UPDATE: Bartlett’s campaign issued a statement Thursday afternoon apologizing for the comments: “While explaining my position on an important Constitutional issue I regrettably used an extreme example as a comparison that was ill-advised and inappropriate. I should never use something as horrific as the Holocaust to make a political point, and I deeply apologize to anyone I may have offended.”
ORIGINAL POST: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) suggested Wednesday federally-issued student loans were unconstitutional. He also said that disregarding the Constitution could lead down a “slippery slope” and cited the Holocaust as an example of what could happen when a country heads down a wrong path.
Bartlett faces a tough reelection battle against financier John Delaney (D) after Democrats redrew his district to be more competitive by including a slice of Democratic-leaning Montgomery County. Bartlett has held a handful of town hall meetings in the last week, including one Wednesday night at Allegany College in Cumberland.
“I want to know how you feel about the government issuing student loans. Is that something that you’re for?” asked an audience member who identified herself as an instructor at the college.
“I’m for student loans. I want kids to have an education,” Bartlett responded. But he explained that he had read through the Constitution carefully and could find no evidence “that the federal government should be involved in education.” Then Bartlett expanded on that point (at the 3:35 mark in the clip above, which was passed along by a Democrat).
“Not that it’s not a good idea to give students loans; it certainly is a good idea to give them loans,” Bartlett said. “But if you can ignore the Constitution to do something good today, tomorrow you will be ignoring the Constitution to do something bad. You could. There are more people in our, in America today of German ancestry than any other [inaudible]. The Holocaust that occurred in Germany — how in the heck could that happen? And when you start down the wrong road, it can be a very slippery slope.”
Asked about the statement Thursday, Bartlett campaign spokesman Ted Dacey suggested the lawmaker’s position on education fits in clearly with his broader philosophy.
“Congressman Bartlett has always been a strong believer in limited government,” Dacey said. “He is also a strong supporter of making college accessible to all Americans, and, unlike most politicians, he has put his money where his mouth is by donating a substantial portion of his salary to help underprivileged students attend college.”