August 14, 2020

American workers and families are hurting, our small businesses are desperately trying to stay afloat, and communities across the country are struggling. Three months ago, the House of Representatives passed another round of comprehensive emergency legislation, called the Heroes Act, to address both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. Despite our repeated efforts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to even allow a vote on that bill. Instead, he has sent Senators back to their home states and told them to be on standby for a possible vote on a deal. That is irresponsible. As I said on the Senate Floor this week, the coronavirus pandemic is not taking a day off and neither should the Senate.

That is not the kind of leadership our country needs during a crisis that has caused recession-era unemployment levels. In fact, McConnell has said that many Republican Senators think we have already passed enough relief. That’s also why the Trump Administration walked away from the negotiating table, because they knew that if they reached a deal, the majority of Republicans in the Senate would likely oppose it. This is not the way to conduct the Senate and it puts Americans and our economy dangerously at risk.

Instead of working with Democrats and Republicans alike to reach a bipartisan deal, the President opted for show over substance. He released a series of inadequate and unworkable executive actions that don’t seriously address the health and economic crises facing our country. For example, what he heralded as an “eviction moratorium” is nothing more than a directive to federal agencies to “consider” the issue. His executive gimmicks don’t include critical provisions from the House-passed Heroes Act – including those to help schools reopen safely, expand real-time testing, support struggling child care providers, provide food and rental assistance for those who are struggling, send critical resources to the Postal Service, support state and local governments whose needs have only risen dramatically, and so much more. 

We all know the virus doesn't care if you live in a red state or blue state. This is a red, white, and blue moment. We must treat it as a national effort, which means the White House and Republican Leader McConnell need to come to the table and negotiate in good faith. We need to work together to do something meaningful. The virus isn't taking a vacation; the economic recession isn't taking any time off. Neither should we. We must hammer out a deal that helps the American people and our economy weather this storm.

Protecting Our Mail

I have heard from many of you who are experiencing mail delays – including for essential mail such as medication and retirement checks. I want to be clear: the current slowdown in mail delivery is unacceptable and is imposing unnecessary hardship on Marylanders and communities nationwide. These problems are driven by the pandemic and recent changes implemented by the new Postmaster General – and Trump campaign contributor and ally – Louis DeJoy, and they must not be allowed to continue.

That’s why I’ve called for an immediate reversal of these changes and am working in the Senate to open an investigation, provide emergency funds to the Postal Service, and fight against any efforts to privatize it. My office has also reached out to our local post offices to investigate and get details on their operations. As Americans continue to rely on USPS, and especially since millions plan to exercise their right to vote by mail in November, we cannot let these problems persist.

Americans deserve to know that when they post their ballot or pay a bill by mail, it will be delivered on time. They should have peace of mind knowing their fundamental right to have their voice heard in our government has been fulfilled. While we push for these changes at the Postal Service, it’s critical that every Marylander knows how to safely cast their ballot this fall – including by early voting, which starts on October 26.

Getting Into Good Trouble

Last week, we marked the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) being signed into law. This historic piece of legislation passed nearly five months after civil rights hero and my friend John Lewis was beaten bloody in Selma marching for the right to vote. He was always getting into “good trouble” because he believed our country could create a more perfect union. John was willing to put his life on the line to ensure that every American could cast a ballot, participate in our democracy and change our country for the better. I will never forget traveling with John on three civil rights pilgrimages to Selma, Alabama, each time with one of my children. We marched with him, arm in arm, across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge (which I hope will be renamed in honor of John Lewis).

But the landmark Voting Rights Act came under attack seven years ago with the Shelby County v. Holder decision, when the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, gutted a key provision and opened the flood gates for increased voter suppression – especially against communities of color. Now, we have reintroduced and renamed the bill to restore the VRA to its full promise – the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The House passed it almost immediately. It’s time for Senate Republicans to turn their oral tributes to John into action in the Senate chamber. He showed us all the power of collective action and true courage to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice – and in order to fully honor his legacy, we must take action to protect the fundamental right to vote.

Shortly before he passed, John Lewis penned a letter to all Americans marching in the streets across the country in the name of equality and justice, encouraging us all to keep up the fight. The letter reads, “While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society.” John never backed down from getting into “good trouble” to stand up for what is right.

I implore my colleagues on the other side of the aisle in the Senate to listen to John’s words – and to finally act. It’s long past time for the Senate to also stand up for what is right – to rise to the moment, answer the call of the people, and use its power to make a difference in our society. We have much more work ahead of us to address the systemic racism and inequality in many parts of our society – and while voting rights is a key part of that, we must do much more. Among the many additional measures we must enact is the Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House more than a month ago. It will help hold police accountable to the communities they serve, ban abusive practices, ensure transparency and reporting of misconduct, and end virtual immunity from lawsuits. McConnell must allow a vote on it immediately – ensuring liberty and justice for all cannot wait and should not be a partisan issue.

Keep Speaking Up

Americans have a right to free speech. And exercising that right is a core principle of our democracy. I hope all of you will continue to stay engaged and make “good trouble.” I hope you will continue to seek out ways to let your voices be heard – whether that’s by sharing your thoughts with your Congressional representatives or ensuring you know how to participate in our elections this fall. Together, we must continue striving to build a more perfect union.


             Chris Van Hollen

P.S. Don’t forget to fill out the 2020 Census!