In The News
A decade after the Supreme Court's landmark Citizens United decision, which ushered in the era of super PACs and unlimited donations, the fight over the contentious ruling shows no signs of easing…. End Citizens United has been advocating for H.R. 1, the Democrats' wide-ranging bill that passed the House in March but was not taken up by the GOP Senate. The bill includes proposals for electoral reforms and more campaign finance transparency…. Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), chairman of the Democracy Reform Task Force that is behind H.R. 1, called 10 years of Citizens United a “very sober” anniversary at a press conference last Tuesday. “It’s where this arrogance began on the part of Super PACs and the super wealthy armed with this idea somehow that corporations are people, money is speech. They decided that they were going to take over American politics,” he said. Sarbanes also pointed to the many Democratic candidates who have had to drop out of the 2020 race, while billionaire candidates have stayed in. If H.R. 1 passed, Sarbanes said, that would change. “The Michael Bloombergs, anybody who’s running whose got a lot of money, it comes out in the wash. It will be balanced,” he said.
Ten years ago, the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission unleashed a torrent of outside spending by corporations and wealthy donors who seized the opportunity to buy unlimited influence in Washington. The decision exponentially increased the amount of money in our politics and emboldened foreign actors to corrupt our elections. Our democracy has paid a heavy price…. But in Congress, Democrats are taking direct aim at Citizens United and fighting back against the scourge of big money in our politics. Early last year, we introduced the For the People Act – a historic package of reforms to clean up corruption in Washington, expose secret foreign money in our politics, crack down on lobbyists, strengthen election security, protect the right to vote and return power back to the American people with clean, citizen-owned elections. Backed by every Democrat in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate, the For the People Act – H.R. 1 – passed the House in March, but it has gathered dust on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's desk in the Senate.
A bipartisan trio of Reps. Doris Matsui, John Sarbanes and Jeff Fortenberry is introducing legislation today creating an Energy Department grant program to enable residential consumers to get free or discounted tree-planting services. "By creating a competitive tree-planting grant program, we can empower communities to improve green space, reduce consumer costs, and help fight climate change — a win-win-win," Matsui said in a statement. Read the fact sheet and bill text.
Government funding for the protection of synagogues, mosques and churches has been on the rise in Maryland and across the United States in the past half-decade and more, but legislators and faith leaders are calling for a vast increase in such funding as threats against religious institutions persist. Maryland’s U.S. senators, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, and Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders were among those who gathered Monday at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in Pikesville to back a proposal calling for a quadrupling of funding provided by the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program, to $360 million in fiscal year 2021.
On Monday at 10:30 am, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman John Sarbanes will be joined by leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities in Baltimore to stand united against religious intolerance, hate, and antisemitism. The Senators will announce their support for a new proposal to quadruple funding for the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides security assistance to religious and community nonprofit institutions that are at high risk of terrorist attack.
Six U.S. senators and more than a dozen members of Congress are demanding the Environmental Protection Agency take “immediate steps” to show the agency will hold states accountable to a Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan, and gave it two weeks to answer questions about whether the Trump administration is “backing away from its statutory obligations” to see that the bay’s health is restored.... In a letter being sent to EPA on Friday, provided to The Baltimore Sun, the Democrats demanded answers by Jan. 24 to a set of questions with the same theme: Will the Trump administration force states in the bay’s watershed to meet pollution reduction targets they agreed to in a 2010 pact? ... Their fears stem from recent comments by an EPA official that the cleanup blueprint is “aspirational” and not “enforceable,” which have stirred confusion and fear among bay advocates. They also prompted Gov. Larry Hogan this week to pursue a lawsuit against the EPA and Pennsylvania, which, of all the six states in the bay watershed plus the District of Columbia, is farthest from meeting its pollution reduction goals.... The lawmakers who signed the letter include all of Maryland’s delegation to Washington except for Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican: Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Reps. John Sarbanes, Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, Anthony Brown, David Trone and Jamie Raskin. Others who signed include all four senators from Virginia and Delaware and eight Congress members representing those states and the District of Columbia.
Howard County hosted a forum Monday afternoon to get community input on the rising cost of prescription drugs. It was the first in a series of listening forums planned across Maryland to bring personal stories to the state Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The Prescription Drug Affordability Board Act was signed into law last May, creating a five-person board to look into what can be done at the local and state level to reduce drug costs.... U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat who was also in attendance Monday, said he hoped government would turn the stories from the forum into advocacy and called for a bipartisan response to the issue. “People feel so powerless in the face of big industries out there, particularly the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.
Maryland House members were among those who voted along party lines, issuing strong statements in favor of the House’s decision to impeach. “President Trump took direct aim at the heart of our democracy,” reads a statement from John Sarbanes of Maryland’s 3rd District. “I believe that Americans should decide our elections, not a foreign country. As long as the President continues to invite foreign inference into our democracy, the integrity of the 2020 election remains at risk. We had no choice but to impeach.”
Maryland lawmakers in Washington described as “sobering” a historic day that began with a House clerk solemnly reading a resolution urging that “Donald John Trump, president of the United States” be impeached. It ended with all six Democratic members of the state’s U.S. House delegation voting to approve two articles of impeachment — both were approved Wednesday night — after an impassioned debate on the floor. The Maryland delegation’s lone Republican, Rep. Andy Harris, opposed impeachment, calling the proceedings a partisan “sham.” “This does anchor you back to your oath of office in some ways more palpably than maybe anything else you might do here,” U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a Baltimore County Democrat, said in an interview. “You really feel it in a proceeding like this. It’s very sobering.”