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Sue Who? 

A Congresswoman gone wrong

It was the summer of 1995 on Capitol Hill, and Congresswoman Sue Myrick was on fire. I would know. I reported to her office every morning as an unpaid intern. I even authored some of the press releases and opinion columns her office sent out to newspapers that summer -- as is typical in congressional offices.

So, needless to say, I'm familiar with the brand of rhetoric Myrick was slinging back then, which makes me uniquely qualified to be thoroughly disgusted with what she's doing right now.

What set the former Charlotte mayor apart in her first few years on Capitol Hill was her willingness to take her crusade for balancing the federal budget and ending out-of-control federal spending further than most. In the months after she took office, she grabbed headlines and propelled herself into the ranks of freshman leadership by publicly shaking her fist not just at Democrats, but at fellow Republicans like then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, demanding an end to pork barrel politics, balanced budgets and fiscal sanity when her colleagues balked at pushing through some of their promises. No one was immune from a lecture from Myrick.

These days, Sue probably figures no one with access to a printing press remembers all that garbage. She's wrong.

When asked by the Charlotte Observer in April 1995 if Republicans could cut taxes and balance the budget in the next seven years, she replied: "We wouldn't be saying we could do it if we couldn't."

But seven years and two months later, Myrick voted for a $450 billion federal debt limit increase to keep the federal government from defaulting due to out-of-control Republican spending. The bill passed by one vote. Without Myrick, it would have failed.

Though she voted against the final version President Bush signed, in March, Myrick voted for a federal spending resolution that would have raised the public debt ceiling by $839 billion, a federal record, and produced a deficit of $376 billion. Of course, you won't find any of this on Myrick's campaign website, where she lists "crafting the first balanced budget to pass in the House of Representatives since 1969" among her accomplishments.

For years, Myrick has lectured others, including her constituents, on the need to reform Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to keep them from bankruptcy. Something has to change soon, she told the Observer in the mid-1990s. But she had few qualms about voting for a prescription drug bill that recently passed the House, adding a $400 billion entitlement to Medicare, an already fiscally compromised program she's always believed someone "should fix."

But the final straw for me was the press release I received from her office last week, announcing that she'd secured a $10,000 grant from the NEA for the Charlotte Philharmonic "so they can once again give us a wonderful holiday concert."

She probably figures that no one remembers that when Gingrich and others on the hill were willing to settle for a multiyear phase-out of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, Myrick and a group of fiscal activists bullied them into a two-year phase-out, which passed the House but never became reality. To Myrick, it was the people's money, and it should go back to them, not to the NEA.

"We're the ones who are keeping everyone's feet to the fire, " she told the Observer at the time.

Too bad the broke taxpayers she used to lecture Gingrich about probably won't be able to afford tickets to the concert she just secured funding for. And this from a woman who pushed for the end of a $400 million legal services program that provides free lawyers for the poor as part of her push to "get the government out of the welfare business."

The year Myrick and her Contract with America buddies ran for Congress with their promises of reform, domestic spending by the Democrat-controlled Congress rose 4.8 percent, a fact they used to seize office. But so far, Myrick and company don't seem to have much to say about the fact that domestic spending rose 8 percent between 2001 and 2002 under a Republican Congress and president.

Though her conservative constituents haven't caught on yet, in just eight years, the woman who once advocated for six-year term limits, the woman who comes back here preaching fiscal responsibility every two years at election time, has become a symbol of everything she went to Washington to fight. Now she's using our money and mortgaging our future to buy re-election for herself and her party.

Myrick put it best in a 1995 interview with the Observer:

"Up here, compromise is a wonderful word, but when you compromise away your principles, you've accomplished nothing," Myrick said. "And we are determined, we are not going to compromise our principles. Voters want us to stand firm for what we said we were going to do. That's why they sent us here."

Myrick's right. Maybe it's time the voters sent her a one-way ticket home.

Contact Tara Servatius at tara.servatius

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