WASHINGTON -- The four Republican members of Maryland's House delegation told Speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday that his idea to make the District of Columbia a new Maryland congressional district would have "dire impact" on the state.
The plan -- which Gingrich staffers say they are researching -- would allow Washington residents to vote in Maryland's senatorial elections and elect their own House member. The district's 600,000 residents have no Senate representation and have a House delegate with limited voting power.
"Merging these two disparate communities together would fundamentally alter Maryland's political landscape in a way that is wholly inconsistent with our state's political traditions," the four said in a letter to Mr. Gingrich yesterday.
The letter further warns that Mr. Gingrich's idea would set "a dangerous precedent. . . ."
If district residents are to be given full representation in Congress, the GOP members said, "it should be done in a way that preserves the interests and political integrity of the state of Maryland."
The letter was signed by Reps. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Western Maryland, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Baltimore County, Wayne T. Gilchrest of the Eastern Shore and Constance A. Morella of Montgomery County.
Mr. Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, was not available for comment.
Under the plan, the letter said, district residents would be exempt from Maryland income taxes and state laws. Nevertheless, the authors said they fear that Maryland might end up with some responsibility for Washington's financial problems.
"It would be unfair to our citizens and those of the District to impose mandates on us that we simply cannot meet," they said.
Other Maryland Republican leaders, including Joyce Lyons Terhes, the state party chairman, have said they oppose the idea because it would bring a flood of liberal Democratic voters into Maryland's federal elections.
The majority of the city's residents are registered Democrats, and their votes would make it hard for the GOP to capture a Senate seat in Maryland, where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by 2-to-1. Both of Maryland's senators, Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, are Democrats.
Even some House Democrats, who would stand to profit politically by adding a Democratic member to Maryland's delegation, are wary of the speaker's suggestion.
"It solves Gingrich's immediate political problem in dealing with the district but shows little regard for the state of Maryland," said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin of Baltimore.
Mr. Gingrich's idea is not a formal proposal yet; it is just one of a number of plans on Capitol Hill.