WASHINGTON – The political ideologies of Reps. Roscoe Bartlett and Edward Markey may be as far apart as their Maryland and Massachusetts districts.
Bartlett, R-Frederick, is a staunch conservative from Western Maryland who routinely gets perfect scores for his voting record from right-wing groups.
The opposite holds true for Markey, D-Mass., who hails from the suburbs of Boston. He regularly wins perfect scores for his voting record from groups on the other end of the political spectrum.
But the two men found themselves sharing a podium Thursday to announce that they have co-sponsored a bill aimed at helping preserve Social Security by putting portions of it in the stock market.
“I know that this is going to beguile Washington political pundits who won’t be able to understand how we could work together,” Markey said of his partnership with Bartlett.
But the two said they expect that both conservatives and liberals will support the idea, as they did.
“One bill solves the problems of the critics of Las Vegas and gambling and too much federal involvement. It goes from the far left to the far right,” Markey said.
Their bill, which is also sponsored by Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., would take portions of the Social Security Trust Fund and put it into the stock market. The bill would put 14.6 percent of the Social Security Trust Fund into the stock market by 2014.
Markey and Pomeroy were working on their own bill when they learned that Bartlett had already advanced a similar proposal. Once they realized they were working in the same direction, Bartlett said, they decided “let’s get together on this.”
“We have a habit of thinking that about the things that divide us instead all of the things that we agree on,” said Bartlett.
Still, he was quick to follow Pomeroy’s comment that the plan was conservative by noting that “if it wasn’t conservative, I wouldn’t be here.”
Bartlett also said he liked the bill because it would mean that “money was being taking out of Washington” and politicians could not spend it on something else.
Both Markey and Bartlett tried to focus on the bigger issue at stake in their bill, not on their differences.
“The only way that anything is going to be accomplished is if Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives put aside the political differences and find some common sense solutions and that’s what we have here,” Markey said after the announcement.
Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institute said it is not unheard of for political opposites to work together. Sometimes it is because they agree, he said, and sometimes it is because they want to draw attention to an issue.
“Odd couples turn up all the time, sometimes deliberately,” Hess said. “There are times you go so far on the left that it actually meets the right.”
Larry J. Sabato agreed. The University of Virginia professor of government said that “even in politics, opposites attract. Congressmen Bartlett and Markey are the yin and yang of the 106th Congress.”