October 27, 2021

We are working around the clock to try to finalize and pass the key parts of President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda – including provisions from his American Jobs Plan and his American Families Plan. I was pleased to join the President last week for his CNN Town Hall in Baltimore to discuss the plan, and we are continuing to pursue a two-track process to get both the Senate-passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and our Build Back Better Budget reconciliation package to the President’s desk – I am committed to getting that done.

Together, these two key pieces of legislation make transformational investments in the success of American families, workers, and communities. This package of bills will help modernize Maryland’s roads, bridges, transit systems, and ports; build out broadband across our state; deliver tax cuts for middle-class families with children; provide for universal early education and affordable child care; fight the climate crisis with a transition to a clean energy economy; expand access to affordable in-home care for seniors and disabled individuals; and so much more. And we will pay for these vital initiatives with long-overdue reforms to our tax system to prevent large corporations from hiding profits overseas and ensure that the wealthiest of the wealthy do more to invest in the success of all.

While it is no secret that we have had vigorous debates within our Senate Democratic Caucus over the size and scope of these bills, I am fully committed to getting both pieces of legislation across the finish line. We must stay the course and push forward in service of building a more inclusive economy with more shared prosperity.

But as Senate Democrats have continued to advance negotiations to enact our bold agenda, Senate Republicans have sadly fallen back on their old tactics of obstruction and disruption. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear that he remains “100 percent” focused on stopping the Biden Administration. That political cynicism has pushed our country to the brink of serious financial peril, just as we’re beginning to recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

First, Republicans in Congress dragged their feet when it came time to vote on an essential measure to keep the government open – though I’m glad that enough Republican senators finally joined Democrats in a bipartisan vote to provide emergency relief to states harmed by natural disasters and keep the government open to avoid a shameful and unnecessary shutdown. But it should not have taken until the very last minute to build bipartisan consensus around this necessary measure. Now we face another looming government shutdown deadline of December 3rd.

Then, Senate Republicans repeatedly refused to help raise the debt ceiling so America can pay off the debts it already owes – even though the GOP was responsible for ballooning our national debt by passing the 2017 Trump Tax Bill without any plan to pay for it. Over one quarter of the total national debt was accrued during the four years that Donald Trump was in office, and 97% of it is from before Joe Biden was even sworn in as President.

Eleven Senate Republicans finally joined Democrats to end the filibuster that stood in the way of raising the debt ceiling to prevent an economic catastrophe. But this is far from over. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans only agreed to allow the U.S. to avoid a debt default until early December. They are again threatening to block Democrats from raising the debt ceiling at that time. The U.S. has never defaulted on its debts. To do so would shatter the full faith and credit of the U.S. government and plunge the economy into chaos. Projections from top experts estimate that a prolonged default on the nation’s debts would cost the U.S. economy up to six million jobs, wipe out as much as $15 trillion in household wealth, and send the unemployment rate surging to roughly 9%. 

We’ve bought some time, but we will be right back where we started in early December if the Senate GOP refuses to get on board with a long-term plan to keep the government open and allow the government to pay off the debts it has already incurred. It’s time for Senate Republicans to either join us in doing the right thing for the country and the economy or get out of the way and stop filibustering so Democrats can do it themselves.

Defending Every American’s Right to Vote

The fight to protect our democracy and ensure that every citizen can exercise their constitutional right to make their voice heard at the ballot box has never been more urgent. Trump’s Big Lie is threatening our democracy. First, it took the form of a violent mob attacking the Capitol for the purpose of overturning the last presidential election. When that failed, Republican-controlled state legislatures rushed to erect new barriers to the voting booth. States like Georgia, Florida, and Texas – along with many others – have passed laws expressly designed to make it harder for people of color and younger voters to cast their votes.

We can’t let the Big Lie inflict further harm on our democracy and allow Republican state legislatures to continue their full-fledged assault on voters’ rights. We have a duty to act – which is why I rallied with advocates and fellow lawmakers last month as part of our broader effort to pass legislation immediately in the Senate and stop the implementation of these dangerous state bills. I am glad that all 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus support the Freedom to Vote Act — which would establish national standards to protect the right to vote, eliminate secret money in elections, and establish uniform rules to prevent – on a nationwide basis – the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts. But when we tried to bring that bill up for a vote last week, Senator McConnell and every single Republican senator used the filibuster to block its consideration. It’s yet another reminder of why we must immediately end or amend the undemocratic, antiquated filibuster.

I’m glad that earlier this month, we were able to take an important step toward securing the right to vote by reintroducing our John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act – legislation named in honor of civil rights giant John Lewis that will repair the damage the Supreme Court did to the Voting Rights Act in its infamous 2013 Supreme Court decision Shelby County v. Holder. Every Democratic senator favors this bill, and we will seek to bring this bill up for debate and a vote in the next few weeks. However, unless something changes, it appears that Senate Republicans will also use the filibuster to block it. Again, these Republicans are using the filibuster to prevent the Senate from protecting our democracy at this urgent moment. It must go.

Protecting Reproductive Rights from the Assault on Roe v. Wade

On September 1st, the Supreme Court handed down a devastating ruling that failed to block the patently unconstitutional Texas state law that outlaws abortions after six weeks and empowers vigilante groups to enforce it. The Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, long ago determined that a woman’s reproductive health care decisions cannot be taken away by Republican state lawmakers in Texas or anywhere else. I stand in solidarity with women in Texas and across our country who are demanding action, and we must fight to protect reproductive rights now. Earlier this month, I joined the Rally for Abortion Justice in Annapolis to defend Roe v. Wade and stand up for women’s rights to determine their own futures. This right is under attack in Mississippi, Texas, and around the country – and we will not rest until it is secured for all.

This constitutional right is under threat in the current Supreme Court that has been stacked by President Trump and Senator McConnell with very, very conservative justices. That’s why I also joined colleagues in filing a bicameral amicus brief in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to urge the Supreme Court to uphold nearly 50 years of precedent in Roe v. Wade and protect the constitutional right to abortion care. The case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court in early December and decided next year.

But we should not be rolling the dice on a positive decision by the current stacked Supreme Court. We must do everything in our power to protect and codify the rights provided under Roe v. Wade. That’s why the House of Representatives passed the Women's Health Protection Act, which would override state laws like the one in Texas and provide a nationwide insurance policy against the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Now it’s time for the Senate to pass that bill. But, again, Senate Republicans have made clear they will use the filibuster to block the vote. 

Removing Monuments that Honor the Legacy of Slavery

The judiciary has an obligation to deliver equal justice under the law. Yet, for years there has stood outside of the Talbot County Courthouse a symbol that embodies the opposite: injustice and inequality. The Talbot Boys Statue – which was erected over 50 years after the Civil War during the era of Jim Crow when the KKK and white supremacy were on the rise – glorifies soldiers who fought with the Confederacy to protect and preserve the evil institution of slavery. I’ve repeatedly called for the statue’s removal and was glad to see the Talbot County Council finally vote to remove it.

Their decision is not only important to the Talbot County community, it is also vital to upholding the fundamental principles that undergird America’s justice system. And our efforts to remove monuments glorifying the confederacy must go hand-in-hand with efforts to erect monuments that celebrate those who have committed their lives to bending the moral arc of the universe toward justice. That’s why I reintroduced legislation to honor Maryland’s own Harriet Tubman with a statue in the United States Capitol, and I have been heartened by the outpouring of support from across our state and our country for this initiative. As we work to take meaningful action to root out the deep systemic racism embedded in our institutions, removing the glorification of those who promoted these policies is also a must.

The success of these efforts – and others – is only possible with the continued partnership of community leaders, activists, advocates, and so many more – and it’s the strength of those grassroots efforts that will allow us to move forward, toward brighter days ahead. Democracy is not a spectator sport. Its success relies on the participation of a vigilant and informed citizenry. It’s in that spirit that I hope you will continue to stay engaged.


               Chris Van Hollen