Increasingly powerful GOP congressman from Maryland still cutting his own path

The Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives puts Maryland Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in a senior position on two committees, and in the middle of heated debates over the future of the U.S. military and the need to address climate change.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 21, 2011; 10:22 PM

Since Republicans captured control of the House in November, most GOP lawmakers have been plotting how to use their newfound power.

As usual, Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.) doesn't see things quite the same way as most of his colleagues.

"The three committees I serve on are the three least political committees in the Congress," Bartlett said in an interview in his Capitol Hill office. "So I have a little different perspective than the average member."

Indeed, Bartlett's assignments - on the Armed Services, Science and Small Business committees - are relatively less partisan than some others in the House. But the Republican takeover yielded dividends for the 18-year congressional veteran, whose seniority puts him in key positions on all three panels.

Bartlett's posts put him at the fulcrum of two key debates in the 112th Congress - on climate change and on the future size and shape of the U.S. military.

Unlike many fellow Republicans, Bartlett sees an urgent need to respond to climate change by using less oil and more renewable energy.

And unlike most lawmakers on the Armed Services panel, Bartlett has very little military presence in his district, which stretches across the northern part of Maryland from the Susquehanna River to the West Virginia border. So he is relatively unconcerned with keeping bases open and contracting dollars flowing back home.

"Some people look at things straight on," said Armed Services Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.). "He kind of comes at things from different angles."

The Seventh-day Adventist and father of 10 is a trained scientist, a former teacher and business owner and a current goat farmer.

Bartlett, 84, has a PhD in human physiology and holds several patents on respiratory equipment used by pilots and firefighters, among others. He worked for two decades as a scientist for the military and NASA and also owned a home-building company.

He got into politics relatively late in life. He was elected to the House in 1992 at age 66, having lost one previous race for the same seat a decade earlier.

Bartlett has since been reelected with ease, representing a district that comprises some of the most conservative territory in Democratic-leaning Maryland.

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