U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

08/13/2022

Shattering Predictions

Dear Fellow Marylanders: 

This has been a historically productive Congress.

This is not a statement I make lightly, nor did I predict this many legislative accomplishments when we began the current session in January of last year.

We have a 50-50 Senate. There are 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. The House of Representatives has a very slim Democratic majority. And yet this Congress has been able to send major bills to the president to be signed into law. 

Our most recent accomplishment is the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The Senate passed this legislation after an all-night session last weekend. The House of Representatives approved it yesterday. I expect President Joe Biden to sign it quickly so that Americans can start getting the relief that this bill provides, as soon as possible.
 
The package we approved will make it easier for American families to afford health insurance and help seniors with prescription drugs. It will lower electricity costs and emissions, while creating over 1 million good-paying jobs here in America in the growing clean energy sector. We pay for these smart investments while reducing the deficit and without raising taxes on working families and small businesses. In fact, according to a nonpartisan analysis, many working families may actually see lower taxes on net over the next couple years as a result of this legislation.   

The savings for Marylanders found in the Inflation Reduction Act are very real. A new analysis estimates that our legislation will save the average household approximately $170-$220 in annual savings from smaller electricity bills and reductions in the costs of goods and services over the next decade. Extending Affordable Care Act (ACA) enhanced health insurance premium subsidies through 2025 will save median-income Maryland families about $2,200 annually.

Maryland-based federal agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Institute of Standards (NIST), NASA Goddard and others will see significant expansions in program funds, which benefit the communities they call home, as well as the region and nation. Our state and local governments also will be eligible for new and expanded grant programs to improve public health, decrease pollution, increase climate resiliency and increase equity.
 
For the more than 1 million Marylanders covered by Medicare, finally, the Health and Human Services Secretary will have authority to negotiate lower drug prices for the Medicare program. This will help ensure that Medicare patients get the best deal possible on high-priced drugs, saving taxpayers approximately $100 billion.

And for the tens of thousands of Marylanders on Medicare who use insulin, the Inflation Reduction Act caps their insulin costs at $35 per month. We tried to extend the cap to Americans with private insurance, and though we were blocked from making that happen, we will continue working to make it a reality.

Maryland homeowners will be eligible for tax credits for residential solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass fuel improvements now through 2034. They also will be eligible for a larger tax credit for energy efficiency home improvements through 2032, as well as tax credits for the purchase of new and used clean energy vehicles, including electric.

And Maryland farmers will see tangible benefits from the more than $20 billion in funds included for climate-smart agricultural practices through existing Farm Bill conservation programs, including the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and Natural Resources Conservation Service technical assistance for producers. The legislation also bolsters resilience programs to help Maryland communities prepare for extreme storms and other changing climate conditions. Living in a coastal state, Marylanders understand fully the need to address climate change, cut greenhouse gas pollution and protect the Chesapeake Bay.

 As I said at the start, the Inflation Reduction Act and its targeted investments aimed at lowering costs for American families, is only the latest in a string of positive accomplishments coming from Congress, in coordination with President Biden. Other major legislation enacted into law this Congress includes:

  • CHIPS and Science Act, which will make America more competitive by bringing home domestic production of semiconductors and investing in innovation and science. I was proud to be at the White House earlier this week when the president signed it into law.
  • The bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT Act) provides healthcare benefits for all generations of toxic-exposed veterans for the first time in the nation’s history and will improve access to care for all who served in our nation’s armed forces.
  • The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is the first major gun safety legislation Congress has approved in decades. Among other provisions, it closes loopholes that allowed convicted domestic violence abusers to legally buy firearms, it boosts funding for community violence intervention and prevention initiatives and it provides hundreds of millions in funding to improve and expand mental health care.
  • The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a true federal commitment to upgrading and modernizing our nation’s infrastructure. Funding is flowing right now to improve Maryland’s transit, ports, roads and bridges, expand broadband availability and fix our aging drinking water and wastewater systems. The bill also included my bipartisan legislation to make permanent and expand the Minority Business Development Agency, which is the only federal agency dedicated to supporting minority-owned businesses.
  • The Keep Kids Fed Act, which the Senate passed unanimously, extended essential funding for schools, day care providers and communities to ensure healthy meals for children throughout the school year and summer.
  • The American Rescue Plan, passed in March 2021, provides relief to Americans during the heart of the pandemic. It included tens of billions of dollars to support vaccination and COVID-19 testing, invested in hard-hit communities and brought concrete relief to the nation at a time of great need. I was especially proud of the investments we made to help save so many small businesses throughout Maryland and the nation.

From the American Rescue Plan to the Inflation Reduction Act, and all in between, each of these legislative accomplishments has helped address important needs across Maryland and our nation. These investments have made an incredible difference for individuals, families, small businesses and communities, as a whole, helping to lower costs for health care, energy and household expenses.

The number of employed Americans now exceeds the pre-pandemic high – the second fastest job market recovery since 1981. Twenty million Americans lost their jobs during the pandemic; now, the number of Americans working is at an all-time high.

While unemployment continues at historic lows and gas prices are declining rapidly, these are still tough times across our nation. Food prices and other costs are still too high. My goal is to continue to use every tool available – and create new ones, if necessary – to ensure the federal government keeps helping Marylanders and all Americans, especially those in need.
 
Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email, or any of my weekly letters, to share your thoughts. Each response is read carefully. I appreciate hearing from Marylanders on a range of topics.

Sincerely,

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Ben Cardin

 

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