U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

February 11, 2023

State of the Union

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

I hope you had an opportunity to watch President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address to the nation on Tuesday night. Typically, you can feel the gravitas of the evening as the president takes to the greatest bully pulpit in the world. It is not often that you have the president, vice president, most senators, House members, Cabinet officials, many Supreme Court justices, high-ranking military officials, diplomats from around the world and other guests all in one room. I was excited to have Governor Wes Moore as my guest for the evening.

Perhaps it was the sense of normalcy after two years of smaller crowds due to COVID-19, or maybe it was the freshness of newly divided government, but this speech was different from the dozens I have been to over the years. It had a unique energy to it.  

As you might expect, the president started out recapping the historic achievements of the last two years. It’s quite a remarkable list, chock full of many bipartisan accomplishments. We made strategic investments in communities across Maryland and the country that are paying dividends.

“[T]ime and again, Democrats and Republicans came together. Came together to defend a stronger and safer Europe. You came together to pass a once-in-a-generation infrastructure law building bridges connecting our nation and our people. We came together to pass one the most significant law ever helping victims exposed to toxic burn pits … And, in fact, I signed over 300 bipartisan pieces of legislation since becoming President, from reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act to the Electoral Count Reform Act, the Respect for Marriage Act that protects the right to marry the person you love.”

The president added: “We made real progress together. We passed the law making it easier for doctors to prescribe effective treatments for opioid addiction. We passed the gun safety law, making historic investments in mental health. We launched the ARPA-H drive for breakthroughs in the fight against cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, and so much more.”

Sharing good news about our economy, President Biden gave us a snapshot of how far we’ve come since the height of the pandemic.   

President Biden: “We’re not finished yet, by any stretch of the imagination. But unemployment rate is at 3.4 percent –- a 50-year low. And near record for Black and Hispanic workers.
“We’ve already created, with your help, 800,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs — the fastest growth in 40 years.” 

The president continued: “Here at home, inflation is coming down. Here at home, gas prices are down $1.50 from their peak. Food inflation is coming down — not fast enough, but coming down. Inflation has fallen every month for the last six months, while take-home pay has gone up. Additionally, over the last two years, a record 10 million Americans applied to start new businesses.” 

President Biden also laid out his vision for the next two years and beyond. Historically low unemployment, rising wages, rebounding manufacturing, lower gas and food prices, historic investments in clean energy and America’s infrastructure, along with a 90 percent drop in COVID-19 cases are good, but “we’re just getting started,” he said.

“[I]f we could work together in the last Congress, there’s no reason we can’t work together and find consensus on important things in this Congress as well.”

Admittedly, there were times that this United States senator felt like I was sitting in the British House of Commons during the Prime Minister’s Questions. It is standard-practice for one side of the Congress to be on their feet and applauding while the other sits disapprovingly during mention of policies where there are diverging opinions based on party. But the raucous heckling and attempts to shout down the president were taken to a new level. I was proud to watch President Biden handle the outbursts like the pro I have always known him to be.

Mid-speech, as the shouting and verbal attacks reached new highs, or lows, I think, President Biden took firm control of the room. Proof of this came when Republicans – the ones who had just been screaming at him – stood up to affirm that cuts to Social Security and Medicare were off-the-table, particularly in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

For the full fireworks, check out the president’s speech at whitehouse.gov, but here is the result:

“[F]olks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?  (Applause.)  They’re not to be touched?  (Applause.)  All right.  All right.  We got unanimity!  (Applause.)

Unanimity does not happen that often in Congress, but this week, it happened live as the world was watching. It was a clear win for our seniors.

Throughout his speech, President Biden was fervent in his defense of democracy and voting rights. He talked in detail about how we can improve our health care, and he rightly called for a pay raise for public school teachers. He was passionate when discussing his plans to wipe out cancer as we know it, and restore the assault weapons ban. His innate understanding that a job is more than just a paycheck, but also source of dignity and pride, came through loud and clear.

Watching him report on the state of our union, providing facts and expertly navigating the naysayers and the extremists, President Biden made me proud to be an American – one more aware of the firm footing on which our nation now stands and full of optimism and hope for the future of our country and our world. I’m ready to work with my congressional colleagues and the Biden administration to tackle the challenges ahead. When we stay united, anything is possible.

As the president said Tuesday: ‘We are not bystanders to history. We are not powerless before the forces that confront us … We must be the nation we have always been at our best … Forward-looking. A nation that embraces, light over darkness, hope over fear, unity over division. Stability over chaos.’”

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with your response to President Biden’s State of the Union address, or your thoughts on any topic. I value your feedback.


               Ben Cardin