WASHINGTON – Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish home in Baltimore that preached charitable giving helped shape Sen. Ben Cardin’s, D-Md., views as a legislator.
The Maryland senator and four other senators participated in a media roundtable on faith Thursday at the Russell Senate Office Building. The senators discussed their values and how they influenced their views on issues such as health care, Social Security and the environment.
“We have a responsibility to leave the world better than we found it,” Cardin said. This responsibility includes providing assistance to those who are less fortunate.
“I believe it’s a free market system, but government has a responsibility to protect the vulnerable,” Cardin said.
Cardin told a group of 12 reporters that he ran for Congress as a “passionate” defender of the First Amendment and on the belief in “the importance of allowing our Constitution to protect us.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, called the senators together for the conversation. The committee aims to spread word about the party’s platform on various issues.
The purpose of the meeting was for the senators to establish a dialogue about values while drawing sharp distinctions between themselves and the Republican Party, Stabenow said.
“I think where we are today is a failed Republican strategy,” Stabenow said. In the wake of Wall Street’s troubles, with homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure, Stabenow blamed the GOP for choosing “to step back and let greed reign.”
Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., said the way to revive our economy is to “keep folks in their homes” and by “investing in the skills of our workers.”
The Republicans “do not meet the moral test” in providing health insurance for children, said Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo. Before beginning a career in public office, Salazar said he was raised a Catholic and studied to become a priest.
Some of the examples of faith in action among Democrats include food and nutrition amendments to the farm bill, promoting a “fair tax policy,” and protecting Social Security, Stabenow said. She said she grew up in a United Methodist Church, where the motto was “Faith Without Borders.”
Providing equal pay for women and raising the minimum wage also allows citizens “to have time to practice their faith,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.
Lincoln credits her family for shaping her opinions on faith. She was raised in a small community in the Mississippi Delta in Arkansas.
Being a person of faith means “showing respect for the faith that others have,” said Casey. The Pennsylvania lawmaker said the Democratic Party has gotten much better at communicating its beliefs on religion and public policy.
“I think unfortunately as a national party,” Casey said, “we weren’t doing that very well for a long, long time.”