Battle for the House:
Maryland District 8
With U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella (R)
Friday, Nov. 3, 2000; 1 p.m. EST
Rep. Constance A. Morella has represented Maryland's 8th District for the past 14 years.
During that time, she has worked on issues including health care, education, technology, human rights the environment and balancing the budget.
Morella, a Republican, has lived in Montgomery County for more than 42 years and has raised a family there. On Tuesday, she will battle Terry Lierman, who was Live Online earlier this week, to retain her congressional seat.
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Thanks for joining us, Congresswoman Morella. To begin, can you tell us about why you're running for reelection, and what your priorities will be if you are reelected?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: Thank you for the opportunity. I have had the honor of representing the people of Maryland's 8th District in the House of Representatives since 1987. I am running for re-election because I continue to have an enthusiasm for public service and a belief I make a difference. As a parent, and former educator, I believe that education is the best investment we can make. I have been a strong supporter of Head Start, school modernization program, teacher training in technology, Pell grants, and student loans. I am proud to be endorsed by all the teachers organizations, such as NEA, MSTA, MCEA, American Federation of Teachers, and the Montgomery County Retired Teachers. Health care is also a priority, including funding for NIH, a strong Patients' Bill of Rights, the Maryland Children's Health Insurance Program, as well as prescription drug coverage under Medicare. Other priorities include, transportation, strong gun control, and monitoring implementation of my Violence Against Women Act. Obviously, the federal workforce and technology issues will continue to be major issues for me. Sorry about the long answer! I could go on all afternoon!!
Silver Spring, MD:
I imagine I am in a similar position as many others in Montgomery County in being a big supporter of you, but not of your party. I'll admit, this year, for the first time, I have begun to think twice about voting for you, as the prospect of a Republican president appears likely and the importance of a democratic House becomes a priority.
Given that, my question is whether or not you would ever consider changing your party affiliation to keep yourself as Montgomery County's representative?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: Thanks for your question. I serve in the "People's House" and I believe that I represent the values, the vision, and the hopes of the people I represent. I look at each issue on its merits, listening to my constituents, my country, and my conscience. No good legislation passes that is not bipartisan. In the next Congress, the majority will be purely organizational. The legislative power will rest with those in the center, who are consensus builders. I pride myself on working across the aisle, as when I did when I was in the minority. I will continue to do so.
What, exactly, are your opinions on gun control/gun rights? Do you feel that the existing laws are enough? Would you support a wholesale gun ban? Are you in favor of registering/licensing firearm owners?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: I am a supporter of common-sense gun control legislation. I am a sponsor of the Children's Gun Violence Protection Act; supporter of safety locks for guns; closing the loophole on gun shows to require adequate background checks; and to strongly enforce our current laws. I am proud to have the endorsement of Jim and Sarah Brady and Handgun Control. Sarah Brady strongly endorsed me at a press conference this week in Montgomery County. I support Maryland's model gun control law, and I was present in Annapolis when it was signed into law. In addition, I was proud to help lead the Million Mom March in May.
Let's face Mr. Lierman's basic argument head-on: Why would Montgomerians want to continue the Republic hegemony in Congress?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: Montgomery County is a special place inhabited by special people who make their decisions based on the achievements, experience, and merits, not rhetoric or party label. I have over 6,000 votes in Congress; my opponent has never held elected office. Regardless of party, I represent all the people, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and in many instances, residents who are not yet citizens. With the divisions in the next Congress, it will be imperative for both parties to work together to accomplish anything. I am a unifier, not a divider. I believe I have earned credibility because of hard work, commitment, and respect for my colleagues, the institution, and the American people.
Assuming you will serve another term, what will be your priorities for the 107th?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: I mentioned some of my priorities earlier, but let me briefly point out my continuing work for job training and bridging the digital divide. Just this morning, I was happy to join Comcast and local Montgomery County leaders to celebrate the high-speed modem connection at Summit Hall Elementary School. This is the first such connection in Montgomery County, which will give students internet access that is 100 times faster than conventional technology. This school is a microcosm of the macrocosm, because it is 79% minority. My staff and I partnered with this school this past year by serving as mentors and tutors for the students. This connects with my successful legislation on the advancement of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science, engineering, and technology. The commission established by the law released recommendations which we are implementing through public-private partnerships: government, the private sector, and academia. Montgomery College will play a major role in this. Educating for our high-technology workforce is a major challenge for the 107th Congress.
I believe that your leadership on women's issues have made a difference to women around the world. Thank you for making this one of your biggest priorities. Regardless of Party, I believe this is an important reason to keep you in office.
Rep. Constance A. Morella: Thank you for your kind comments. I am proud of the recent passage of the reauthorization and expansion of the Violence Against Women Act, signed last Saturday by the president. It is the strongest commitment that Congress has ever made to fighting domestic violence and sexual assault. I am also proud that the Office of Research on Women's Health at NIH recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, and I was honored for my role in its creation. Now women are included in clinical trials and protocols where previously they were not. Women are not "little men."
Silver Spring, MD:
Could you explain your record with regard to the impeachment of President Clinton?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: Glad you asked. I believe there was perjurious material, but I did not believe that it imperiled the nation. Therefore, I was only one of four Republicans who voted against all four counts of impeachment in the House of Representatives.
Silver Spring, MD:
Will you be supporting John McCain's bill to take "soft" money out of our electoral process?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: Absolutely. I am a prime sponsor of the House counterpart bill, entitled the Shays-Meehan Campaign Finance bill. On two occasions, I signed a discharge petition to bring the bill to the floor. The legislation was passed by the House of Representatives with a broad bipartisan vote. It is the Senate that has not acted on the issue. In the 107th Congress, I will continue to strongly support such campaign finance reform legislation to ban soft money contributions. We did have a small success recently in requiring that organizations that operate under section 527 of the tax code disclose their contributors. The amount of money put into campaigns is obscene.
Do you support the "lock box" concepts for Medicare and Social Security funds?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: Yes, I have voted for the "lock box" for both Medicare and Social Security. I support putting 90% of our surplus into retirement of our national debt. That goal could be reached by 2013, therefore saving the interest that we pay on that debt. We need to prepare now for our children's future.
Do you see much interest in politics from today's young people? Do the kids today get involved in your campaign or in groups like the Young Republicans?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: I see an interest in community service in our young people, especially in our community service school program. Young people should be encouraged to participate, especially through being given opportunities and role models. I have young people who serve as interns in my offices, help in campaigns, and gain experience. This gives them an opportunity to learn about their community, and those who need help. Character does count. Respect for each other, trust in leaders who are role models, families. We all have a responsibility. I am a sponsor of legislation which encourages parents to "take their kids to vote" on November 7th, so they learn early the importance of this privilege and responsibility.
What is your stance on abortion?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: I have consistently supported the right of women to choose. I am endorsed by the Women's Campaign Fund, the National Women's Political Caucus, and NOW, among others. I work for funding for our WIC (Women, Infants, Children) program for pre-natal assistance, and to promote adoption assistance.
What is your view on the traffic problems that plague upper Montgomery County? Do you welcome the changes that another bridge to Virginia or the intercounty connector would solve?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: Our region is # 2 in the nation in traffic congestion, # 1 in terms of time and cost. I am pleased that our regional delegation worked and successfully secured $1.5 billion for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which is currently in a state of disrepair. Originally planned to accommodate 75,000 cars a day, it now carries about 200,000, including 20,000 trucks. Fortunately, construction is now beginning. A balanced approach to transportation is needed. We need route friendly buses, continued funding for MARC commuter routes, and other mass-transit alternatives. Businesses need to offer telecommuting options and transit passes for their employees (as we now do for federal employees). Integrating greenways and bikepaths is also important. A hold has been placed on the ICC by the Montgomery County Council and the Maryland State Assembly until 2003, when a decision will be made. I do not support a new bridge that would cross Montgomery County's environmentally sensitive agriculture preserve area. I am working with the Maryland Congressional delegation to ensure that the study of an additional bridge crossing would consider environmental impacts, in order to give our community a complete understanding of the situation.
What is your reaction to the revelation that your opponent, a lobbyist, granted a personal loan to a Congressman?
Rep. Constance A. Morella: The facts speak for themselves.
Chevy Chase, MD:
If re-elected, do you have any plans to change the voting status for the District of Columbia in Congress? As far as I can tell, since this year's court decisions, it is back in the lap of Congress and your subcommittee to have the final say on DC representation....
Rep. Constance A. Morella: I have consistently supported voting rights for the District of Columbia. I testified before the House Rules Committee in support of Delegate Norton's measure for voting rights. I am Vice Chair of the District of Columbia Committee and am committed to continued revitalization of our Nation's Capital.
There were too many to get to today, but thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. What thoughts would you like to share, as the election heads into its final days?
Rep. Constance A. Morella:
Thank you for the opportunity to share some issues with you. Throughout my public life, I have been guided by the trust you have placed in me and I thank you. I ask for your continued trust and your vote on November 7th.
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