Benjamin Louis Cardin (born October 5, 1943) is an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he represented Maryland's 3rd congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 2007 and as U.S. Senator from Maryland since 2007.
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, he graduated from City College High School before earning a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law. Cardin was admitted to the Maryland Bar that same year, and joined the private practice of Rosen and Esterson until 1978. While still in law school, Cardin was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in November 1966, succeeding his uncle. He was chairman of the Ways & Means Committee from 1974 to 1979, then served as the 103rd Speaker of the House until he left office. At age 35, he was the youngest Speaker in Maryland history at the time. As Speaker, he was involved with reform efforts involving Maryland's property tax system, school financing formula, and ethical standards for elected officials.
In 1986, with Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski mounting what would be a successful bid for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by retiring Senator Charles Mathias, Cardin ran for Mikulski's seat representing the 3rd congressional district, easily winning in the heavily Democratic district. Cardin was reelected nine times, rarely facing serious opposition and even running unopposed in 1992. In the House, Cardin was involved with fiscal issues, pension reform, and health care. Cardin also advocated, via proposed legislation, welfare reform. On April 26, 2005, Cardin announced that he would seek the U.S. Senate seat of long-standing senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), following the announcement by Sarbanes that he would not be running for re-election in 2006. After narrowly winning the Democratic primary, Cardin defeated Republican Michael Steele by a ten-point margin. He was easily re-elected in 2012 and 2018.
Cardin currently serves as Chair of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee and is a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations, Finance, and Environment & Public Works committees. He has introduced legislation to restore the health of America's great water bodies and is the leading proponent of investing in improvements to America's aging water infrastructure system while preparing it for the impacts of climate change. Cardin believes access to quality, affordable health care should be a right and not a privilege, especially during a public health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. He continues to be a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act and has advocated for the addition of a public option for coverage. He has a deep interest in foreign affairs and has worked across party lines to further our national security and protect universal human rights. He has fought to ensure that anti-corruption, transparency and respect for human rights are integrated our foreign policy.