Maryland Republican Senate candidate Lawrence J. Hogan, in his sharpest attack on Democratic incumbent Paul S. Sarbanes, called Sarbanes yesterday a "do-nothing senator" with a "pitiful record" who has failed to get even one bill enacted into law.
Responding to Hogan's charge, made at a press conference in Silver Spring, Sarbanes said he has never regarded "this game of popping in a lot of legislation and issuing press releases as the real substance of legislating." But he has had several bills passed, the freshman senator added. Furthermore, Sarbanes said, a senator can exert more influence on U.S. policy by working in committee to shape major legislation introduced by the administration.
Hogan, the Prince George's County executive, asserted that the senator is trying to "obscure his pitiful Senate record by harping on the National Conservative Political Action Committee" (NCPAC) and its $600,000 anti-Sarbanes media campaign.
Hogan, whose conservative record was praised in NCPAC television ads, maintained that the lobbying group is actually helping Sarbanes by giving him "the opportunity of painting himself as Little Red Riding Hood so he can go begging for help to save him from the Big Bad Wolf."
NCPAC has become a focal point of the Maryland campaign, a classic battle between a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat. Hogan, fearing that he will suffer from a backlash of anti-NCPAC feelings in heavily Democratic and often liberal Maryland, attempted yesterday to move the spotlight onto another issue -- the incumbent's six-year record in the U.S. Senate.
A study of that record by The Washington Post found that Sarbanes has introduced 22 bills since entering the Senate in January 1977 -- a statistic that places him below many of his colleagues.
In contrast, Maryland's senior senator, Republican Charles McC. Mathias, introduced 510 bills in the same period, 99 of which were enacted into law, according to a spokesman. Mathias' power to push bills was enhanced with the Republican takeover in 1980, when he became a committee chairman, but before that Mathias was a member of the minority party in the Senate.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), elected in the same year as Sarbanes, has sponsored 48 bills, nine of which were enacted, according to a spokesman. The number of Sarbanes' bills passed is a matter of dispute. Hogan asserts that "not a single piece of legislation Sarbanes has authored has been enacted into public law."
The Post found only one Sarbanes proposal that became law: a private bill allowing an elderly woman immigrant to remain in the United States. But by counting House bills identical to Sarbanes' proposals that Sarbanes guided through the Senate, and Sarbanes' bills that became law as amendments to other legislation, his staff came up with eight bills credited to Sarbanes.
Hogan scoffs at the figure, insisting it is "an unfair assessment.
"If he were aggressive in promoting his own legislation, the House would have passed his Senate bill," Hogan said. "Instead, it all has come the other way. Why wasn't the Senate bill passed?"
Told of Hogan's comments, Sarbanes asked, "Are we supposed to play this game where the House member says, 'You're going to pass my bill,' and the senator says, 'You're going to pass my bill,' and so the bill doesn't get passed and the public interest doesn't get served?
"I was out to get things done and I did," Sarbanes said. "Frankly I can't even tell you whether the Senate or House bill was the one that got enacted."
But Hogan charged that it is the substance of Sarbanes' proposals "that makes this appalling." Despite the weighty problems of the country, Hogan said Sarbanes' offerings dealt with such items as repairing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, seeking a proper burial place for a Maryland Indian chief and commemorating the late Rep. Goodloe Byron of Maryland.
"These really are watershed initiatives, aren't they," Hogan said sarcastically.
Sarbanes defended his record, adding that while he may not appear as chief sponsor, he has worked with other senators on bills of "enormous importance" to Maryland, such as federal funding for the Metro subway system.
In the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, on which he serves, he said he has helped shape legislation important to Baltimore on such issues as federal funding for urban development.
Hogan also charged that Sarbanes failed to offer any amendments on the Senate floor, where much of the substantive legislating occurs. The Post study found that Sarbanes has sponsored six floor amendments since 1979, the earliest available records.
But Sarbanes did not dispute Hogan's allegation. Instead, he said he has written floor amendments but for strategic reasons asked other senators to introduce them. He said one of them amended the Clean Water Act of 1977 and saved Maryland $45 million it otherwise would have lost under the act's new funding formula. Sarbanes said then-senator Wendell Anderson (D-Minn.), the bill's floor manager, introduced the amendment, and Sarbanes watched as it passed without debate.
"There's an example of getting something done to solve a state problem without jeopardizing it by pulling some publicity stunt," Sarbanes said.