WASHINGTON Rep. Connie Morella proudly wears the label “independent Republican,” but she may have outdone herself during the State of the Union address.
The Bethesda Republican found herself standing alone on the floor of the House Tuesday, after she leapt to her feet and cheered the president’s vague reference to the Y2K computer problem.
Her solitary exuberance drew laughter from the floor and the gallery and a quip from a surprised President Clinton.
“We had one member of Congress stand up and applaud,” Clinton said amid the laughter. “And we may have about that ratio out there applauding at home, in front of their television sets.”
But while the president joked, Morella – – co-chair of the House Y2K Task Force — took her stand seriously.
Morella said Tuesday that she was “excited and encouraged” by the president’s inclusion of the topic in his address.
When her performance came up in a committee hearing Wednesday, Morella laughed and added that she “was frankly delighted” by the president’s mention.
Standing alone in support of an idea, even if “it may have been a little embarrassing,” goes right along with Morella’s personality, said Bob Miller, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Committee.
“She bills herself as an independent Republican … she’s obviously liberal,” said Miller, and she would have no qualms about standing when no one in her party — or even the Democratic party — joined her.
Morella’s chief of staff, Bill Miller, said her lone stand during the address “furthers Connie’s reputation as someone who looks at everything without regard to party, affiliation or anything like that.
“For a long time she has urged the president to do this, he finally did it and she was going to recognize that,” he added.
Morella is accustomed to bucking trends. A Republican from a heavily Democratic Montgomery County district, she is now in her seventh term and won her last race with 60 percent of the vote against a well-funded Democrat.
She was one of only five Republicans who broke with party ranks and voted against the impeachment of President Clinton in December. She was one of 11 Republicans to vote against tax cut proposals in the GOP’s “Contract With America.”
Morella “accurately represents her constituents in Montgomery County” said Maryland State Republican Party Executive Director Jim Burton.
Bob Miller, the county GOP chairman, said Morella’s lone stand could be the result of her exuberance or her colleague’s indifference to Y2K.
“Maybe most of them didn’t even know what he (Clinton) was talking about, and that’s a bit disturbing,” Miller said.