On one thing, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO definitely agree: Maryland's Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski, between them, are the most pro-labor and anti-business twosome in the U.S. Senate.
The two Democrats scored a cumulative approval rating from the AFL-CIO of 95 (Mikulski) and 96 (Sarbanes), thus beating their nearest rivals in Massachusetts and Michigan by 3 points and 4 points, respectively. By the same token, they landed at the bottom of the heap with the Chamber of Commerce, scoring 25 (Mikulski) and 19 (Sarbanes) on their lifetime batting average. In toting up their votes in the 1990 session, Senator Mikulski (with 10) and Senator Sarbanes (with 8) had to share honors with Massachusetts' two senators only because Edward Kennedy got an unbeatable and unmatched zero to offset John Kerry's 18.
In the House, the eight-member Maryland delegation didn't get top rating from the AFL-CIO or bottom rating from the Chamber of Commerce, but it was close to it. The business organization gave a lifetime average of 40.4 and a 1990 average of 35.62, thus indicating a further swing to labor. Only Massachusetts and West Virginia were rated lower. In the AFL-CIO tabulation, the Maryland delegation of six Democrats and two Republicans got a 77.12 approval rating, again being beaten by Massachusetts and West Virginia. Rep. Kweisi Mfume got a lock-step 98 rating from the AFL-CIO, a record beaten by only a few of his colleagues. Not far behind were Reps. Steny Hoyer (95), Tom McMillen (94) and Benjamin Cardin (94), like Mr. Mfume, all Democrats. The most pro-business rating went to Rep. Helen Bentley, a Republican, with a 74 rating from the Chamber of Commerce.
We would be happier to find Maryland's senators and representatives in the middle of the pack rather than near or at the top of bottom in these ratings. While only rough measures of a legislator's contributions to country, state and district, they are bound to be a liability in the tough economic competition that exists today. Companies contemplating a move to Maryland or an expansion that would create more jobs and add to the state's prosperity may think again when they find the state's lawmakers so loathed by business and loved by labor. A little or a lot more balance would help.