WASHINGTON -- Maryland Rep. Tom McMillen yesterday became the first Democratic incumbent to pledge to leave office if this year's projected federal deficit of $333.5 billion is not halved by 1996.
The three-term congressman signed the pledge issued by the "Lead -- or Leave" campaign, launched this week to pressure all candidates for and incumbents of federal office to promise to halve the deficit in four years or quit.
By last night, only one other congressman, Republican Ron Marlenee of Montana, had signed the pledge, according to campaign officials.
Mr. McMillen faces a difficult re-election battle this fall against a fellow incumbent, freshman Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, the newly redrawn 1st Congressional District.
"This deficit will be a terrible burden on our children and grandchildren. For the sake of America, and Maryland's future, we need to take this step," Mr. McMillen said in a prepared statement. "This is an important step to getting lawmakers and candidates to completely devote themselves and their political futures to cutting the deficit."
Outside Congress, the pledge has also been taken by former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, who is running to replace retiring Democrat Tim Wirth in the Senate, and by Democrat Chuck Kovaleski, who is challenging Republican Rep. Bill McCollum of Florida.
The "Lead -- or Leave" campaign is part of a political move to make the deficit a top political priority. Former Democratic presidential candidate Paul E. Tsongas and Republican Sen. Warren B. Rudman of New Hampshire publicly endorsed the campaign this week.
President Bush and Democratic nominee Bill Clinton have produced plans that rely mainly on increasing federal revenues by stimulating economic growth to reduce the deficit.