Dear Fellow Marylander,
That magical season of March Madness is upon us.
Our beloved women’s (2-seed) and men’s (8-seed) Terps basketball teams have made it through the first round of the NCAA Division I tournament. The men’s team took it to the wire on Thursday with a heart-stopping 67-65 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers. The women’s team showed their strength Friday with a resounding 93-61 win against Holy Cross of Massachusetts. We have such incredible student-athletes at the University of Maryland, College Park. It’s exciting to see them in action.
Congress has its own version of March Madness going on right now, with legislation being introduced at an incredible pace. In the Senate, for the first two-and-a-half weeks of March, Senators have introduced over 300 bills and resolutions. For some perspective, over the entire month of February, there were 375 bills introduced. So it would be an understatement to say there is a lot going on right now.
What follows is a sampling of what I’ve been working on with my colleagues this month. You may notice that many of these bills are bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans may disagree on a breadth of topics, but there always are policies where we can find common ground. America’s strength is in our values and when we work together to uphold those values, we can accomplish anything.
Children with Disabilities: Working with Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), this week we introduced the International Children with Disabilities Protection Act legislation that will bolster U.S. support for children with disabilities and improve local capacity to advocate for critical policy and legislative reforms worldwide.
Human Rights: Along with colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee – Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) – I am a lead sponsor of the Transnational Repression Policy Act. This legislation would establish a new U.S. policy to hold foreign governments and individuals accountable when they stalk, or assault people across borders, including in the U.S. Authoritarian rely on transnational repression to control emigrant and diaspora communities, especially as their crackdowns on democracy and human rights push dissidents abroad.
Comprehensive Healthcare: More than 40 percent of Americans are enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid. Among adults, most of these individuals do not have comprehensive health coverage for vision, dental or hearing benefits, often leaving them without the care they need to protect their health and quality of life. For this very reason, I am working with Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to move forward a bill that would allow Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing services and increase the federal investment in Medicaid, incentivizing more states to provide these comprehensive services.
Clean Water: The Financing Lead Out of Water (FLOW) Act is such an important bill that I have been working on with colleagues from across the country. The FLOW Act would reduce exposure to lead in drinking water by making it easier for public utilities to replace privately owned lead service lines. Our bill streamlines the process to issue bonds to finance lead service line replacement projects and make millions of homes safer.
Reproductive Rights: I am a proud cosponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023, which is the comprehensive response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Our legislation creates federal rights for patients and providers to protect abortion access and creates federal protections against medically unnecessary restrictions that undermine Americans’ access to health care and intrude upon personal decision-making.
Equal Pay: Senate Democrats have united behind the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would combat wage discrimination and help close the wage gap by strengthening the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Across the U.S., women still earn, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, resulting in a gap of $11,782 each year—and the disparity is worse for women of color. If the gender wage gap were closed in Maryland, and in states around the country, it would cut the poverty rate for working women in half and add nearly a half trillion dollars to our economy.
Clean Trucking: Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) and I have sponsored legislation called the Modern, Clean and Safe Trucks Act of 2023. Our bipartisan bill would repeal the federal excise tax (FET) on heavy trucks and trailers, which was established over 100 years ago to support efforts to pay for World War I. Today, the 12% FET is the highest percentage excise tax levied on any product, and at the same time, it is an unpredictable and minimal source of revenue for the Highway Trust Fund. The tax also discourages private investment to modernize America’s truck fleet with cleaner and safer trucks and trailers.
Helping Homeowners: Working again with Senator Young, I introduced legislation that will help revitalize distressed neighborhoods in Maryland and nationwide. Currently, private development lacks in some urban and rural areas because the cost of purchasing and renovating homes is greater than the value of the sale price of homes. The Neighborhood Homes Investment Act creates a federal tax credit that covers the cost between building or renovating a home in these areas and the price at which they can be sold.
Urban Renewal: Alongside Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), I reintroduced my legislation to expand the Historic Tax Credit, which directly drives growth and revitalizes neighborhoods. The Historic Tax Credit is a vital economic and preservation tool, creating jobs and saving history in small and rural Maryland communities, and across America.
Second Chances: In my role as chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I’ve introduced the Necessary Entrepreneurship Workshops via the SBA to Transform and Assist Re-entry Training Act (NEW START). This legislation creates a reentry program within the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to award grants for business counseling and entrepreneurial development training to justice-impacted individuals. Entrepreneurship has become a necessity for returning citizens, as more often than not, these individuals face labor discrimination in traditional employment opportunities.
Security in Europe: Alongside Senator Shaheen (D-NH) and a bipartisan group of seven other senators, I cosponsored legislation that will strengthen our relations with our Black Sea allies, who are on the front lines of Putin’s ongoing, unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine. Critical for our national security, the bill requires an interagency strategy to increase defense coordination, deepen economic ties, and strengthen democratic development with countries located on the Black Sea.
As you can see, it has been a busy couple of weeks. Legislation is one of the many tools available to help our communities. Some bills are more complicated than others, just as some problems we face are more complex. The goal is to find a path forward that effectively meets the challenges Marylanders and others face regularly.
Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on any of this new legislation or a bill or issue you have been following. I welcome your thoughts on any topic.