“The country does not stop because of a presidential election and neither should we. We are open for business.”
WASHINGTON – In response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) issued the following statement. Senator Cardin’s guest for the speech was Robert Caret, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland (USM).
“President Obama set out an aggressive agenda tonight, showing the country and the world that he will not allow himself to be labeled as a ‘lame-duck’ president. We must use every moment of the next 12 months, working together – Congress, the president, Democrats and Republicans – to continue to ensure that our homeland is safe, to continue to improve our economy, reduce the violence in our communities, make college more affordable for American families, protect our air and water, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and so much more. The country does not stop because of a presidential election and neither should we. We are open for business. Congress approved a two-year budget, putting us back on a path toward bipartisanship. We need to unite to put the public interest first – from local transportation issues to national security.
“President Obama was right to be optimistic about the state of the American economy. When he took office, our country was deep in recession and bleeding hundreds of thousands of jobs a month. We’ve now reached a record 70 straight months of private sector job growth and wages have begun to increase over the last year. The deficit has shrunk by nearly $1 trillion, and Medicare’s solvency has been extended by 13 years. Energy usage is down, energy production is up and oil imports are down, adding to America’s energy security.
“Making our communities safe for our children is an issue that should not have partisan lines, it is one that should unite us all. Far too many of the people who lost their lives this year in Maryland did so as a result of gun violence. I do not accept gun violence as normal. None of us ever should. It’s why I am proud to stand with President Obama in the effort to reform our failing gun safety laws. I have been and will continue to support commonsense legislation to further reduce gun violence — and save lives. I’m also working to advance new measures to improve trust and integrity in the law enforcement process and strengthen the Voting Rights Act. And I’m working to ensure that former criminal offenders have the best chance to succeed in society after serving their sentences.
“My guest tonight was Bob Caret, the newly installed Chancellor of the University System of Maryland. I asked him to join me at the Capitol to represent the more than 165,000 undergraduate and graduate students across 12 campuses in Maryland. Congress needs to be doing everything in its power to make higher education more affordable. Education is the great equalizer in American and if we continue to allow students to drown in debt, we risk their futures. We also short-change the futures of our national and regional economies by pricing certain Americans out of the college market.
“When President Obama came to office, we were engaged in two costly wars and our relationships throughout the world were frayed. In his two terms, President Obama restored our international standing, revitalized longstanding partnerships with our allies, and demonstrated what can be positively achieved through American leadership.
“President Obama made the historic climate change agreement achieved in Paris a centerpiece of his foreign policy legacy. Today’s generation is the first to experience the grim effects of climate change. U.S. leadership in the international effort culminating in COP21 was essential in achieving the landmark Paris Agreement on international cooperation. It positioned us to achieve major progress in protecting the environment, improving global adaptability, bolstering our national security against the impacts of climate change, expanding investment and domestic job opportunities in the clean energy economy, and reversing climate change.
“After Alan Gross was freed, President Obama altered the course of history by restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba and charting a new, more collaborative approach with our hemispheric neighbors. Greater cooperation between Cuba and the United States will be possible as Cuba focuses on improving human rights and increasing personal freedoms on the island.
“While the campaign to defeat a determined and well-financed enemy like ISIL will take time, the President’s strategy to degrade and defeat this brutal enemy is strategically sound. U.S. and coalition air strikes have resulted in the successful targeting of senior ISIL leaders, cutting off supply lines, shrinking safe havens and taking back ISIL-held territory. We also are training our partners, including Iraqi and Kurdish forces, and working toward a political solution to end the conflict in Syria that has displaced millions and claimed a quarter-million lives. The anti-ISIL coalition now numbers 65 nations and together we must remain committed to not only the military campaign, but also working together to cut off ISIL financing, stop foreign fighter flows to ISIL’s ranks, undermine ISIL’s online recruitment and propaganda, and respond to the humanitarian crises across the region.
“Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led in drafting and voting on an ISIL-specific Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that was tailored, specific, and limits the activities of U.S. Armed Forces from participating in ground combat operations, except in defined circumstances. Democrats carried out our constitutional responsibility and upheld the moral obligation required of lawmakers whenever we send America’s sons or daughters into harm’s way. We must continue to work toward passing an ISIL-specific AUMF, which ensures oversight by the Congress, and will work with President Obama and our Republican colleagues to achieve that objective.
“In the midst of a global refugee crisis, President Obama has refused to let the United States turn its back on vulnerable communities fleeing the ravages of conflict in the Middle East and beyond. Demonstrating America’s commitment to its core values, President Obama has provided life-saving humanitarian assistance to Syrian families suffering from the horrors of war.
“On foreign policy, President Obama demonstrated tonight that he will remain fully active and engaged this year, as he was for the previous seven years. American leadership will continue to shine forward in a world that needs the light and hope that defines the Obama presidency.”
Senator Cardin is Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He also is a member of the Senate committees on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, Finance and Environment & Public Works.