May 8, 2021

It has been just over 100 days since President Joe Biden took office and started working hand-in-hand with us to tackle big issues, starting with the response to the pandemic. During this time, we passed the historic American Rescue Plan to ramp up vaccinations, deliver stimulus payments directly to families, and inject vital resources into our economy and communities across the country. While more work remains, these efforts have been critical to Maryland, bringing much-needed relief to folks across our state. The Congress has passed and President Biden has also signed into law measures to expand supports for our small businesses, prevent Medicare payment cuts to health care providers, and ensure our Veterans get vaccinated. Through these efforts – combined with the resilience, kindness, and determination of Marylanders and people throughout the country – we are well on the road to recovery. In addition to these actions, the Senate recently took a stand against increased violence and hate aimed at members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community by passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which will set up a coordinated response to this insidious discrimination. Additionally, I am pleased that the Senate voted to reverse Trump’s elimination of methane emissions standards that are vital to our efforts to tackle the climate emergency – this move alone will help curb climate change in just a year as we work towards bigger and broader action. We’ve also voted to confirm President Biden’s cabinet at record speed so they can get to work. 

Recently, President Biden spoke to the country before a Joint Session of Congress with confidence and conviction; seriousness and resolve; realism about the challenges we face and optimism about America’s future. As the President explained, our work has only just begun. We cannot simply revert to the pre-pandemic status-quo. We face far too many challenges to be running in place. Through President Biden’s proposed American Families Plan and American Jobs Plan, we have the chance to meet the still untapped potential of America and invest in greater opportunities for all – from our students to our workforce – while tackling challenges like improving our infrastructure and addressing the climate crisis. I was glad to hear President Biden detail these plans in his address to Congress.

In addition to these two major initiatives, there are other challenges we must take on – from protecting the right to vote, to making long-overdue reforms to ensure racial and social justice, to taking meaningful action to stop the gun violence epidemic, to enacting comprehensive immigration reform, and much more.

The best way to tackle these challenges is by working together. President Biden has already extended a hand to all Americans to bridge the divides of this nation, and we must forge ahead. I am committed to working with the President, my colleagues, and the American people to meet the urgent demands of our time.

Fighting for Reform in Law Enforcement

The jury reached a just verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, and we’ve just learned that a federal grand jury has indicted Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers on charges that they violated George Floyd’s civil rights. But nothing will bring back George Floyd or all those who should still be alive. We must move with urgency to make changes to prevent these unjust killings. One important step would be the enactment of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to ensure greater transparency and accountability in policing. We must pass that bill, but it is not enough. We must also make structural reforms in the way we respond to many emergency situations, and I am working with colleagues in Congress to take swift action on this issue.

I was proud to join Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott to host a virtual roundtable with community leaders and advocates to discuss the need for reforming the way we respond to certain kinds of crisis situations. Too often, a police response to a non-violent situation escalates, leaving tragedy in its wake. During the discussion, I highlighted my efforts in Congress, alongside Congresswoman Karen Bass, to improve emergency response capabilities by creating alternatives when a police response is not warranted or appropriate. That’s why Congresswoman Bass and I introduced the Community-Based Response Act last session and are working to reintroduce it in the coming weeks. I was pleased to join Mayor Scott again on Friday – alongside first responders, members of law enforcement, and community partners – at the rollout of the Mayor’s new 911 diversion pilot program which will make Baltimore a national model for the very type of community-based response initiative I’m pursuing with colleagues in Congress. Mayor Scott’s new pilot program will ensure Baltimore residents are connected with the appropriate resources in emergency and non-emergency situations – and will allow our police to focus their efforts where they’re actually needed. This approach is a step forward for true public safety.

Taking Action in the Senate To Meet Challenges at Home and From Abroad

Over the past month, I’ve been working with Senate colleagues to introduce key legislation that will bolster our economy, grow jobs, and advance our country’s interests. First, I teamed up with my colleague Senator Ben Sasse to reintroduce the bipartisan Protecting American Intellectual Property Act – legislation to impose strong economic penalties on firms and individuals involved in stealing American trade secrets, cutting-edge technologies, and intellectual property. Many foreign companies, and especially those based in China, are working overtime, often in coordination with their governments, to steal U.S. technology – damaging our economy, harming U.S. job creation, and threatening our national security in the process. This bill draws a line in the sand – outlining clear repercussions these bad actors will face if they steal vital, cutting-edge American technology.

I was also proud to join Senator Tom Carper and colleagues to introduce legislation that would reconnect and revitalize areas that were harmed by the construction of portions of the Interstate Highway System, including in Maryland. For years, Baltimore’s Highway to Nowhere has scarred the city, dividing Black neighborhoods and serving as a stark example of the long history of inequity in infrastructure. We must end this division by creating infrastructure that unites and connects communities. That’s why I worked to author a pilot program to help tackle this issue and why I’m glad to join Senator Carper in introducing this legislation to broaden our investments so our cities can transform divisive and harmful projects into ones that promote economic opportunity. From Baltimore to cities across America, this is a key infrastructure priority, and we’ll be working to get it done.

Last but not least, I was pleased to reintroduce legislation to eliminate long-term unemployment. Right now our country is facing a crisis that has stranded over 4 million Americans who have actively searched for a job for over six months without success. Millions more have given up entirely and left the workforce. In my view, every American who wants to work hard to support themselves and their family should have the opportunity to do so. This bicameral legislation, the Long-Term Unemployment Elimination Act, would create a subsidized jobs program to ensure that everyone has the chance to get into the workforce. Subsidized jobs programs are a proven way to tackle this crisis, providing opportunities to Americans looking for employment while lifting up our communities and local economies. I was glad to see President Biden include this idea broadly in his American Jobs Plan and will be working to get this vital provision through Congress.

Hearing From You

Throughout the month, I’ve been meeting virtually with Marylanders and community leaders from across our state to discuss the progress we’ve already made this year as well as the challenges ahead. On April 26th, I hosted a Telephone Town Hall to provide an update on the American Rescue Plan and answer questions from folks across Maryland. On the call, I shared the latest in our ongoing battle against COVID-19 and discussed some of the initiatives I’m pursuing in Congress to advance Maryland's priorities, including President Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan, his American Families Plan, and legislation to tackle climate change, gun safety, school funding, criminal justice reform, and voting rights.

I also had the opportunity to join Vice President Kamala Harris, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and state and local leaders for a visit to the M&T Bank Stadium Mass Vaccination Site in Baltimore. We met with frontline workers and witnessed the tremendous efforts there to help get Marylanders vaccinated. We also discussed our work to secure vital funding through the American Rescue Plan to vaccinate Marylanders and bring economic support directly to workers and families across our state.

It was a good opportunity not only to review the progress we’ve made, but, more importantly, to chart the way ahead. That mission is only possible thanks to your input and partnership. I hope you will continue to stay engaged.





               Chris Van Hollen