September 28, 2020

Our nation has lost a trailblazer for equality, a lover of justice, and a moral giant: the great Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Though small in stature, she had a towering impact on American law. As I said on the Senate floor last week, Ruth Bader Ginsburg transformed America’s legal landscape. Even before being appointed to the Supreme Court, she served as a fierce advocate for equal rights. After joining the high court as the second woman ever to sit on the bench, she often brought others over to her point of view through her intelligence and persuasion. When she could not, she wrote powerful dissents – what she viewed as conversations with the future – that she had faith would be vindicated in the years to come.

Honoring RBG’s Legacy

Following the news of Justice Ginsburg’s passing, we saw an outpouring of support from across the country. Many gathered outside of the Supreme Court to celebrate her life and honor her legacy. For a moment, most of our nation took a pause to mourn together.

But in the United States Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t pause. Just over one hour after Justice Ginsburg’s death was announced, Senator McConnell unveiled his newest political power play. He said that President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ginsburg would get a vote on the floor of the Senate despite the fact that Americans are already voting in the 2020 presidential election.

The Majority Leader announced his commitment to rush the President’s nominee through the confirmation process during an election year even though he took the opposite position in 2016 when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland. McConnell wants to use one set of rules for Democratic presidents and another for Republican presidents. The dishonesty and rank hypocrisy are obscene.

President Trump promised he would nominate a justice who would fall in line with his right-wing agenda, including striking down the Affordable Care Act and eliminating a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. He has found that person in Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett is a far-right ideologue who has been an outspoken critic of the ACA and will vote to do away with many of the rights and freedoms we hold dear. Instead of focusing on addressing the COVID-19 crisis and providing the real relief Americans need, the President and Senate Republicans are hell-bent on confirming a right-wing justice who will dismantle Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy and strip away Americans’ health care.

We must use every tool at our disposal to block this abuse of power. We have done it before and we can do it again. In 2017, the Senate stopped the Republican onslaught to repeal the Affordable Care Act by just one vote. We succeeded because the American people took action. Constituents picked up the phone, got on social media, and even occupied offices to protect the millions of people with pre-existing health conditions across this country. Now we must sound the alarm again.

In her final days, Justice Ginsburg said to her granddaughter: “my most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” We must honor this last request and protect the legacy of a true American hero committed to the guiding principle that all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law.

Providing the Support Americans Need

As Senate Republicans focus on ramming through Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, they are ignoring the real and immediate needs of the country. The American people are still facing the health and economic tolls of the COVID-19 crisis, but Mitch McConnell continues to block a Senate vote on the House-passed HEROES Act, which would provide emergency relief to workers, families, and small businesses struggling to stay afloat during this pandemic. Our country just surpassed the grim toll of 200,000 deaths from this virus, and now more than ever, the American people need real leadership. Instead, we’ve got a President who, for months, has knowingly worked to conceal the severity of this deadly disease and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell who is either unwilling or unable to grasp the urgency of this moment. I will continue to push Senate Republicans to come to the negotiating table to develop a meaningful bipartisan plan, as we were able to do in the spring with the comprehensive CARES Act. 

Since the start of this crisis, I’ve held five telephone town halls to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on Marylanders and their lives. I’ve had experts join me from Johns Hopkins, the University of Maryland, and more, to help inform the public and provide information about the nature of the pandemic and the ongoing relief efforts. Each time we’ve held one of these calls, I’ve promised Marylanders that I will continue fighting for the funding and the resources necessary to truly address the continuing health impact and economic pain of this pandemic. And I won’t stop now. We must provide more relief immediately – and I won’t let up until it gets done. 

Preventing a Shameful Shutdown

There is one piece of good news to share. Despite the President’s previous efforts to instigate shameful shutdowns, the Congress has come together on a bipartisan basis to provide continued government funding through December. This bill – while just a temporary measure – will ensure federal funds will continue to flow to where they’re needed most. I can guarantee you – we’ll also be guarding closely against any attempts later this year to once again force our government into a shutdown.

Exercising our Democratic Rights

In one of her most famous dissenting opinions, Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued against the majority ruling in Shelby County v. Holder – in which a 5-4 decision by the Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act and opened the floodgates to voter suppression. Justice Ginsburg knew the power of our democratic process and spoke out against those who would limit the constitutional right to vote. One of the best ways all Americans can honor her legacy is by casting their ballot in the November 3rd election. 

As John Lewis said in his final words to the nation: “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society.” As Election Day draws near, Marylanders should have all the information they need on the process for casting their ballot. The last day to register to vote in Maryland is October 13th. In-person early voting will be held from October 26th through November 2nd. For those planning to vote-by-mail in this election: your request for an absentee ballot must be received by your local board of elections no later than October 20th. 

Another key way to participate in our democracy is by exercising your right to speak up and speak out. This past week we learned that none of the officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor will face charges for her murder. And many Marylanders rightfully continue to speak out against this injustice and the need for police reforms now. Breonna Taylor should be alive and smiling. We must overhaul the system that led to her unjust death and the absence of accountability for her killing. I will continue pushing Senator McConnell to hold a vote on the House-passed George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. This is just a first step, but it’s past time we get to work on it.

Now more than ever, it’s important for us to connect with one another. I want to hear from you and hope you will continue to stay engaged. We’re all in this fight – so let’s raise our voices, together.


          Chris Van Hollen

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