The people at Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett's town meeting in Westminster last night were cantankerous and angry about wasteful government spending.
If Mr. Bartlett had been there, he probably would have agreed with them.
The Republican freshman congressman from Maryland's 6th District was in Washington casting votes on deficit reduction FTC plans. He spoke briefly by phone to the 31 people at the County Office Building.
"Hi, this is Roscoe Bartlett. I'm very sorry I can't be with you this evening," he said as aide Nancy Stocksdale held a phone over her head so his voice could be heard.
Jim Lafferty, the congressman's aide for policy and communications, fielded questions from frustrated residents who said they are convinced that Congress doesn't listen to their complaints.
"You're not only preaching to the choir, you're preaching to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," Mr. Lafferty said.
Mr. Bartlett voted last night for a Republican plan that would have cut federal spending by about $400 billion and enact no new taxes. The House defeated the plan, 295-135.
Mr. Lafferty said Mr. Bartlett voted against President Clinton's deficit-reduction plan because it included tax increases and "vague" spending cuts.
The congressman refuses to consider any tax increases until specific spending cuts are made, the aide said.
At the town meeting in Westminster, Ann Hintenach of Finksburg likened members of Congress to bad children who continue to eat candy when they shouldn't because they're never punished. Congress has not been punished for overspending, she said.
"They have to be held accountable," she said.
Mr. Lafferty said Mr. Bartlett has introduced four bills in an attempt to cut the federal deficit.
"We're putting as many restrictions on spending on stupid stuff as we can," Mr. Lafferty said.
"You're going to see some cuts. There won't be enough, and they won't satisfy us.
"I'm not going to kid you that it's going to happen this session. I'm not going to kid you that it's going to be easy," Mr. Lafferty said. "We're the minority down there. It's a tough time. You need to make your voices heard.
"I cannot overstate the importance of letters to the editors, calling in on talk shows."
"Did they ever understand they work for us?" asked Jim Raine of Eldersburg. "How many congressmen listen to what we say when we make our voices heard?"
Last night's meeting was the fourth town meeting sponsored recently by Mr. Bartlett, and it drew the largest crowd, Mr. Lafferty said. The other meetings were in Columbia, Hagerstown and Cumberland.
The congressman is planning more town meetings to talk about health care, education and welfare reform, Mr. Lafferty said.