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Letters to the Editor 3/11

March 12, 2001|By Don DeArmon

Letters to the Editor 3/11



Bartlett fails to change the process or provide for his district



I want to reply to an issue raised several times by The Herald-Mail during the recent congressional election. The Herald-Mail suggested on several occasions, including in its congressional endorsement, that Rep. Roscoe Bartlett should use his seniority to change the procedures for the consideration of appropriations bills, especially since he criticizes the manner in which they are presented.

During the congressional campaign, I criticized Bartlett for consistently voting against bills that funded projects or programs of benefit to the 6th District and to the nation. He has now done so again, having voted against the final Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2001, which provides funds for many important federal agencies this year. Once again, he was the only member of the Maryland congressional delegation to vote this way.

For example, Bartlett has voted against any federal funding for schools for three years, has voted against any funding for biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health for three years, and has once again voted against any federal law enforcement funding.

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He has voted against emergency assistance for Maryland farmers. He has voted twice against restoring budget cuts that have plagued Medicare health care providers, including rural hospitals, hospices, teaching hospitals and home health care agencies. He has voted against funding for I-81 and I-70 improvements, has voted against funds for the C&O Canal and the Appalachian Trail, and he has voted against MARC commuter funding.

Bartlett defends these votes by saying he was only voting against large, omnibus appropriations bills combining many individual bills because they contained what he considered excessive "pork-barrel" projects.

(During the campaign, I also pointed out that Bartlett had voted against the individual bills at other times during his tenure.) The Herald-Mail essentially said, more than once: if he doesn't like it, Bartlett should use his seniority to change it. Sage advice.

I want to point out to Herald-Mail readers that there are two procedures to make changes to these bills. However, Roscoe Bartlett has rarely taken advantage of one procedure. And his party leadership abandoned the other procedure since the first year they were in control of the House.

First, Bartlett can offer amendments to bills. When the House considers an appropriations bill, it is generally considered under an "open rule" that permits any member to offer an amendment at any time. The clerk reads the bill out loud. When the clerk gets to something Bartlett doesn't like, Bartlett can offer an amendment to change it, eliminate it, reduce it, or increase it.

Roscoe Bartlett has served in four complete congresses. During the most recent, the 106th Congress (1999-2000), he offered no amendment to any appropriations bill. During the 104th Congress (1995-1996), he offered no amendment to any appropriations bill.

During the 105th Congress (1997-1998), he offered amendments two different years to the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill. The first amendment would have eliminated any funding for the U.S. to pay arrearages to the United Nations. The House defeated it. The second amendment would have reduced funding for U.S. arrearages to the United Nations by $100 million. The House defeated it.

During the 103rd Congress, the first in which Bartlett served, he offered one amendment to the Treasury-Postal Service Appropriations Bill, to reduce funding by $13,129 (the cost of an illegal helicopter trip that had been taken by a White House staffer to the Holly Hills Country Club). Bartlett described his amendment as "symbolic" (because the staffer had already been fired and had already agreed to pay back the cost of the helicopter flight). The House defeated it.

Clearly, Bartlett talks a good game about opposing projects in these bills, but his legislative record does not support any significant actions on his part to reduce or eliminate the projects he says he objects to.

Once, there was a second procedure to change these bills.

Prior to Republicans taking control of Congress in 1995, the House had a procedure in place to permit any member of Congress to call for a vote for even minor changes to a "conference report," the final version of an appropriations bill produced by a House-Senate conference committee.

I was a staffer working for a member of the Appropriations Committee between 1991 and 1995 and staffed a number of conference committees. Because of this procedure, every one was aware that a parochial project added for one's district could be challenged, and you had better be ready to defend it. I saw projects successfully defended. I also saw projects rejected by the House. It was a very significant legislative check.

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