Riki Sheehan, Second Vice President of the Woman’s Democratic Club (WDC) of Montgomery County, introduced the guest speaker at the October 12th luncheon, Ben Cardin, the senior senator from Maryland.
A third-generation Marylander, Senator Cardin was first in his class at the University of Maryland School of Law. He was elected to the Senate in 2006, and currently serves as Ranking Member of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee. He is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Environment & Public Works committees. He also serves on the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Cardin is a leading advocate for the Chesapeake Bay and the environment. Nationally, he is a champion of protecting our clean air and clean water. Senator Cardin believes access to quality, affordable health care should be a right and not a privilege. One of his proudest accomplishments was leading the fight to guarantee access to dental care for children in the Children's Health Insurance Program, following the tragic loss of a 12-year-old Prince George's County boy who died after complications that followed an untreated tooth infection. Finally, she told the audience, he has a 100% rating from the League of Conservation Voters, an A rating from the NAACP and an F rating from the National Rifle Association, and the group cheered.
Senator Cardin opened by saying, “Great News, the Senate is in recess until after the mid-terms.” Everyone applauded. He gave a nod to Mark Elrich who was in the audience, and mentioned Sarah Elfreth [Candidate for District 30 Senate - Annapolis Neck Peninsula & South County] who is running in southern Anne Arundel for a seat that the Democrats must hold in the State Senate. He also said he had been strategizing with Ben Jealous, because we need him to be governor.
Describing what we went through on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as one of the toughest experiences ever, he said, “The McConnell Process is outrageous.” While Merritt Garland was denied a hearing, Kavanaugh was pushed through into a lifetime appointment without full disclosure, without investigation, no calling of witnesses, and no collaboration. “The Senate did not carry out its responsibilities.” He has grave concerns about Kavanaugh’s impartiality. Will he protect Mueller? Will he protect your rights or power as women? Cardin said that in all of Kavanaugh’s minority opinions he ruled for the powerful against the vulnerable. Times have never been more challenging and he is on the wrong side. The Senator said, “I’ve been asked how do you get up and go to work, and I said I feel guilty leaving my post at night.” He said that the President lies and cheats and has given room to hate.
As ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin wrote an Op Ed in the Post about the erosion of democracy around the world as evidenced by the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. He said that democracy is on the wane in Hungary, Poland and Turkey. Our allies around the world are under attack and “America is missing in action.” Trump gives oxygen to anti-democracy by Saudi Arabia and has not called it out. Authoritarian strong men are killing journalists and the world gives them a pass. Cardin said this is an emergency; we need a full accounting. He pointed to the Global Magnitsky Act, which he co-authored with Senator John McCain, and how its sanctions are perfect for this situation. Trump could use them against anyone involved in this affair.
Senator Cardin said he loves the WDC. The times are not the same. Republicans will not stand up to President Trump, and we need mid-term help. David Trone must be elected. He said, “Chris Van Hollen is doing the Lord’s work to get Democrats elected across the country.” We need to pick up two seats. He reported that Beto O’Rourke had raised $38 million in the last 3 months, which contrasts to the Senator’s own successful fund-raising for his current campaign of the modest amount of $3-4 million. The Blue Wave is happening. Already requests for absentee ballots exceed prior elections.
What’s at stake? “Donald Trump is on the ballot,” and we must clearly explain the differences between the Parties.
We must protect gains in healthcare. He said he was proud of the Affordable Care Act and will continue the fight to preserve protection for pre-existing conditions and flexibility for treatments. Now that the opioid legislation passed Congress, next he said they would take on other prescription drugs. US citizens should be able to pay less than Canadians, particularly for drugs made in America.
Education is another top priority. Betsy DeVos has been a disaster. We need to make higher education more affordable, while facing the realities of education in the 21st century, including the need for technical education.
Sensible gun safety is crucial including universal background checks, and elimination of private ownership of automatic weapons, bump stocks, and high capacity magazines.
We must fight to protect the environment. The Senator said that climate change is real. Run-off caused the floods in Ellicott City, not rising rivers or streams. Only one Party has called this an “urgent issue for our times.”
The Democratic Party protects worker rights.
Cardin said that the Equal Rights Amendment will pass – only one more state is needed to get to 38.
Cardin asked, “Why aren’t we better at articulating these priorities?” We do not have the megaphone, so the best way is for each of us to talk to our neighbors and let them know what is at stake. He said he is proud to be running as a Democrat for the United States Senate. Let’s get out the vote!
The Senator answered questions. The first was about the message Democrats are sending to small business. Cardin said that as the lead Democrat on the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, top priorities are access to capital, regulatory relief, and fostering a talented workforce through innovation. There is progressive leadership at the county level, however women and minority owners still have bigger hurdles to overcome. He wants to equalize opportunities while building on Montgomery County’s high tech and biotech. The budget that recently passed was favorable to NIH, FDA, and NIST, which are magnets for funding for small businesses. We have one of the highest trained workforces in the universe.
The second questioner began by thanking the Senator for being a champion for women’s and human rights. She then expressed concerns about moving the embassy to Jerusalem. How do our current policies and actions serve our country or Israel? The Senator said he strongly disagreed with the Administration cutting off funding for Palestinians. He stated his support for the two state solution, and as the senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, he is working on restoring the funding. There is a humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, and people should not be pawns.
The next questioner said that since Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court, she is concerned about interference with the Mueller investigation.. Will the Supreme Court have jurisdiction over the 7th District in New York? Can the President pardon himself or witnesses against him; can he be compelled to testify? Can he fire Mueller and stop the investigation? Senator Cardin said all of this would come before the Supreme Court. “Kavanaugh was chosen for a particular reason. He has changed his views 180 degrees from Clinton” [when Clinton was impeached]. Kavanaugh’s partisan behavior is outrageous.
The Student Loan Forgiveness Program was the subject of the next question. The questioner said that 95% of the requests are being rejected. What can be done to protect these borrowers? Senator Cardin said that DeVos is not a friend. A group of Senators had sent a letter to her challenging her oversight of the program. It is another egregious example of Congress authorizing and funding programs that the Administration refuses to carry out. Kavanaugh has said that the President does not have to enforce laws that he doesn’t like.
The next questioner asked if the citizenship question on the census would likely lead to undercounting and lack of political representation. The Senator talked about the importance of passing comprehensive immigration legislation that protects “the Dreamers.” He said that he and Chris Van Hollen had authored legislation that has yet to be taken up in the House – “We need [to win] the House.”
Republicans manipulated rules in the House to pass the ruinous tax bill. The speaker asked, “Will you use the same techniques, if you come to power?” Cardin said that Democrats have limits on what they will do. They have a bill in process and will use all tools at their disposal. The tax bill is horrible and has led to huge increases in the deficit. “We are going to change that and help middle class families.” Even with responsible deficit reduction, we can maintain Medicare and Social Security, which people believe in. We need a President who believes in American values too.
Senator Cardin concluded by exhorting the audience to vote for Ben Jealous, David Trone, and Marc Elrich.