Legislators ask others to oppose troop plan

February 14, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Dozens of Maryland legislators called on U.S. senators and representatives yesterday to oppose President Bush's plan to send more soldiers to Iraq, a move they hope will stiffen the spines of lawmakers to take the strongest possible stance against the troop increase.

Four years ago, 11 Maryland lawmakers sent a similar letter opposing the start of the Iraq war. Now, more than 80 -- all Democrats -- were willing to sign on.

"It is high time the legislators on Capitol Hill on both sides of Congress understand the people of America are speaking loud and clear: We want an end to this war," said Del. Joanne C. Benson of Prince George's County. "We want our soldiers back home with their families."

Sen. Paul G. Pinsky of Prince George's and Del. Elizabeth Bobo of Howard County led the effort. They said they wanted to make a statement in advance of debate on the issue in Congress and decided to get support for a letter rather than introducing a formal resolution, which could have taken weeks to work through the legislative process. They said it wasn't hard to persuade people to sign.

"We are willing to put our names on the line," Bobo said.

According to the Progressive States Action Network, which has been organizing support for state and local resolutions against the increase, lawmakers in at least 22 states -- including New York, New Jersey and West Virginia -- are considering similar symbolic statements of opposition to Bush's plan.

Republican Sen. David R. Brinkley, the minority leader from Frederick County, said the Democrats in Maryland are getting beyond themselves.

"You've got state legislators without any idea of military intelligence offering their opposition," Brinkley said. "It's fine to do that when you're safe and secure in Annapolis, but we leave the foreign and military policy up to the federal government, and that's where it ought to stay."

But Democrats who signed the letter said they constantly get questions from constituents about what they are doing to get the country out of the war. Observing the niceties of federalism is less important than speaking out on the issue, they said.

Sen. James Brochin of Baltimore County said he was at an elementary school last week reading to a group of children when a mother asked him what he was doing to get the troops out of Iraq.

"You feel kind of helpless in the state legislature because we can't vote to do anything," Brochin said. "But I told her about this letter, and she said thank you."

andy.green@baltsun.com

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