January 22, 2021

Earlier this week, we took time to reflect on the vision, the mission, and the dream of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His birthday calls on us to reevaluate our progress in fulfilling what he called the “promissory note” of equal rights, equal justice, and equal opportunity in our nation. Dr. King often preached that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” – he also knew that it doesn’t bend on its own. Each of us has a responsibility to participate in our democracy, confront social and racial injustice in all its forms, and bend that arc further and faster. As we turn the page on this dark chapter in American history, our country must move forward armed with the spirit and wisdom of Dr. King’s message.

Celebrating a New Day

Wednesday marked the beginning of a new chapter for our country. We witnessed the historic swearing-in of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as our next President and Vice President of the United States. I was moved to watch Vice President Harris take her oath of office on the bible owned by a son of Baltimore and barrier-breaking Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. And I was inspired by President Biden’s call for unity over division, as he addressed our nation for the first time as Commander-In-Chief.

President Biden and Vice President Harris have pledged to serve each and every American – both those who voted for them and those who didn’t. While our nation now faces some of the most difficult challenges in our history, I am committed to working with the new Administration and my colleagues in Congress to meet these problems head-on. Together, we must work to heal our country, stride boldly into the future, and pursue a more perfect, just, and equal union.

Tackling the Challenges at Hand

Our top priority must be to beat this pandemic and bring relief to those hardest hit by the economic fallout of this crisis. Marylanders are still struggling to make ends meet and are seeking action amid the growing challenges in vaccine rollout and the climbing death toll, which has now surpassed 400,000 in the United States. I’m glad that lawmakers came together in December to pass another bipartisan stimulus bill and was pleased to join the Maryland delegation last week to announce that $400 million will go to expanding our state’s vaccine distribution, contact tracing, and testing capacity. But much work remains to be done, and we must pass more emergency relief now.

Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. I’m glad to see the Biden Administration hit the ground running with their national strategy to fully mobilize the federal government and improve coordination with state and local governments to overcome this pandemic. And I support President Biden’s comprehensive plan, which will help us tackle the coronavirus head-on by boosting our capacity to vaccinate, test for, and treat this disease. From the start, I have urged the Executive Branch to make full use of the Defense Production Act to generate the necessary supplies to fight the pandemic, and I am glad President Biden is moving quickly to do so. Biden’s strategy also includes support for our state and local governments – a priority I’ve repeatedly pressed for – by providing new funds and increasing the federal cost share for FEMA and National Guard assistance to 100 percent. Critically, this plan confronts the child care crisis, prioritizes the safe reopening of schools, and will provide our students and educators with more resources to improve learning at this challenging time. President Biden’s plan also commits to addressing the disparate impact of this pandemic on communities of color and will help tackle these challenges by improving community-based services. Last but not least, this new strategy lays the groundwork to reopen our economy and build back better. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to implement and build on this plan. I also support President Biden’s earlier-released American Rescue Plan, which will increase the $600 payments by an additional $1,400, bringing the total relief payment to $2,000 per eligible person, among other key provisions. It’s time to move full-steam ahead.

The coronavirus has also shone a harsh light on the deeper, structural challenges facing our nation that we must confront at their source. We need to build back better – with an emphasis on “better.” I will fight to build a dynamic economy that works for everyone, root out systemic racism in all its forms, and address the threat of the climate crisis by investing in clean energy and making polluters pay – and I look forward to partnering with the Biden-Harris Administration to meet these pressing challenges with urgency. I’m pleased that the new Administration has already moved forward with executive actions to tackle the pandemic, promote equity, and protect our planet. Congress has a responsibility to pass legislation alongside these vital efforts, and I will work every day in the halls of the Senate to achieve that goal.

Defying Insurrection

In order to march toward the future, we need to resolve the unfinished business of the past. Make no mistake: while serving as Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump threatened the safety and security of our democracy, demonstrated contempt for our Constitution, and violated his oath to protect the American people and defend our republic. The Article of Impeachment passed in a bipartisan vote by the House of Representatives last week makes the case plain: Trump “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” His conduct left the Congress with no choice but to take action, and I stand with the House in its decision to impeach. Now, his case goes to the United States Senate, and I believe lawmakers of both parties have a moral duty to hold Trump accountable. I believe accountability and unity go hand-in-hand. As President Biden said in his inaugural address, “We must reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured… Each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies." Joining forces and working across the aisle to achieve that goal will help our nation come together again. I am convinced that our brightest days are still to come.


            Chris Van Hollen