Marylanders worry about government shutdown Mikulski's constituents ask about getting benefits

September 11, 1998|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Some Marylanders are so worried all this talk of President Clinton's possible impeachment might bog down the government that they fear they may not receive their Social Security checks and other federal benefits, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said yesterday.

"There are people who were wondering what happens" next, the Maryland Democrat said. "Well, nothing stops."

Mona Miller, a Mikulski spokeswoman, said calls to her office were running at a 2-to-1 clip in favor of the president, but a modest number expressed anxiety about federal programs as the fate of the Clinton administration is thrown to the House.

Asked at a packed news conference yesterday afternoon about the concern of Mikulski's constituents over whether benefits would continue to flow from Washington, White House spokesman Michael McCurry said, "I can say that, irrespective of anything else, Social Security checks are going to continue to go out."

To laughter from reporters, McCurry added, "I think it's kind of a goofy question."

Not to Mikulski. "While there's a constitutional process, we need to show that we're really governing the country," Mikulski said.

The Marylander was one of nine Democratic lawmakers who went to the White House yesterday morning to receive the latest in a round of apologies from Clinton. The president now acknowledges he has jeopardized his administration and the Democratic agenda by having an affair with Monica Lewinsky and subsequently misleading the public about it.

"The president expressed his great remorse, and asked our advice on how he should be proceeding," said Mikulski, who has long been outspoken on issues of sexual misconduct and gender relations. "I accept his apology.

"At the same time," Mikulski continued, "I urged him to speak to the American people with candor and encouraged him to co-operate with the House proceedings and not have the lawyers stonewall or use legalese."

Wednesday, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr delivered his report on the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. Marylanders, Mikulski said, are "scared that, over the next several days, they're going to learn salacious and sordid descriptions from the report and they don't want to hear it. It's not just a personal trauma for [Clinton]. It's a personal trauma that everybody's going through."

Along with other Democratic officials, several Maryland lawmakers echoed the concerns of Clinton's lawyer, David Kendall, who argued it was unfair of Starr and the House Republican leadership not to give the administration an advance look at the report.

Maryland Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat, first entered national prominence as a junior member of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate impeachment hearings 25 years ago. He recalled that New Jersey Rep. Peter Rodino, then the panel's Democratic chairman, allowed President Nixon's lawyers to review all documents held by the committee, and that those documents were not made public.

"We didn't release things the way they're releasing things," Sarbanes said yesterday. "The leak environment in which we live has led to people urging that [the documents be released]. I thought that the way we did it in '73 or '74 made sense, but we're in a different environment now."

"I assume, obviously, [Clinton's] side of the story must be part of any rational consideration," Sarbanes said.

While the state's four Republican lawmakers are keeping low profiles, Democratic Reps. Steny H. Hoyer of Southern Maryland, Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore and Albert R. Wynn of Prince George's County all said they feared the Republicans' refusal to give Clinton's lawyers an advance look at the report telegraphed a highly political approach to what should be a nonpartisan process.

"This is definitely partisan," Wynn said. "They don't want to look partisan, but they are."

Yet, like most House Democrats yesterday, all four Maryland representatives indicated they would not vote against speedy release of the Starr report. "We're prepared to do anything we need to do to carry out our constitutional responsibilities," said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Baltimore-area Democrat. In the meantime, Cardin said, he also wanted to continue pushing policy issues.

Yesterday, he joined first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who promoted his bill to require that Medicare cover tests for colon cancer.

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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