April 15, 2022

Ensuring Equal Justice Under Law

Over the past few weeks, Americans across Maryland and throughout the nation have gotten to know Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court. President Biden pledged to appoint a justice with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience, and integrity. Judge Jackson fits that description perfectly. She approached every moment of her confirmation hearing with grace, wisdom, and brilliance. I had the privilege of meeting with Judge Jackson one-on-one earlier this month. Our meeting reinforced what I already knew to be true: she is an outstanding choice and has the judgment and the background necessary to sit on our nation’s highest court.

In our meeting, we also talked about Judge Jackson’s connection to Maryland. Her brother, Ketajh, served with the Baltimore Police Department for seven years and served two tours of duty as a member of the Maryland Army National Guard. During our conversation, I invited Judge Jackson to join me at P.S. 103 in West Baltimore, where Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall learned to read and write. I am currently working with community partners to turn that building – which has been in a state of disrepair for nearly two decades – into a community center and memorial to Justice Marshall. It would be a great honor to bring the first Black woman on the Court to the place where the first Black man on the Court grew up and went to school. 

With last week’s vote, both Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and the United States Senate made history. I was proud to vote in favor of her confirmation and participate in this historic moment in our democracy. Like Marylander Thurgood Marshall before her, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a trailblazer, and I know she will uphold the injunction emblazoned on the entrance to the Supreme Court building: “Equal Justice Under Law.”

Holding Putin Accountable

Vladimir Putin has continued his brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine. With each passing day, the world witnesses more horrifying images of Putin’s war crimes. Vladimir Putin thinks he can snuff out democracy and freedom by brute force, and he’s doing everything in his power to achieve that evil goal. But he will fail. 

The Ukrainian people have inspired the world as they defend their sovereignty, their freedom, and their democracy. And the United States and our allies have been with them every step of the way. We have worked together to unleash sweeping, punishing sanctions on Russia at a speed the world has never seen, and these sanctions are aimed right at the heart of Russia’s economy, at Vladimir Putin, and at his cronies. Our global alliance is supplying Ukrainians with the weapons they need to fight Putin’s army. We are delivering crucial humanitarian assistance to millions of refugees displaced within Ukraine itself and in surrounding countries.

The United States Senate joined in this chorus of support for Ukraine by passing bipartisan legislation securing $14 billion in emergency funds to aid the people of Ukraine in their fight to protect their homeland. That legislation has been signed into law and is delivering military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine at this very moment. I am also glad that the Senate passed and the President signed legislation to strip Russia of its “Most Favored Nation” trading status and banned Russian energy imports. The Senate has also passed a bill to accelerate the rate at which the United States can send weapons and supplies to Ukraine, and I urge the House to act on it quickly.

We must also do everything in our power to isolate Putin on the world stage and hold him accountable. That’s why, last week, I teamed up with my Republican Senate colleague Joni Ernst from Iowa to craft bipartisan legislation that would kick Russia out of the UN Human Rights Council, the G20, and INTERPOL. Then on Thursday, the United Nations – led by our own Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas Greenfield – took action along these lines. But we can’t stop there. The U.S. must work with others to hold Putin responsible for his war crimes.

We cannot let up. Putin will rue the day he unleashed this unprovoked violence in the heart of Europe.

Investing in Maryland

My top priority has always been to fight for the things that matter most to Marylanders. Last month, I joined my colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee to craft and pass a government funding package that meets that test. It includes important funds to support and grow everything from access to affordable, quality health care to public education – in addition to funds for local community-driven projects – and I’m excited to see those investments begin to flow into Maryland. Working together with local leaders across our communities, I identified and secured federal funds for key projects that will help drive job growth, improve public safety, modernize our infrastructure, bolster educational and health care resources, and more.

Those dollars are already being delivered to our communities, and I have been traveling across Maryland to meet with the talented leaders spearheading these initiatives. Earlier this month, I was in West Baltimore with the retired Senior Pastor of Union Baptist Church, Reverend Alvin Hathaway, at the site of P.S. 103 – the place where Justice Thurgood Marshall once studied. I partnered with Senator Ben Cardin to bring a $1 million federal investment directly to Reverend Hathaway’s initiative to turn the school into a community center and living memorial to Thurgood Marshall. I visited Baltimore again last week at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture to announce $650,000 in federal funding that will help create a permanent exhibition and memorial to the victims of the horrific history of lynching in Maryland. It was an honor to join community leaders from the museum, the Maryland Lynching Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and other partnering organizations to highlight this important initiative. It’s a long, hard struggle toward building a more perfect union. But in order to achieve that ultimate goal, we first have to shed a light on our past: the good, the bad, and the ugly. This new exhibit will help us confront the darkest parts of our history with honesty – and guide us toward a brighter future. 

The funds for P.S. 103 and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum go hand-in-hand with nearly $50 million in additional federal investments coming to the Baltimore region this year. Funding for projects stretching from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore and everywhere in between is also on its way. This past week, I presented other federal funds to leaders at the Salisbury Regional Airport, at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, in Prince George’s County, and in Baltimore City – where I hosted a roundtable discussion on workforce training. Over the course of the next few weeks, I look forward to additional visits to counties and towns across our state to talk about these federal investments and highlight the great progress happening on the ground to expand opportunity for all. You can visit my website to see the full list of projects we were able to fund in this year’s federal spending package. I have always been committed to using my position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to bring more opportunity into our state, and I will continue to collaborate with partners in Washington and across Maryland to do just that.

Addressing Rising Prices

Thanks to the passage of the American Rescue Plan, the passage of the infrastructure modernization law, and the resilience of the American people, our economy is bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic. America’s recovery is gaining speed, but many Marylanders are feeling the squeeze of rising prices due to Putin’s war, constricted supply chains, and high consumer demand for goods and services. Meanwhile, Big Oil is using this moment to line its pockets at the expense of hard working American families and compounding the price hikes brought on by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Every day, oil companies are gouging consumers and driving up the price of gas at the pump for hard working Americans. The windfalls aren't going into more production. Instead, they're mostly for stock buybacks that enrich corporate executives and shareholders, many of whom live overseas. 

No one should be profiting from Putin’s war. We are all in this together, and our shared mission must be to ease the strain on Americans’ pocketbooks. President Joe Biden’s action last month to release millions of barrels of oil from America’s strategic petroleum reserve will help increase the supply of domestic oil as we work to strengthen American energy independence, bring back domestic manufacturing jobs, accelerate the deployment of clean energy, and provide consumers the relief they need. I applaud the White House’s leadership, and I am working with colleagues in Congress to back up those efforts with additional legislation to cut the costs of prescription drugs, make child care more affordable, and ensure that older Americans can receive the care they need without breaking the bank. Senate Democrats must also use the reconciliation process to enact the climate change plan that has already been passed by the House of Representatives. The war in Ukraine is a clear lesson that accelerating the transition to clean energy is not only an environmental imperative, but also a national security one. We must make the U.S. and our allies less vulnerable to global oil prices set by authoritarian regimes.

Taken together, all of these efforts will help address the serious financial challenges many Marylanders are facing as a result of added upward pressure on prices from Vladimir Putin’s war. We must continue working together to make it through this period of uncertainty. It’s in that spirit that I hope you will continue to stay engaged.


          Chris Van Hollen