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Maryland May Profit from Congressional Dems' Success

By Alia Malik
Capital News Service
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006

WASHINGTON - Maryland's congressional delegation is likely to gain more power from the Democratic takeover of Congress, giving the state a corresponding increase in clout, analysts and delegation members said.

Of the 10 representatives and senators in the state, eight are Democrats, a group that includes Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, who is running for House Majority Leader.

Add Baltimore native and House speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to the list and Maryland should get its share of attention from those in power come January, political analysts said.

"I don't know that the difference is going to be a day-and-night difference," said Laslo Boyd of Gonzales Boyd Political Consulting. "I think it's going to be continuing to build on the strength that the state already has."

Because Maryland has so many federal workers, the state has always had a good relationship with the federal government, said Paul Herrnson, director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland.

"Regardless of the delegation, we've always had a strong presence," Herrnson said. "With the Democrats in control, they will probably increase some programs and services and improve the state's situation, especially with Hoyer and Mikulski."

Hoyer, of Mechanicsville, is running against Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., for majority leader, but no matter how high he rises, he won't lose sight of Maryland, said Tim Schlittner, Hoyer's Maryland press secretary .

"As majority leader, Mr. Hoyer will continue to use his standing in Congress to support federal employees, protect the Chesapeake Bay, and bring economic development to Maryland," Schlittner said in a written statement.

With the retirement of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Mikulski, the most senior woman in the Senate, is now leader of the Maryland congressional delegation. She is also likely to become chairwoman of the two subcommittees on which she is ranking member: the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's Subcommittee on Retirement Security and Aging.

"We're going to focus our individual power to fight for Maryland," Mikulski said, promising to help coordinate the Base Realignment and Closure plan, which will bring an influx of new people and jobs to the state as military bases are reorganized.

She also listed increased homeland security funding for the Washington metropolitan area among her priorities.

Hoyer and Mikulski aren't the only Democrats on the post-electoral rise. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, played a central role in national party recruitment and campaigning and is expected to move up the ranks.

Van Hollen, who served as a deputy to outgoing Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., has been mentioned as Emanuel's possible successor, The Hill reported Tuesday. But in an interview with Capital News Service, he said he had not made up his mind.

"Right now, I'm looking at all the options," he said.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Baltimore, is interested in joining the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax and entitlement program legislation, a spokeswoman said. If he doesn't join that exclusive committee, he is in line to head the Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources Subcommittee of the Government Reform Committee.

Rep. C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, has his eye on the prestigious Appropriations Committee, which writes spending bills, said spokeswoman Heather Molino. He would also like to keep his seats on the Government Reform and Intelligence committees.

Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Largo, will play more of a leadership role on the Energy and Commerce Committee, affecting issues like energy security, global warming, cable competition and affordable health care and prescription drugs, said spokesman Alon Kupferman.

The increases for the Democrats come at a cost to Maryland's two Republicans.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Frederick will lose chairmanship of the Armed Services Committee's Projection Forces Subcommittee and will give up his post as vice chairman of the Small Business Committee.

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest of Kennedyville will no longer be chairman of the Resource Committee's Fisheries and Oceans Subcommittee. Yet Bartlett and Gilchrest, who are entering their eighth and ninth terms respectively, will still have the power of seniority.

Although Pelosi recently endorsed Murtha over Hoyer for majority leader, the former Baltimore mayor's daughter will pay attention to Maryland issues as speaker of the House, spokesman Drew Hammill said.

"I think she's always been sensitive to them," he said. "I mean, it's her home state. She's always had a very special relationship with the city of Baltimore and with the whole state."

Besides helping Maryland manage Base Realignment and Closure, the increased power of the state's Democrats could mean increased funding and support for state-oriented issues like increasing port security and building on investments in biotechnology, including stem-cell research, Boyd said.

Van Hollen repeated Hoyer's plan to support federal workers and added transportation and environmental issues to the list.

Although Van Hollen worked closely with Pelosi to recruit many of this cycle's candidates, he endorsed Hoyer for majority leader, citing the whip's strength as a consensus-builder.

That won't hurt his relationship with the speaker, he said.

"I'm a big fan of Nancy Pelosi's, and I'm going to continue to work with her," he said.

Van Hollen cautiously predicted Hoyer would win the nomination.

"It's not over 'til it's over," he said. "Only Thursday will tell."


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Banner graphic by Maryland Newsline's April Chan, incorporating original photos and images provided by Annapolis.gov and Ace-Clipart.com.

Copyright 2006 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.