November 20, 2020

On January 20th, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the next President and Vice President of the United States. But even though the American people have spoken at the ballot box in this election, President Trump refuses to concede. And instead of standing up to the President’s blatant disregard for the peaceful transfer of power, congressional Republicans are aiding and abetting his assault on our democratic institutions. This dangerous, false narrative is undermining public confidence in our democracy and distracting from the urgent work of passing another round of much-needed pandemic emergency relief as COVID-19 cases surge in Maryland and around the country.

Defending the Peaceful Transfer of Power

Make no mistake: just because Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won this election doesn’t mean that what Donald Trump and so many Republican Senators are doing now is harmless. I recently spoke on the Senate floor about how their actions are downright dangerous to our national security interests and the health of our democracy.

In the death throes of his Administration, President Trump is replacing qualified individuals in charge of keeping our country safe with political lackeys whose only credentials are unwavering loyalty to him. The White House is also prohibiting the government from providing daily intelligence briefings to the President-elect. Access to these briefings is critical during a Presidential transition: it ensures that the Biden Administration can hit the ground running on day one and keeps our country safe from foreign adversaries seeking to exploit a moment of potential vulnerability in the United States. In fact, the 9/11 Commission Report advised that Presidential transitions should move as quickly as possible to expedite the identification, recruitment, clearance, and confirmation of key national security appointees.

In addition to the threats we face from abroad, the Trump Administration’s refusal to coordinate with the Biden transition threatens our nation’s efforts against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The President’s actions have blocked the Biden team from accessing official government data on our nation’s pandemic response and consulting with federal experts. This has undermined the President-elect’s ability to move forward on plans for a coordinated COVID-19 response, including efforts to address mask shortages and distribute a vaccine. As our nation faces an increasing number of cases by the day, we cannot afford to miss a beat in our response. From working to increase surge capacity across the country to approving and distributing a vaccine, we have no time to waste. The immediate consequences of these delays could not be more grave.

In the long term, the President’s behavior – and the silence or active complicity of so many Republican Senators – is undermining the confidence of the American people in the outcome of this election. Polling shows that 70 percent of Republicans believe this election was neither free nor fair. And this Administration’s efforts to sow public distrust in this process plays directly into the hands of authoritarian leaders who want nothing more than to see democracy fail. Trump’s actions are threatening our national security, hurting our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, eroding confidence in our elections, and impeding Joe Biden’s ability to be a President for every American. Each hour that this lie persists is another hour that the health of our democracy is at risk.

Demanding Action on COVID Relief

In the United States Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to block a Senate vote on a meaningful pandemic relief bill. After ignoring the House-passed HEROES Act for six months, McConnell said that a relief package would be his top priority after the election. Yet he seems focused exclusively on confirming more right-wing judges and has only put forth a shell of an emergency response bill – something that doesn’t meet the magnitude of our health and economic needs. Even worse, his proposal seeks to cynically exploit this national emergency by including tax breaks for the wealthy and a formula that shortchanges school systems that rely on distance learning. 

Coronavirus cases are surging across the country. We are surpassing records for new daily cases, and over 250,000 Americans have lost their lives to this deadly disease. Public health officials warn that we are entering the pandemic’s worst phase yet. Our communities, small businesses, and schools are struggling and need help now. Republicans have a choice to make: spend the next few months doing nothing while thousands of Americans struggle to get by and our economy continues to nosedive – or come back to the negotiating table and pass meaningful emergency relief. We need to find reasonable common ground. I won’t let up in this fight until we provide real support to the American people.

Funding Our Government and Maryland Priorities

Despite these troubling developments on COVID relief, I am glad to share some good news for our state. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I prioritize fighting for critical resources for Maryland initiatives that require federal funds. This year I worked to secure a number of key provisions for Marylanders across our state within the proposed Appropriations bill texts released by the Committee’s Republican leadership. This includes funds to support our schools, provide access to affordable health care, expand key federal facilities and installations in Maryland, modernize our infrastructure and transportation networks, and boost research and preservation efforts for the Chesapeake Bay. To keep Maryland moving forward, we must invest federal resources in our state and our communities. You can read more about these funds here.

While I’m pleased we were successful in including these Maryland priorities, these bills are far from perfect. I am deeply disappointed that the Republican Committee Leadership bypassed Committee mark-ups and instead opted for a partisan process to block amendments that I and others have proposed to address the pandemic response and systemic racism in our institutions.

This is simply the first step proposed by Senate Republicans, and as we seek to pass final legislation, I will fight to remove the partisan poison pills and include funding for additional critical priorities in our state and country. Congress has a responsibility to fund our government, and I will be working to move these provisions forward while ensuring we avoid another Trump-led shameful government shutdown. 

Giving Thanks

In the fall of 1863, during the middle of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared that the last Thursday of November would be a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” This was the first time in American history that Thanksgiving was named a national holiday by a sitting President. Amid the hardship of a bloody conflict, Lincoln issued this proclamation that still rings true today. We are an unceasingly optimistic nation – and even in our darkest hours, we can always find ways to give thanks.

While this Thanksgiving will look a little different than many others, there is still so much to be grateful for: from family and friends to all of those who have protected our democracy, fought for equality, and spoken truth to power. Despite these challenging times, I hope you’re able to find joy in this time of thanksgiving, and I wish all Marylanders a happy and safe holiday.


          Chris Van Hollen

P.S. It is now Open Season for Maryland Health Connection and the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) Program. Make sure you have all the information you need to get covered!