Senators See New Momentum for Maryland Priorities with Biden in White House

U.S. Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D) talk outside of a Baltimore polling place on Election Day. Photo by Hannah Gaskill.

Buoyed by Joe Biden’s victory in the race for president, Maryland’s U.S. senators on Monday predicted significant progress on a range of issues important to the state.

Speaking to reporters roughly 48 hours after news organizations called the race for the challenger, Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D) said they were elated by Biden’s win over Donald Trump.

Having spent the last four years battling the White House, Democrats in Congress can now shift gears and look for ways to move the country forward, the senators said.

“You’re going to see immediate changes,” said Van Hollen. “Not just in tone and in bringing the country together, which is so important. But very important actions that will positively impact the people of the state of Maryland.”

Cardin and Van Hollen said they are confident that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris — a former senator and a current one — will bring the Trump era’s divineness and rancor to a close.

“I believe that democracy and decency prevailed,” said Cardin.

The men — who, like the nation as a whole, are forced to wait while the battle for control of the Senate rages on — predicted the Democrats’ victory will pay significant dividends for Maryland.

Federal workforce

Cardin and Van Hollen said Trump was wrong to demonize federal workers, many of whom live in Maryland. They also opposed his recent efforts to expand the number of workers who serve at the pleasure of political appointees.

“Maryland has one of the highest concentrations of federal workers in the nation,” said Cardin. “Clearly we’re going to have a president who will stop beating up on the federal workers and recognize that we have to invest in our federal workforce and respect science.”

“We’ve seen a gross politicization of the federal workforce,” added Van Hollen. “We’ve seen a president who thinks that the Justice Department is his own personal, political plaything. We know that with a President Biden we will see respect for the merit-based federal civil service and that will help restore morale to so many of our agencies.”

The fight against COVID-19

When he was chairman of the National Governors Association, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) complained that the states were left to fend for themselves on testing, PPE and other issues.

Van Hollen predicted that Biden “will put public health over politics” in the fight against the virus. “We can begin to see the federal government playing a lead role in the COVID response, rather than the Trump administration approach, which has been a dog-eat-dog approach — let every state try to deal with this on its own.”

“It’s going to be night and day,” he added. “We’re going to have a president who respects the science and the scientists, and will put in place a plan that help Maryland.”

The environment and the Bay

President Trump attempted to reduce funding for a key Chesapeake Bay cleanup program, over the objections of leaders from both parties.

Biden will make the environment a priority, Van Hollen and Cardin said.

“Important funding measures — things like the air pollution standards, the California car standards — making sure we deal with methane emissions, all things that are all so very important to protect the Bay, the waters of the U.S.,” will get new life, Van Hollen said. “So we can expect to see dramatic change early on.”

Aid to cities

Trump dumped on “Democrat cities” repeatedly during his four years in office. In Biden, Cardin said, America’s urban areas will again have a partner.

“We’ll have a president who wants to invest in our cities, who really likes cities, and will be much more aggressive in helping cities deal with their problems,” he said. “There’s so many different areas where we can look at funding to help Baltimore. There’s got to be a concerted game plan as to what we’re trying to achieve.”

Van Hollen predicted new investment in the Community Development Block Grants program, the Economic Development Administration and minority business programs at the Department of Commerce, among others.

“All of those programs were zeroed-out by the Trump administration,” he said.

New FBI headquarters

When Trump short-circuited the FBI’s years-long effort to move from its crumbling headquarters in Washington, D.C., Democrats accused him of attempting to thwart competition from a potential new Pennsylvania Avenue hotel adjacent to his.

Under Biden, Maryland’s senators predicted, the quest for a more modern and secure FBI headquarters can resume. “Looking at the next Congress, it’s going to be Team Maryland that’s going to be trying to get that back on track,” Cardin said. “We believe Prince George’s County is where that should be.”

A transition in limbo

The lawmakers said they expect the Biden administration to fight to uphold the Affordable Care Act, take steps to support “Dreamers” and people in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status program, promote immigration and gun safety, battle systemic racism and climate change, fund infrastructure resources (particularly for transit projects) and rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization.

On Monday, Cardin and Van Hollen sent a letter urging General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy, who has refused to authorize a Biden presidential transition team, to do so. “We hope you will recognize that every hour between now and Jan. 20, 2021 is critical for the transition team’s preparations for taking on the multiple, pressing challenges our nation faces,” the senators wrote.

Trump has yet to acknowledge Biden’s win and is continuing to contemplate legal challenges in a number of states he lost. Cardin and Van Hollen called his unsubstantiated statements about the election reckless.

“Is it dangerous? The answer is yes,” Cardin said. “What he’s doing is wrong. It’s wrong for our nation. And he should accept the results of this election.”

Van Hollen accused Trump of “spewing out falsehoods.” He said the president’s claims that he won the election are “an outright lie.”

“What President Trump is doing aiding and abetting the enemies of democracy,” he added. “This is very dangerous.”

Like the president, Rep. Andrew P. Harris, the lone Republican in Maryland’s congressional delegation, has made vague claims about voting irregularities. Through a spokesman, he declined an interview request to discuss Biden’s victory.

[email protected]

Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report. 

Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.