Cade for the Majority

January 09, 1995

Partisanship is taking a back seat to competence in the Maryland Senate. The selection of Sen. John A. Cade to run a key budget subcommittee means the chamber's ranking Republican is now an official member of the Senate leadership in the Democrat-controlled body. It sounds odd. But this step simply recognizes political reality: Mr. Cade already is a de facto member of leadership and a formidable, often non-partisan voice for common sense and conservative budgeting.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller deserves credit for taking a step sure to irritate some Democrats. But the Senate is a stronger institution as a result of this move, and the chamber's budget panel should take on a more bi-partisan tone.

There are compelling reasons for making Republican Cade chairman of the subcommittee on health, education and human resources. Retirements and electoral defeats robbed the budget panel of its most senior Democrats. Mr. Cade has enormous expertise in dissecting budgets. He's heads and shoulders above most senators in his grasp of state government. Besides, he rarely injects Republican politics into his budget decisions.

Even before this appointment, Mr. Cade was generally regarded as the second or third most powerful senator in Annapolis. He is a bulldog on the floor, questioning the rationale for legislation and the illogic of proposals. In committee, he is a penny-pinching skeptic who demands of bureaucrats as much intellectual firepower as he brings to the proceedings. If a state official makes a convincing argument why money is needed for a program, Mr. Cade will back that program to the hilt. Those who make weak arguments can expect a tongue-lashing from the Anne Arundel senator and an uphill battle to keep the money in the budget.

Mr. Cade's bipartisan brand of legislating has benefited the citizens of Maryland. It is a more effective method than the confrontational, no-compromise style that Ellen Sauerbrey practiced in the House and new minority leader Robert Kittleman wants to continue. That is too bad. Mr. Cade's willingness to work with Democrats has paid off in better crafted Senate legislation that contains a strong flavor of Republicanism. Having a Senate leader of such high standing can only elevate the status of the other 14 Republicans in the 47-member chamber -- and reduce the pointless political friction that too often leads to gridlock.

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