D.C. Del. Walter Fauntroy declared yesterday that he had no intention of acceeding to the demands of Jewish legislators here that he criticize the Palestine Liberation Organization in exchange for their votes for the D.C. voting rights amendment.
Two Baltimore delegates whose votes, could be crucial to the amendment's ratification in Maryland this year insisted that they will not vote for the measure -- as they did last year -- unless Fauntroy makes a public statement on the PLO's role in supporting the Iranian militants holding American hostages.
Fauntroy said at a press conference in Washington that he had met with four Jewish delegates in Annapolis on Tuesday and that he had agreed to draft a statement in response to their demands that he clarify his position on the PLO. The congressional delegate insisted that he had told the delegates only that he would reaffirm his previous denunciations of "violent acts of both the PLO and the Israeli government."
Fauntroy then blasted the legislators for asking for the statement in the first place, saying is was "the height of political arrogance" and an "unconscionable position."
In response, the Jewish legislators who had attended Tuesday's meeting said in Annapolis yesterday that while the content of Fauntroy's statement had not specifically been hammered out, the D.C. delegate had not taken the position that he would not move beyond his previous statements.Rather, they said, he had been vague and had left the content of his statement in doubt.
"We thought he had agreed to do something to satisfy us, and [that] was the beginning of good-faith negotiations," said Stephen Sklar (D-Baltimore City), the unofficial leader of the group. Sklar said that the Jewish delegates had made it clear that the only statement that would satisfy them was one that would address the PLO's support for the militants in Iran.
Sklar and Shapiro again yesterday reiterated that position, but the two other Jewish delegates who met with Fauntroy, Ida Ruben (D-Montgomery) and Paula Hollinger (D-Baltimore City), said they had separated the voting rights amendment from the issue of Fauntroy's meetings with the PLO last fall and would vote for the amendment on its own merits.
Both delegates added that they had still not decided how they will vote on the amendment when it reaches the House floor. Last year, voting rights passed the Senate, but failed on the House three times by one vote.