U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

July 11, 2022

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

Last Monday, I joined an excited crowd in Towson for their Independence Day parade. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of far too many community events over the last two years, so it was truly invigorating to be back walking, waving and saying hello to Marylanders again — in person.

This Independence Day has a different feel because we are back together to celebrate, at least cautiously, but also because we are in the midst of a national debate on the direction of our country.

Will we continue to be the America that tries to be a “more perfect union” and a worldwide symbol of hope, opportunity and freedom? Will we tackle the systemic inequities that have held back many from enjoying “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” promised in the Declaration of Independence signed 246 years ago?

Or will we be dragged backwards to a time when millions of our citizens were marginalized and left without the same rights and civil liberties as others?

And will we allow 18th century interpretations of our Constitution by the Supreme Court regarding gun ownership and militias reign over 21st century weapons of war and gun violence?

Let me insert here that we can direct attention to our economy and reducing inflation while we deal with other urgent concerns facing our country. Thankfully, gas prices have declined every day for more than three weeks. Unemployment is at its lowest rate in decades and we have gained back all private sector jobs lost during the pandemic, despite the continued negative repercussions of our nation’s lack of caregiving infrastructure on women’s labor force participation rate, as compared to pre-pandemic. Food and other prices need to come down more, but many supply chains are adapting to new patterns and economic trends are moving in the right direction. Congress and President Joe Biden continue to look for every tool available to lower daily costs for families across the country.

The need to stanch inflation and stave off a recession is urgent, and one of my highest priorities, but so is the need to preserve the rule of law, protect the rights of Americans and keep our communities safe.

As I have written to you previously, the rights of law-abiding Americans are under attack right now. The recent decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States are dramatically revoking the rights of American women and many others. This court has an extreme majority put in place by Republican Senate leaders who twisted the rules of the Senate to deny President Barack Obama his rightful appointment for nearly a year. And then they rushed another nominee days before a presidential election, when early voting had already begun, setting a new standard for hypocrisy.

In the latter case, Senate Republicans were aided by a president who has repeatedly flouted the law and still not accepted defeat in the 2020 election – despite the rulings of election officials in every state and more than 60 judges. And the former president’s allies continue to propagate the “Big Lie,” with some state and local candidates running on “election conspiracy” platforms and arguing that they do not necessarily need to certify the lawful winners of elections.

Based on the decisions announced in the last few days of June, it is clear that the current Supreme Court majority is not interested in defending and advancing the rights of Americans – as is their constitutional duty – but is more interested in fulfilling a long-term conservative agenda that has been rejected by millions of Americans.

The facts: Right now, people across dozens of states are scrambling to gain access to basic reproductive health care in the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson decision that overturned 50 years of legal precedent and declared that the government can force someone to carry a child to term even if personal circumstances and medical advice says otherwise. Based on the text of the decision, it is clear that other rights may be in jeopardy, as well.

The facts: In the recent New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen case, the Supreme Court expanded its definition of Second Amendment rights, negating a 100-year-old New York law, and likely laws in Maryland and a half-dozen other states, about who can obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon. At the time the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written, muskets were the norm. Today, we deal with a plague of semi-automatic handguns and assault weapons.

In this country, more than 45,000 individuals were killed by a gun last year alone. One week ago, 2-year-old Aiden McCarthy of Highland Park, Ill., was orphaned on July 4 when both his parents were among seven victims of yet another mass shooting. This was one of more than two dozen mass shootings that took place in the first week of July.

I am grateful for President Joe Biden, who has taken executive action to protect the health care and reproductive rights of Americans, as well as to protect our communities with robust funding for community violence intervention programs. The U.S. Department of Justice is working with U.S. Attorneys throughout the country and other federal and state agencies to remove dangerous weapons from our streets and reduce violence.

Today, I will be at the White House with President Biden to celebrate the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. This is the first major gun safety law passed by Congress in decades – but Congress must do more.

We must come together to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and restore the ability of Americans to make autonomous decisions about their own bodies.

We must renew the assault weapons ban, ban high capacity magazine clips, codify the need for background checks on all gun sales and take other reasonable steps to protect the public from violence.

We must do more to ensure that the “unalienable Rights … Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are available to all Americans.

Happy birthday to America. We are still the land of hope, opportunity and freedom, but we need to do the hard work to keep it that way for generations to come.

Thank you.