November 14, 2017

These are turbulent political times and, as discussed below, we are witnessing a frantic push by President Trump and the Republicans in Congress to ram through a tax plan that provides massive giveaways to big corporations and is financed by increasing taxes on millions of middle class taxpayers, bloating our already large national debt. I urge everyone to engage in this debate. At the same time, as mentioned below, I do have some good news to report on other fronts. I believe it is vital for all of us to participate in this democracy of ours. Regardless of your views on any particular issue, thanks for being part of these important discussions.  

Chris Van Hollen

U.S. Senator

Honoring a State and National Hero, Frederick Douglass

I am pleased to begin this letter with something that seems to be in short supply these days: good news! A few weeks ago the Senate passed, and the President signed, the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission Act. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced this resolution in the House, and I was honored to introduce corresponding legislation in the Senate. Frederick Douglass was born in Maryland and played a central role in shaping American history, from his leadership in the abolitionist movement to his fight for women’s right to vote. This new measure will establish a commission to celebrate his life and work as we mark the 200th anniversary of his birth next year. Most importantly, the Commission will determine how the work of Frederick Douglass can guide us on our continuing journey to build a more perfect union. I’m looking forward to working with the Commission to develop a plan for our nation to celebrate and learn from his powerful example.

Tackling the Crisis with North Korea

There is no question that we need a comprehensive strategy to address the North Korean nuclear crisis, which presents a real threat to the United States and our allies in the region. I’ve worked on a bipartisan basis with Senator Pat Toomey to write the Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK) Act, and I am pleased to report that last week the Senate Banking Committee voted unanimously to pass the bill. The BRINK Act imposes mandatory sanctions on the foreign banks and companies that facilitate transactions with North Korea. It sends an unmistakable message: if you do business with North Korea, you will lose access to the U.S. market. We must do everything we can to achieve a peaceful resolution to the North Korean threat, which is why we need to impose maximum economic pressure to get Kim Jong Un to negotiate. The goal is to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. I hope the full Senate will soon take up this legislation and consider it without delay. You can read more about this legislation in my joint op-ed with Senator Toomey here.

A Tax System that Works for Everyone 

After House Republicans rolled out a tax plan that puts millionaires and big multi-national corporations first, I didn’t think it could get worse. Yet Senate Republicans have put together a plan that hits millions of working families in Maryland and across the country even harder. The GOP wants people to think this plan will help folks in the middle and originally claimed that no one in the middle class would see a tax increase. That’s dead wrong, and the people we represent deserve to know the truth. This is a huge giveaway to powerful special interests and the uber rich, financed by raising taxes on millions of middle class Americans and adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt. Unbelievably, Senate Republicans have made things even worse for tens of millions of Americans who currently deduct their state and local taxes—including almost half of all Maryland taxpayers. This Republican plan, crafted in the dark, now has a spotlight on it—and the American people are watching. The consequences are clear: millions of middle class families are going to pay more, while big corporations, hedge funds, and the top 1 percent get a massive tax giveaway that will line their pockets and explode the national debt but won’t grow the economy or create jobs.

Getting Covered Under the Affordable Care Act

With all of the headlines out of Washington, you may have questions about what the latest developments mean for you and your health care coverage. It’s important for Marylanders to understand that the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land—despite efforts by President Trump to sabotage it. We warned the Trump Administration that terminating the cost sharing payments and the other actions they have taken would dramatically increase premiums for many Maryland consumers—and that is exactly what is happening.  I’m working every day to bring down those costs by passing bipartisan legislation that will stabilize the health care markets. At the same time, I want to make sure that people know that the Maryland Exchange still offers many Marylanders options for affordable care. Maryland’s 2018 Open Enrollment period—when anyone can sign up for health care on the exchange—began November 1, 2017, and only lasts until December 15, 2017. If you don’t have health insurance through a job, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or another source that provides qualifying health coverage, the Maryland Health Connection can help you get covered. You can shop for a plan and sign up using a smartphone, tablet, or computer. I encourage everyone, including folks who already have a plan, to log on to the exchange and shop around.