. “If anything, he seems to thrive on pressure.”