WASHINGTON – Maryland’s congressional delegation got an overall grade of B for its record on 10 key child welfare votes, ranging from Medicaid expansion to elimination of the estate tax, according to a report by the Children’s Defense Fund.
The nonprofit advocacy group ranked Maryland 12th nationally for its voting record, based on 10 votes in the House and 10 in the Senate in 2000, but the results were mixed within the delegation.
Both of the state’s Democratic senators, Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski, voted in support of the group’s top priorities 100 percent of the time, while two Republican House members from the state got F’s for voting with the group only 40 percent of the time.
But spokesmen for Reps. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, and Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, said their scores are misleading.
“They’re trying to paint all the conservative Republicans in a corner as trying to be terrible to children,” said Sallie Taylor, deputy press secretary for Bartlett.
“It’s tired politics,” she said. “These groups are not getting their way . . . and they’re getting mad.”
Both Bartlett and Ehrlich voted for four of the Children’s Defense Fund’s priorities last year: programs for child abuse, programs for domestic violence, reauthorization of children’s health research and prevention programs and a bill to increase child support payments to welfare families.
But both lawmakers ran afoul of the group six times, including votes to repeal the estate tax, to block a more rapid minimum wage hike and to stop a program that would have encouraged local governments to do business with gun manufacturers that abide by a code of conduct.
Taylor said that Bartlett’s votes on those issues have nothing to do with a lack of commitment to children. He voted against the minimum wage measure, for example, because he believed the negative consequences would far outweigh any benefits and could even harm children, she said.
“Historically, when the minimum wage has gone up, people have lost jobs,” she said. “All that does is decrease the number of jobs that are out there.”
This could “lock kids out of entry-level positions,” she said. “That would prevent them from getting their first job and getting a leg up in the working world.”
Ehrlich’s spokesman, Henry Fawell, agreed that while the advocacy group’s motives were good, the scores were suspect.
“It’s very narrow in scope,” he said. “It fails to address the fact that he (Ehrlich) did vote for $817 million worth of child care services last year.”
An aide to Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, said the report was generally fair. But Gilchrest’s chief of staff, Tony Caligiuri, agreed that the link between child welfare and some of the votes included in the scorecard was tenuous at best.
The group counted a vote to repeal the estate tax as a vote against children, for instance. Caligiuri said that vote could be construed as a vote against just about any other program seeking increased funding, not just those for children.
“It’s completely unrelated to the children’s welfare issues,” he said.
By voting to repeal the estate tax, Gilchrest was merely trying to protect his constituents, many of whom inherit farmland that has to be sold because the tax is unmanageable, Caligiuri said.
Gilchrest got a score of 70 percent and the state’s other House Republican, Rep. Connie Morella of Bethesda, got a score of 80. Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, and Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, got scores of 90 while Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, got an 80.
Rep. Al Wynn, D-Largo, got the worst score among the state’s Democrats, a 60, largely because he missed three of the votes. Wynn was leaving the country Tuesday and his office would not comment on the missed votes.
While the House delegation split along largely partisan lines on most issues in the report, one vote united them: They all voted against an amendment that would have shifted $344 million from the International Space Station to more low-income housing vouchers.
Several aides said this was likely because the space program provides so many jobs to Maryland workers.