WASHINGTON – Maryland’s congressional delegation closed ranks behind U.S. troops this week, voting for resolutions that support their mission in Iraq and praise President Bush’s leadership, for which the House expressed “unequivocal support and appreciation.”
The votes were a reversal for a number of Maryland lawmakers, including the state’s two senators, who had voted in October to oppose military action against Iraq.
Both Maryland senators supported the Senate resolution, which passed on a 99-0 vote Thursday. All but one of the state’s House members backed the resolution that passed early Friday morning on a 392-11 vote, with 22 members voting “present.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, was one of those “present” votes, and the only Maryland lawmaker not to vote for the resolution.
Cummings, who was one of three Maryland House members to vote against the war in October, could not be reached for comment Friday, but he said in a prepared statement that he would “continue to do everything within my power to support our troops.”
“I also have questioned both the wisdom and morality of this war. History and the conscience of humanity will be the judge,” his statement said.
The other House members to vote against military action in October were Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, and former Rep. Connie Morella, R-Bethesda, who lost her bid for re-election in November.
Cardin’s vote for the resolution Friday cannot be compared to his vote in October, his spokeswoman said.
“It’s not a switch in stances. The two resolutions were very different,” said Susan Sullam, the Cardin spokeswoman. “The first one basically authorized unilateral, pre-emptive action against Iraq. The second one is after hostilities had begun and in support of the troops.”
Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes also reversed their October positions. The Baltimore Democrats both voted for the resolution Thursday that praised U.S. troops for “their professional excellence, dedicated patriotism and exemplary bravery” and commended the president’s “efforts and leadership” on the issue.
Mikulski defended the October vote on Friday, saying she was voting then against military action because she wanted international support for the war. Things are different now, she said through a spokeswoman.
“Saddam is a danger to the world and, therefore, the world should share the burden of defanging him,” Mikulski said in a prepared statement. “(But) the president has made his choice. We’re going to support the decision of the United States of America.”
“For or against the war is not an issue anymore. We’ve moved past that. We’re at war now,” she said.
The House and Senate resolutions are symbolic and will have no actual effects on the war, but representatives fought from Thursday evening until early Friday morning over the wording.