MarylandReporter.com and Capital News Service
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It was another Maryland night Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention as a third of the party’s members of Congress had speaking roles, though none with a primetime national audience as Gov. Martin O’Malley had Tuesday.
For the large Maryland delegation, it was all hands on deck to show its support for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Rep. Steny Hoyer and Chris Van Hollen.
Mikulski, dean of the women senators and the longest serving female member of Congress, it was the usual fighting speech laced with humor.
Mikulski helped kick off a ladies night on Wednesday, surrounded by her fellow Senate women and highlighting the Obama record on issues important to women. Baltimore-native Nancy Pelosi, now a California representative and first woman speaker of the U.S. House, also spoke Wednesday night. Another native of Maryland, Vashti Murphy McKenzie, the first woman bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and co-chair of the convention’s platform committee, gave the invocation.
Mikulski took the stage after a photo montage of the 12 Democratic women senators, who joined her on stage. The Maryland delegation high up in the rafters stood and cheered.
“Twenty-six years ago, I became the first Democratic woman elected to the Senate in her own right,” Mikulski said. “I was the first, but I made sure I wasn’t the only. Today, we’re proud that there are more women serving in the United States Senate right this minute than had served in all of American history when I arrived. But we want more.”
As she took the stage, she high-fived her taller colleagues, who stood behind her throughout her speech.
Women of all sizes and shapes
“The women of the Senate are like the U.S. Olympic team: we come in different sizes, but we sure are united in our determination to do the best for our country,” said Mikulski, who stands 4’11’’. “We work on macro issues and we work on the macaroni and cheese issues.”
Mikulski has been a regular speaker at past Democratic National Conventions, including the 1980 convention, where she introduced the last Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy in his failed bid to topple President Jimmy Carter.
This time, Mikulski highlighted the joint effort of the Senate women and President Barack Obama to “strengthen families and restore security to the middle class.”
“We know that every issue is a woman’s issue,” she told a cheering crowd.
“The 77 cents that women make for every dollar men earn makes a real difference to our families — families stretching to make every dollar count.”
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings said Mikulski’s speech showed why American women are behind the president’s re-election.
“She also laid out the fact that he is a staunch supporter of women’s health care as opposed to the Republicans,” Cummings said.
Yvette Lewis, chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, said that Mikulski’s remarks showed that women are strong when united.
“If we stay together we do have strength in numbers,” Lewis said, adding that she was happy that the whole arena got a glimpse of Mikulski.
“To see her get the crowd so charged up makes us really proud,” Lewis said. “We loved her. You know why? Because she typifies everything that the working women loves. She is every woman.”
Hoyer emphasizes economy
The economy was Wednesday night’s theme, emphasized by all three Maryland speakers.
“Despite historic levels of obstruction, President Obama was able to bring the economy back from the verge of a second Great Depression,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whip. “In January 2009, when the President took office, our economy lost more than 800,000 jobs. This July, the economy added 172,000 jobs, the 29th consecutive month of private sector job gains.
“We know that’s not enough, but it’s a turnaround of nearly one million jobs from when President Obama took office,” Hoyer said. “We’re better off.”
Van Hollen rebukes GOP ticket
Rep. Chris Van Hollen offered a sharp rebuke to Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, saying of their proposals, “If you refuse to ask the wealthiest to pitch in, then you hit everyone else much harder.”
The prominent convention speech focused on budget issues and served to underline Van Hollen’s role in the party: He has become the Democrats’ answer to Ryan.
The two share a common rise to the top of the political scene. They’re both in leadership positions on the House Budget Committee; they both play dual roles as number-crunching policy wonks and political attack dogs, and pretty soon one will literally be playing the role of the other.
But Van Hollen, from Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, and Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, have very different views about where government’s priorities should lie.
Van Hollen released his own budget proposal in March to counter Ryan’s much more famous one. He has emerged as a leading critic of the Ryan plan.
“It doubles down on this failed economic theory that providing tax breaks to very wealthy people like Mitt Romney will lift the economy,” Van Hollen said of Ryan’s budget proposal in an interview with Capital News Service earlier in the day.
“When we tried that in the real world, and it crashed at the end of the Bush administration, we lost private sector jobs and the only thing that went up is the deficit. It’s one thing to hold to that theory before it’s been tested in the real world, it’s another thing to cling to it when it’s crashed and burned.”
Helps Biden prepare for debate with Ryan
Van Hollen is so well thought of on budget issues that Vice President Joe Biden chose him to play the role of Ryan in preparation for the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11 in Danville, Ky.
Van Hollen demurs when asked whether his close work with Ryan on the committee gives him any special insight he could bring to debate prep.
“I wouldn’t put it that way. What I would say is I have a solid understanding of why the Romney-Ryan plan is bad for the economy,” Van Hollen said. “Paul presents a plan, with a smile, that I think is very bad for the country … I like Paul personally, but I would not mistake congeniality with a willingness to compromise.”