3 Md. congressmen pulling up to more seats of power Ehrlich, Cardin on budget, Wynn on commerce panel

November 23, 1996|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- As Congress reshuffles in the wake of this month's election, three Maryland members of the Republican-controlled House are taking on additional duties.

Baltimore County Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, and Baltimore Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat, will both take seats on the Budget Committee, which fashions a blueprint for federal spending.

Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a Prince George's County Democrat, is trading up from the Banking and Financial Services Committee to the Commerce Committee, which regulates most of the nation's business, ranging from securities to biomedical research.

"It has literally awesome power," Wynn said of the panel, which also oversees the telecommunications industry and consumer affairs. "It's one of the places where the action is."

Sitting on the committee, Wynn said, will give him a better sense of the needs and concerns of the bio-tech industry, already active in his district, and help him in his efforts to lure more such firms to Maryland.

On the Budget Committee, Cardin as a Democrat may not have much direct power.

However, the panel should give him a forum to press for significant spending cuts in the next two years to pave the way for a balanced federal budget by the year 2002.

"It gives me an opportunity to work on the budget issue and make sure we have a responsible way to balance the budget in the next five years," said Cardin. "It could become the most important committee in Congress."

Cardin will retain his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Ehrlich, who lobbied hard but futilely for the Commerce Committee, said he was pleased with his appointment to the budget panel.

Although the committee sets broad, nonbinding policy for federal spending, Ehrlich said that members can use leverage to protect Maryland's interests.

If there is an effort like the one last year to move the Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt to California, said Ehrlich, "having two members on the Budget Committee can nip that in the bud pretty quickly."

Ehrlich had said last summer that he wanted a spot on the Commerce Committee to help Maryland businesses and to help him raise money for a possible run for statewide office.

Because the committee regulates so many industries, members often receive hefty contributions from corporate political action committees.

Ehrlich said yesterday that his new assignment would still help him raise money because the panel has an impact on every aspect of the federal budget.

"It's certainly not a bad fund-raising committee," he said.

Pub Date: 11/23/96

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