October 26, 2020

Since Judge Barrett’s nomination was announced, I’ve heard from many constituents who have reached out to share their healthcare stories. Earlier this month, I spoke to Jaqueline Beale, a two-time cancer survivor, Xiomara, a six-year old Marylander born with 10 pre-existing conditions, and Elena, her mother. Jaqueline and Elena made one thing very clear during our conversation: they need the Affordable Care Act. This law, while not perfect, has brought them and many other Marylanders peace of mind knowing they won’t be denied coverage or charged more because of pre-existing conditions. And the ACA’s elimination of annual and lifetime benefit caps keeps Jacqueline and Xiomara from being kicked off their healthcare plans if they incur steep bills.

The stakes have never been higher. With Judge Barrett’s rushed confirmation and Mitch McConnell’s refusal to allow a vote on a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package, President Trump and Senate Republicans have made their message loud and clear: slashing health care is more important than helping Americans make it through the pandemic. We must do everything we can to provide relief to those struggling and stop this illegitimate process.

Fighting for Emergency Relief Now

President Trump and Senate Republicans have failed again and again to provide desperately needed pandemic relief to the American people. Despite contracting COVID-19 himself earlier this month – and receiving exclusive treatment that few in the world could get – the President continues to ignore the severity of this public health emergency and the resulting economic fallout. His gross indifference during this crisis has had dire consequences: over 224,000 Americans have died, over 12.6 million Americans are out of work, small businesses have been left to suffer, millions of Americans are facing eviction, and funding for expanded COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and PPE has dried up. This all comes as almost three quarters of our country faces an upward trend in coronavirus cases and as we marked a new daily COVID-19 case record last week.

Adding insult to injury, Senator McConnell recently chose to put forward the same wholly inadequate relief bill that Americans rejected a month ago. The McConnell bill is worse than weak. Not only is it missing key relief, but it also seeks to cynically exploit this crisis by giving tax cuts to millionaires, shortchanging schools with strong safety measures, and giving virtual immunity to reckless corporations. It’s an insult to families, workers, and businesses who continue to try and weather this storm.

The first HEROES Act passed the House over five months ago but the Senate GOP has refused to act on this robust relief to help Americans who are facing mounting bills. The House since passed a revised version but, that too, has been blocked in the Senate by Mitch McConnell and the GOP. It’s time for Senate Republicans to come back to the negotiating table – in good faith – and work with the rest of Congress to pass real relief now. We have a responsibility to deliver on this for the American people.

Protecting the Affordable Care Act

Republicans have turned their backs on relief negotiations, closing the digital divide, addressing climate change, and reforming our criminal justice and policing systems -- and are instead obsessed with packing the Supreme Court with a right-wing jurist whose record indicates that she would vote to strike down the ACA — stripping health care from millions. The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is the latest step in the GOP’s all-out war on the vital protections provided by the Affordable Care Act. She is Donald Trump’s torpedo aimed at the health care protections established in the ACA. 

Donald Trump promised he would nominate a justice who would strike down the ACA and eliminate a woman’s right to reproductive choice. He has found that person in Amy Coney Barrett. The GOP is eager to jam this nomination through an illegitimate process even though 50 million Americans have already cast their ballots. Four years ago, Senate Republicans wouldn’t consider a nominee 8 months before an election. Now, they scheduled a confirmation vote just 8 days before. This illegitimate process will mark the first time in American history that a Supreme Court nominee has received a vote on the Senate floor this close to a presidential election. President Trump and Senate Republicans are trying to do through the courts what they failed to do through the democratic process. They’ve jettisoned precedent and embarked on this charade of a process all while telling the American people that their voices in this election don’t matter.

At stake right now – both in the battle before the Supreme Court and in President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett – is the direct healthcare coverage of over 20 million Americans and critical protections for 133 million with pre-existing conditions. I spoke out about what we have to lose in front of the Capitol Building this week, and again on the Senate floor in the middle of the night on Sunday – and will continue to fight in defense of Americans with pre-existing health conditions and the millions more who depend on the ACA. We must use every tool at our disposal to protect healthcare.

Responding to Emergencies in a Better Way

With Americans focused on the Supreme Court right now, I have been reflecting on the court building’s inscription that reads, “Equal Justice under the Law.” To attain equal justice we must reform our institutions to eliminate racially discriminatory practices and outcomes. This must be a shared priority for all of us. That’s why I’ve worked with community groups, Baltimore activists, and justice advocates to author new legislation to improve our emergency response capabilities by creating alternatives to police involvement in various situations, especially those encounters where a police response too often leads to unnecessary escalation and unjust killings. Too often police are required to respond to situations that they are neither trained nor equipped to resolve. And too often these situations end in tragedy. This legislation, the Community-Based Response Act, would create community-based systems that dispatch professionals trained in mental and behavioral health or crisis response for those many situations where an alternative to law enforcement is more effective. Building this capacity can both avoid unjust outcomes and provide individuals with the support they need. This legislation is a complement to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and an important part of the urgent effort to make structural changes to address systemic racism and stop criminalizing poverty, substance use disorders, and mental health conditions. 

I was proud to introduce the Community-Based Response Act with Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass – and to have worked with so many Maryland and national civil rights and justice organizations to develop this proposal. The legislation has already picked up the support of a number of organizations, and was recently deemed a “priority” for Congress by the Washington Post Editorial Board. It’s past time for our country to step up and make changes.

This legislation is just one part of a much larger effort to build a more perfect union – an effort that involves every single American. I want to hear from you and hope you will continue to stay engaged.


          Chris Van Hollen

P.S. With Election Day just eight days away, every Marylander should have all the information they need to cast their ballot. In-person early voting will be held from October 26th through November 2nd at designated Maryland early voting centers. For those who are voting-by-mail in this election: mail-in ballots must be postmarked or placed in a designated Maryland Board of Elections drop box by 8pm on November 3, 2020. Don’t forget to make your plan to vote!