December 31, 2021

Delivering Federal Investments to Maryland in the Infrastructure Modernization Bill 

Last month, President Biden signed into law a historic infrastructure modernization bill – which will fix our crumbling roads and bridges, invest in transit systems and railways in Maryland and across the country, ease supply chain bottlenecks, deliver clean drinking water to all of our communities, and modernize the full array of our infrastructure to meet the challenges of the 21st century – all while creating good-paying jobs. I worked closely with my colleagues in Congress to pass this crucial legislation to build on the progress of the American Rescue Plan, and I was proud to vote to send it to the President’s desk. Our state has already started to receive some of what this law will bring to Maryland, and this month I met with leaders at the local, state, and national levels to discuss how this initiative will support our communities and help working families.

For example, earlier this month, I joined Salisbury Mayor Jake Day to highlight how the infrastructure modernization law can help buttress infrastructure against flooding and extreme weather – a major threat to homes, small businesses, and local economies. This new law directs federal funds toward major Maryland priorities for coastal and waterfront communities like Salisbury, which have experienced an alarming increase in flooding over the past few years that wreaks havoc on residents and businesses alike. I was also pleased to join Vice President Harris, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, and members of Federal Team Maryland in Prince George’s County to discuss how we can make Maryland the electric vehicle capital of the world by leveraging investments in the bipartisan infrastructure law to build out a network of charging stations across our state. And by making the transition from gas to electric, Marylanders will also save money behind the wheel by plugging in their cars for an electric charge instead of filling up their tanks with gas.

Going into the New Year, I will continue to work with colleagues and partners to make sure Maryland reaps the full benefits of this historic law, and I am grateful for the insight, input, and guidance of community leaders, entrepreneurs, and advocates across our state who have helped highlight the unique infrastructure needs of our communities. But we can’t stop there.

The full Build Back Better Agenda was designed to invest in a stronger, fairer economy, lower costs for expenses like prescription drugs and child care, extend tax cuts for families with kids, confront climate change, and create more opportunity and more shared prosperity for all. It will be fully paid for by – among other measures – closing tax loopholes that have allowed multi-national corporations to hide profits overseas and by raising tax rates on individuals who make over $10 million per year. We knew from the start that getting all elements of the President’s agenda across the finish line wouldn’t be easy, but we cannot waver in our determination to get this done. Unfortunately, not a single Republican member of Congress is willing to support this vital national effort. That means we need the votes of all 50 Senate Democrats. I remain confident that we can get it passed. The time for talking is over. The Senate must vote on the Build Back Better Act so our constituents can see where we stand on delivering these priorities to our communities. 

Defending Equal Access to the Ballot Box

Around the country, as the poison of Trump’s Big Lie continues to spread, Republican-controlled state legislatures are passing laws to make it harder for people to vote – especially people of color and younger voters. That’s why Congress must pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to establish a minimum set of national standards to ensure equal access to the ballot box and to restore the protections guaranteed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were gutted by the notorious 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder. We have no time to waste. This must be the first order of business in January 2022.

Unfortunately, not a single Republican Senator is prepared to join us in passing these bills, and efforts to strike bipartisan compromise have been met with almost zero support on the Republican side of the aisle. Because the Senate GOP refuses to work with us to protect American democracy, the main obstacle standing in the way of getting voting rights protections through Congress is the antiquated and undemocratic filibuster rule, which creates a 60-vote threshold in the Senate to pass legislation – like voting rights – that is not tied to the budget. We can protect the ability of the minority party to fully debate any issue without also allowing them to block the will of the American people. In its current form, the filibuster has only created paralysis that threatens progress – and our fellow citizens cannot afford to wait any longer on voting rights. Enough is enough: we need every senator to recognize that the future of our democracy is at risk and that we must amend or end the filibuster and pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Wishing Every Marylander a Happy New Year

We are about to ring in the New Year, and I hope that everyone reading this letter is able to celebrate the start of 2022 with those closest to them in a safe and joyful way. As we turn the page and begin this new chapter, now is also a moment to reflect on all we’ve achieved over the past 12 months.

We started off 2021 with the swearing in of a new President and got right to work by passing the American Rescue Plan. The American Rescue Plan helped to develop and deploy vaccines more quickly, more efficiently, and more equitably. Those and other efforts have already helped save 1.1 million American lives and prevented over 10 million hospitalizations. But with the rapid spread of the omicron variant, we must continue to ensure that our fellow Marylanders are safe. This is a critical moment, and we must do everything we can to beat back this pandemic. I was pleased to see President Biden unveil his plan to enhance our efforts to fight the virus, including a major expansion of our nation’s testing capacity. Under President Biden’s leadership, the federal government will start distributing one half billion free at-home tests to Americans starting in January. Testing is an important element of keeping our communities safe, and I am glad that the White House has taken this important step. But the COVID-19 vaccine is still the best possible way to protect yourself and your communities from this deadly virus, and I urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated – vaccines are free, safe, and effective. And if you have gotten your first course of the vaccine, make sure to get a booster. 

In addition to deploying life-saving vaccines, the American Rescue Plan also delivered relief to those hardest-hit financially and helped our economy rebound. Because of the American Rescue Plan, our economy is starting to come back stronger and better, with the number of Americans applying for unemployment at the lowest level in 52 years. That landmark legislation also allowed us to invest directly in our communities in a number of ways. Many local and state leaders across Maryland are already using these funds for crucial projects on the ground, such as Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s plan to use funding from the American Rescue Plan to build public Wi-Fi- hot spots around the city so we can close the digital divide, which was only exacerbated by COVID-19. In short: the American Rescue Plan was a historic victory for Maryland and for the country.

The Senate followed up that big win by advancing other essential priorities this year, including the infrastructure modernization bill. The Senate also passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, major legislation to boost innovation and grow jobs in Maryland while meeting the rising global challenge of China. That bill must now also pass in the House of Representatives and be signed into law by the President – and taking both of those critical steps must be a top priority in 2022. The Senate was also able to confirm a diverse and historic number of judges to the federal judiciary, including Deborah Boardman and Lydia Griggsby, two nominees I was proud to recommend to President Biden to serve our great state of Maryland. In fact, the Senate has now confirmed 22 more federal circuit and district judges during the first year of the Biden Administration than during the first year of the previous one. 

We’ve done all this – and more – but there’s still much more work ahead. While we have big challenges to take on in the year to come, I am confident that, with your continued input and engagement in our democracy, we will continue to make progress. It’s in that spirit that I’d like to wish all Marylanders a happy and safe New Year. Here’s to 2022!


               Chris Van Hollen