In The News
Vice President Kamala Harris touted the Biden administration’s successes on her 100th day in office at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium Thursday afternoon. “I would say today is a good day, Baltimore,” the Democrat said, during remarks that echoed President Biden’s Wednesday night speech before Congress. Governor Larry Hogan and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott greeted the vice president and Dr. Anthony Fauci when they arrived at the stadium, where they were given a tour of the state mass vaccination site before her address. Hogan said at a news conference Wednesday that the stadium was picked for Harris’ visit because “it’s a perfect example of a very well-run vaccination center....” Rep. John Sarbanes, and Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, all Democrats, spoke before Harris’ speech. Melissa Wesby, a Baltimorean who works as a pulmonary nurse at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, introduced the Vice President.”
In a speech in Baltimore Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris marked the 100th day of the Biden administration with a call for Americans to aspire to “reach high,” highlighting the president’s proposed plans to create jobs and aid families as important steps toward a successful future for the country.... After she toured Baltimore’s mass vaccination site earlier in the day, she also called on people to get their shot…. On the tour, the vice president was joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott. Other Democratic lawmakers from the state, Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. John Sarbanes, also spoke Thursday afternoon before the vice president.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass a new law, the For the People Act, that secures our elections, protects our freedom to vote, gets big money and special interests out of politics, and cleans up government. The For the People Act, introduced as H.R. 1 and S. 1 to indicate its high priority, is the most transformative pro-democracy bill introduced in Congress since the Watergate era. It is the bold action that Americans want and deserve, and Congressman John Sarbanes has been championing this comprehensive effort through Congress. Throughout his public service, Rep. Sarbanes has been a leader to help ensure that other states have many of the same reforms that Maryland has been passing. As the chair of the House Democracy Reform Task Force, Congressman Sarbanes has assembled the For the People Act by talking with voters about how government can work better for them, spending hundreds of hours listening to experts and gathering the best ideas from colleagues, and examining best practices from states and localities. Provisions in H.R. 1 are tried and true reforms that have passed in many red, purple, and blue states.... With the support of Congressman Sarbanes and Common Cause Maryland, localities throughout Maryland have passed citizen-funded elections systems to amplify the voices of everyday Marylanders, including Baltimore City, and Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Howard counties. And now the General Assembly has passed the Maryland Fair Elections Act to strengthen the gubernatorial Fair Campaign Financing Fund, which Gov. Larry Hogan used in his first election, and we urge him to sign this bill into law. These citizen-funded election programs, a key part of the For the People Act that Congressman Sarbanes has championed, incentivize small donors and help get big money out of politics. Small donor systems ensure candidates and our elected representatives prioritize the needs of everyday voters over those of big donors. Instead of candidates relying on wealthy donors, lobbyists and special interests to fund their campaigns, small donors who contribute $10, $20 or $50 will have their donations amplified by matching funds and can be competitive with the big donors. As a result, nurses, firefighters and teachers can become the “big donors” and have their voices amplified.... In addition to Congressman Sarbanes championing this legislation, we also appreciate the continued leadership on the For the People Act from Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Rep. Jamie Raskin and the entire Maryland congressional delegation, all of which supports the bill, except Rep. Andy Harris. Since entering Congress, Rep. Sarbanes has recognized the dangerous role of big money in politics and has worked tirelessly to change the status quo to put “we the people” in charge of government. On behalf of our 1.5 million members, we will continue to work “in common cause” with Congressman Sarbanes to get the For the People Act through the Senate and to President Biden’s desk so all Americans, regardless of race, ZIP code or the size of our wallets, can have our voices heard.
The Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a pair of cases that members of Congress say could influence political discourse in the United States, warning that the justices either could stymie debates on controversial policies or bolster the influence of big money anonymous donors.... But the cases play out against the backdrop of a long and contentious debate about the influence of money in politics and shaping public discourse, so it has drawn the attention of lawmakers who have been the most outspoken on the issue.... But a group of Democratic senators told the justices in a brief that the challenges to the California law are “the latest move in a steady and methodical campaign pursued by powerful interests to both cement and obscure their influence over the public sphere” since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.... In a separate brief, Maryland Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes, who sponsored legislation that includes provisions to strengthen requirements to disclose campaign-related expenditures and donors, noted that some groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had brought up election-related disclosure in these cases about a California state law. Sarbanes urged the justices “to take care to cast no doubt” on their previous rulings that upheld disclosure requirements related to elections.
In his first news conference since being elected, President Joe Biden had strong words for the voter-suppression bills sweeping through state legislatures, calling them “sick” and “pernicious.” He was right, but he also knows strong words won’t be enough. So the White House is supporting federal legislation to stem this tide: the For the People Act, which has passed the House — led by Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes — but is unfortunately becoming a political football in the Senate. Critics are seemingly so afraid of this bill that their allegations against it have run off the rails into outlandish territory: An invitation to rampant voter fraud! People voting from prison! Sixteen-year-olds casting ballots! Taxpayers forced to fund political candidates they despise! None of this true, so the real question is: What are the critics so afraid of and why? It must be the specter of more women, more shift workers, more Black and brown Americans, more young people and more people with disabilities voting and running for office. Because that is exactly what the act will do. And it will accomplish this by doing two things — reducing the overwhelming influence of big money and wealthy corporations on our politics, and combating voter suppression while expanding access to the ballot. These things are intimately connected. Deep-pocketed corporate interests have always been invested in denying the ballot to working people, people of color and people who are likely to favor reasonable business regulations but unlikely to favor anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-consumer corporate agendas. Big corporations and the wealthy have a similar interest in keeping such people from running for office, and in our post-Citizens United world, their control of the arena of campaign finance has been strengthened. According to an analysis done by the Brennan Center, in 2016 just 400 political donors gave a combined $1.5 billion — more than five million small donors combined. The For the People Act would shake up that status quo. It would create a small-donor matching system for campaigns, using money paid in fines by corporations that have broken the law — not taxpayer money, as critics claim. This makes small donors more influential, and it makes non-rich candidates more viable. Right now, if you’re not a billionaire or someone who wants to do the bidding of billionaires and big corporations, your options for financing a competitive campaign are limited; this bill would change that. It would also take direct aim at the voter suppression the president rightly calls “sick,” tactics including discriminatory voter ID laws, drastic voter roll purges, and harsh reductions in early and absentee voting. These restrictions, the worst since the Jim Crow era, all hit working people and people of color especially hard. Instead of voter suppression, under this new act we would have voter support: automatic voter registration, online registration, restoration of voting rights to returning citizens, and protection for early and absentee voting. There would be a pilot program allowing people with disabilities to register and vote from home. The timing couldn’t be more critical: the Brennan Center has tracked more than 250 voter-suppression bills in more than 40 state legislatures this season alone. And that’s why it was also encouraging to hear the president say in his news conference that he not only supports the For the People Act, he supports reforming the legislative filibuster — and is willing to “go beyond” mere reform if the filibuster becomes a complete barrier to important bills like this one. In recent weeks it has become painfully obvious that the For the People Act, and much of the rest of the Biden legislative agenda, could be DOA in the Senate unless the now-antiquated filibuster goes the way of spittoons in the chamber. Holdouts against this position are becoming fewer and fewer. This is truly a historic moment in our country’s history, with a historic set of challenges. Passing the For the People Act is a step that will give more Americans more opportunity to participate in our democracy. It will lead to a domino effect with rapid progress on the issues we care about most, like climate change, expanding affordable health care, protecting workers’ rights and more. It’s time to end the fearmongering and misinformation about this bill. It’s time for the Senate to pass the For the People Act.
U.S. Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-Md.) touted his sweeping federal election overhaul to state legislators from Howard County in a Wednesday morning meeting, saying the proposed reforms are the “most requested anti-corruption legislation” ever passed by the House of Representatives. Sarbanes is the primary architect of the For the People Act, an omnibus proposal that would cut back on gerrymandering, expand absentee ballot access and modernize voter registration. Those are just a few of the slew of election reform efforts included in the legislation, which is currently in the Senate after passing the House in early March. Sarbanes told members of the Maryland General Assembly’s Howard County delegation Wednesday that, coupled with the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the For the People Act represents “the most consequential set of voting rights and civil rights reforms that we’ve seen in a generation....” Sarbanes’ election reforms would almost certainly lead to a map change in his own 3rd District, which snakes haphazardly from Annapolis to Olney and then north of Baltimore. His district has been described in The Washington Post as possibly “the nation’s most bizarrely gerrymandered district” and has been likened to a praying mantis in its shape.... Legislators also urged Sarbanes to continue his public support for the state’s Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community amid a spike in anti-Asian violence across the country. Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard) noted that Howard County has the highest proportion of Asian Americans as a percentage of its population in the state. “Your constituents and my constituents include many in the Asian American Pacific Islander community,” Sarbanes said in his opening remarks to lawmakers. “And I know members of that community have been shaken to the core in recent weeks by the shootings in Atlanta, but also by the unveiling of what is this level of sort of bigotry that’s been targeting members of that community for some time now, and it’s incumbent on all of us to again have a collective and sustained response to that.”
On Tuesday, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen along side Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes and Kweisi Mfume came together to announce $15.45 million in emergency federal funding to reimburse the delivery of essential goods and shelter to the city of Baltimore's most vulnerable residents. The award serves as a total federal cost share reimbursement for services that Baltimore city provided to residents earlier in the pandemic. This federal funding will help the City of Baltimore continue to manage the pandemic-driven spike in food insecurity and homelessness – especially in low-income and minority communities, which have been disproportionately impacted by the virus,” the lawmakers said. “Team Maryland is committed to supporting local producers, distributors and community organizations that provide critical housing and nutrition assistance to keep residents safe and healthy as we continue to confront the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and is authorized under Section 403 of the Robert T. Stafford Act. The federal funds will go towards the following programs in the city: $11,296,701.04 to the Lord Baltimore Isolation and Quarantining Temporary Lodging, $2,321,215 to Saval Foodservice, a company that was a participant in the Mixed Box Feeding Program, sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture and $1,827,306.49 to Baltimore's Eating Together Feeding Program. The group of Maryland lawmakers announced more than $18 million to deliver essential goods, services and resources to seniors across the city amid the COVID-19 public health emergency.
On the occasion of the bicentennial of the Greek War of Independence, the White House organized an online get-together with President Joe Biden and prominent members of the Greek-American Community Thursday.... Biden referred to Thursday’s phone call with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, saying that the latter will pay a visit to Washington when pandemic conditions allow. The US President expressed his desire for closer US-Greek relations, promising that, under his administration, the two countries will be as close as possible. A closer partnership was the theme of his phone call with Mitsotakis, he said. He also said that he has not given up yet on the Cyprus issue, adding that it was his Senate colleague and close friend Paul Sarbanes who had involved him in that. According to the ANA-MPA correspondent, among the participants were Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, Representatives Dina Titus, John Sarbanes and Gus Bilirakis, lobbyist Mike Manatos and Fr. Alexandros Karloutsos.