March 5, 2022
Dear Fellow Marylanders:
This week, I hope you were able to watch President Joe Biden as he delivered his first official State of the Union address. I was excited to be there and, unlike his speech to the nation last April shortly after taking office, the evening felt almost…normal. We greeted colleagues, shook hands and, thanks to the positive trends in COVID-19, only a few of the people inside the House of Representatives, where the speech took place, wore face coverings.
Please don’t think Congress suddenly abandoned all sense of precaution. Seats were spread out; most everyone there had been vaccinated; and everyone had to test negative for COVID-19 to attend. It was this testing protocol that kept Team Maryland member Rep. Jamie Raskin from the State of the Union. His pre-speech test came back positive. I wish him a quick recovery.
Across Maryland and the nation, our hard work in the fight against COVID-19 is paying off. Unfortunately, Maryland now has over one million positive cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. However, the seven-day positivity rate is down to 1.9% and hospitalizations are at one-tenth the number we had during the January surge. As President Biden said:
“For more than two years, COVID has impacted every decision in our lives and the life of this nation. And I know you’re tired, frustrated, and exhausted. That doesn’t even count the close to a million people who sit at a dining room table or a kitchen table and look at an empty chair because they lost somebody. But I also know this: Because of the progress we’ve made, because of your resilience and the tools that we have been provided by this Congress, tonight I can say we’re moving forward safely, back to more normal routines… Just a few days ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new mask guidelines. Under the new guidelines, most Americans in most of the country can now go mask free. … thanks to the progress we’ve made in the past year, COVID-19 no longer need control our lives.”
Some of the most powerful moments in President Biden’s speech were when he spoke about how the world stands united in support of Ukraine. As Russia continues its unprovoked and deadly attacks, the president reiterated how “freedom will always triumph over tyranny.” Thanks to our president’s aggressive diplomacy, Vladimir Putin is isolated and Russia’s oligarchs are feeling the sting of worldwide sanctions.
“He thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond. He thought he could divide us at home, in this chamber, in this nation. He thought he could divide us in Europe as well. But Putin was wrong,” President Biden told the nation. “We countered Russia’s lies with the truth. And now that he’s acted, the free world is holding him accountable.”
The president was honest with the American people about the worldwide costs of this war that Russia has chosen. While being clear that American forces “will not engage in the conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine,” he said that his administration was “taking robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at the Russian economy and that we use every tool at our disposal to protect American businesses and consumers.”
Here at home, our economy already is facing challenges as we emerge from the financial pressures of the pandemic. I was pleased to hear the president talk about inflation and outline how he and the Congress are working together to lower costs for working families, especially in areas like childcare, health care and prescription drugs, and food.
Building on the American Rescue Plan that brought much-needed relief to millions of Americans and small businesses, President Biden laid out a robust plan to grow our economy even more than the historic gains of the last year. He talked in detail about investing in American manufacturing and research, investing in small businesses, our veterans and the American people.
The president spoke about how the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is rebuilding a better America, creating jobs here at home and strengthening the foundations of our communities while protecting our environment and making our neighborhoods more resilient. As President Biden said: “It’s going to transform America to put us on a path to win the economic competition of the 21st century that we face with the rest of the world, particularly China. We’ll create good jobs for millions of Americans — modernizing roads, airports, ports, waterways — all across America. And we’ll do it to withstand the devastating effects of climate crisis and promote environmental justice.”
I’ve known Joe Biden for decades. I saw him speak from the heart on Tuesday as he talked about the fate of democracy and the fight we are in for the future of our nation.
He said, “Now is the hour: our moment of responsibility, our test of resolve and conscience of history itself. It is in this moment that our character of this generation is formed, our purpose is found, our future is forged.… I know this nation. We’ll meet the test, protect freedom and liberty, expand fairness and opportunity. And we will save democracy.”
I will leave you with one last excerpt from State of the Union speech that stood out to me: “In the battle between democracy and autocracies, democracies are rising to the moment and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security.”
Stay well. Until next week,