November 22, 2022

On November 8th, over a million Marylanders made their voices heard at the ballot box. Our democracy depends on the participation of an engaged citizenry, and I thank the people of Maryland for your strong vote of confidence to continue representing you in the United States Senate. I promise to do everything I can to uphold your trust. I’m proud of all we’ve achieved – especially over the past two years alongside the Biden-Harris Administration. But there’s much more to do. 

I look forward to continuing to work on a wide range of issues important to our country, including building a more inclusive economy that works for everyone, not just those already at the top; advancing social and racial justice; protecting the right to vote and a woman’s right to reproductive freedom; confronting the climate crisis; and so much more. We have our work cut out for us – but I am confident that we can succeed if we stand united. It’s in that spirit that I hope you continue to stay engaged.

Rebuilding Maryland’s Infrastructure

Last year, we passed an historic law to bring our infrastructure into the 21st century. Through this initiative, we are already delivering over $7 billion to Maryland over the next five years for everything from transit and heavy rail – to roads, bridges, and tunnels – to water and sewer systems – to broadband and electric vehicle charging stations – and more.

Funds are already out the door and supporting projects in Maryland’s communities, and I recently joined White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu at Fort McHenry to announce a $43 million investment funded by the infrastructure law to dredge the channels that allow the Port of Baltimore to service large ships that import and export goods every day – and support thousands of good-paying jobs in Maryland. These funds enable the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use the dredged material from shipping channels to restore two severely-eroded islands in the Chesapeake Bay and preserve local wildlife by protecting their habitats. Those two islands also help buffer communities along the Bay coastline from storm surges and flooding.

It’s a win-win: strengthening commerce at the Port while restoring key ecosystems along the Bay. This is just one example of how the infrastructure law is bolstering our economy, protecting our environment, and moving Maryland forward. And this effort goes hand-in-hand with the Army Corps' important work to restore oyster habitats in key Bay tributaries, with the help of NOAA and other federal partners.

Fighting Back Against Sickle Cell Disease

An estimated 100,000 Americans live with Sickle Cell Disease, a condition that mutates the shape of red blood cells and can lead to pain, seizure, infection, stroke, and even death. This illness exacts a daily toll on families across America – especially in Black communities. Last year, my office lost a beloved member of our team to Sickle Cell Disease: John Amara Walters, who died just a few months before his 30th birthday. John was a brilliant thinker and a generous friend, and he was deeply committed to serving the State of Maryland and the American people.

Since John passed, I’ve been working with his mother – Kimberley Davis – colleagues in Congress, and advocates across the country to find ways to provide better care to Americans struggling with Sickle Cell and to advance our fight to defeat this disease. Over the past few months, I’ve introduced the Sickle Cell Care Expansion Act, legislation to improve the quality of life for people living with Sickle Cell Disease. And as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’m working with colleagues to channel more federal funding toward Sickle Cell research, so we can develop better therapies and, ultimately, find a cure.

In September, I held an event with my colleagues Senator Cory Booker, Representative Barbara Lee, and Representative Danny Davis to officially introduce our Sickle Cell Disease Treatment Centers Act, legislation I authored to improve access to care for Americans living with Sickle Cell Disease. Our bill would create a “hub and spoke” model to extend the reach of existing Sickle Cell centers into areas that don’t yet have good access to care. And that event also featured remarks from the President and CEO of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, the Director of the Comprehensive Sickle Cell Program at Children’s National Hospital, and John Amara Walters’ mother. Our legislation marks the next step forward in a long fight to provide Sickle Cell patients with the services they need, and I’m committed to moving it across the finish line.

Preserving the Chesapeake Bay 

The Chesapeake Bay is a natural wonder and a national treasure. The Bay also drives economic opportunity, provides an eye-opening lens into Maryland history and the story of America, and represents an essential part of our region’s heritage and identity. We have a responsibility to be good stewards of our beloved Bay and celebrate all it has to offer.

After years of work with our committed partners who treasure the Bay and its bounty, I was proud to announce a comprehensive proposal for a new Chesapeake National Recreation Area that will spotlight the Bay’s unique story and historical significance, generate more prosperity for those who make their livelihood from the Bay, leverage more federal investment, increase conservation resources, and encourage greater public access to the Bay’s beauty and cultural landmarks. I recently joined community stakeholders and government leaders in Annapolis for the rollout of the plan that Congressman John Sarbanes and I have developed. Together, we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with watermen, advocates, elected officials, and members of our Chesapeake National Recreation Area Working Group, who have been key partners in this endeavor. 

The release of our discussion draft provides an opportunity for public input to ensure everyone’s voice can be heard as part of this undertaking. I encourage all Marylanders to check out our plan and weigh in with your thoughts. We have a lot more hard work in front of us to get this plan across the finish line, and I want to make sure all of our stakeholders and communities have a seat at the table. 

Putting Consumers First 

Millions of Americans – mostly those living paycheck-to-paycheck – are gouged by billions of dollars in overdraft fees by certain banks every year. We need to end this practice and also protect Americans from hidden “junk fees” that can quickly add up and overwhelm consumers – especially those who can least afford it.

For starters, Americans deserve a banking system that works for them. That’s why I’ve been fighting to advance a “real time payments system” – one where the money you deposit in your account is immediately available to make payments so folks don’t have to turn to predatory payday lenders or get hit with overdraft fees. I've introduced the Payments Modernization Act, legislation requiring banks to ensure deposits are accessible without any waiting period. This common-sense bill will help Americans better manage their finances by providing quicker access to their hard-earned money and reducing the risk of incurring costly overdraft charges. I’ve been pushing the Federal Reserve to establish a real time payments system for years. Now, leaders at the Fed have stated that a real time payments system, called FedNow, will be ready to deploy in the summer of 2023. We’ve made headway – but I won’t let up until we get FedNow online.

Last month, President Biden also announced steps to counter corporations and financial institutions that charge hidden “junk fees.” This action by the President is a positive step that will help us protect more consumers and add much-needed transparency to our banking and financial systems. I’ve been pressing big banks to get rid of these fees for a long time, but there’s still much more that needs to be done – and I’ll continue working with the Biden Administration to do everything we can to lower costs for American families.

On top of that action, I’ve joined colleagues in calling on the FDA to allow the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids – and last month, the Biden Administration got it done. For millions of Americans, hearing loss is a major health challenge that comes with a big financial burden. But providing over-the-counter access to hearing aids means big cost savings. This is another way we’re working to make health care more affordable for all.

In addition, I've long pressed for legislation to make airlines more consumer-friendly, and I was glad to see the Department of Transportation take enforcement action to ensure that airlines provide passengers with $600 million in refunds due to canceled or significantly delayed flights – and to crack down on airline “junk fees."

Building a Stronger Maryland, Together

It’s always great to get out of Washington and spend time with people across our state. Over the past few weeks, I’ve met with so many Marylanders who are moving our state and nation forward – and I’ve been inspired by their perseverance, innovation, dedication, and good stewardship.

I joined my friend Senator Tammy Duckworth at MCOP Prosthetics in Silver Spring to meet with Ukrainian soldier Oleksandr Chaika, who is receiving care there after being wounded on the front lines of the war launched by Russia. I spoke with Girl Scouts at Camp Woodlands in Anne Arundel County after securing federal funds to help address seasons of wear and tear that have taken their toll on their historic grounds. I attended the 2022 Baltimore District Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church to discuss how we can build a more perfect union, together, by lending a helping hand to those in need and strengthening our communities through action. And I’ve had the chance to meet dozens of Marylanders at a series of festivals, walk-a-thons, and celebrations, from the annual Pigtown Main Street Festival – to the World is Your Oyster Fest with Maryland watermen – to charity walks with Down syndrome and breast cancer advocates.

These experiences, and others, have affirmed my deep belief that we can make a difference through the power of community and partnership. And as we mark this season of Thanksgiving, I will be holding that belief close to my heart. We have so much to be grateful for this year, from family and friends to community champions fighting for change. I will be thinking about all the Marylanders who have joined me in the fight to build a more prosperous state and a more perfect union. I am grateful for your teamwork every single day. 

It’s in that spirit that I want to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving filled with light, hope, love, and joy.






               Chris Van Hollen