August 25, 2023

Senate Update: Milestones and Moving Forward

A Year of Lowering Health Care Costs, Revitalizing U.S. Manufacturing, Creating Good-Paying American Jobs, and Protecting our Environment

Just over a year ago, we made history when we passed the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act. These bills include some of the greatest investments we’ve ever made in tackling the climate crisis, lowering health care costs, creating new jobs, spurring U.S. manufacturing, and deploying clean energy. Already, we’re seeing the positive impact these bills are having in the lives of Americans.

The Inflation Reduction Act is taking aim at some of the biggest challenges our nation faces: the worsening climate emergency, sky-high prescription drug costs, a tax code that unfairly puts corporations and the wealthy before working Americans, and inflation. The bill included steps to address each of these challenges head-on, while reducing our national debt and creating thousands of good-paying jobs.

At the same time, the CHIPS and Science Act is already helping to create tens of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs here at home, putting Americans back to work, while safeguarding our supply chain and protecting domestic security. 

A year later, millions of Americans are seeing a real difference in their lives because of these pieces of legislation. I’m proud of the work we have done and clearheaded about the work we still have to do.

Protecting the Bay for Generations to Come

The Chesapeake Bay is a special place. It is a natural and national treasure, and a healthy Bay is vital to the success of all those who make their livelihood from it – the watermen, the boating industry, and all those who depend on the tourists and other visitors who come to enjoy its beauty, bounty, and culture.

That’s why Congressman John Sarbanes and I have introduced the Chesapeake National Recreation Area Act, with bipartisan support, to highlight this treasure – and protect it – for Marylanders and all Americans, for generations to come. 

The idea of creating a Chesapeake National Recreation Area isn’t new – it’s been discussed for over four decades. But with the introduction of this bill, we’re moving that vision one big step closer to reality. After two years of working together with individuals across the Bay – including residents, key stakeholders, those who make their living from the Bay, environmental advocates, those who know the Bay’s history, and local officials in Maryland and Virginia – the introduction of this bipartisan Chesapeake National Recreation Area legislation is a significant step toward bringing more national recognition, greater access, and more resources to the Bay we all cherish.

I’m grateful to the thousands of individuals who shared their thoughts with us during the drafting of this legislation and the hundreds of local stakeholders and community leaders who supported us along the way. Their feedback not only helped us make sure this bill responds to community needs, it also revealed deep, diverse, and widespread support for what we seek to accomplish by creating this CNRA. 

We’ll be working hard to get this bill passed in order to mobilize sustainable federal support for Bay restoration, generate more prosperity for those whose livelihoods depend on a vibrant Bay, spotlight its unique story and place in American history, and encourage greater public access to and enjoyment of everything it has to offer.

This legislation has been a long time coming – and I’m very happy to share this very important step in making real our dream of preserving the Chesapeake Bay for all. 

Launching a National Green Bank

Fourteen years ago, I put pen to paper on a bill to create a national Green Bank – to supercharge the financing of essential clean energy initiatives. Last month in Baltimore, I stood next to Vice President Harris and announced that idea is becoming a reality. The national climate bank network we announced will be a great engine of green innovation – creating jobs and boosting our economy.

This new effort is a game-changer in our fight against climate change, and will be especially helpful in accelerating the clean energy transition in underserved communities. That’s why I fought to secure $20 billion for this program in the Inflation Reduction Act – and why I can’t wait to see the transformative impact this will have on communities across the country.

It's especially fitting we made this announcement at Coppin State University in Baltimore, which secured financing from the Maryland Clean Energy Center to develop energy saving improvements for their facilities – a project that epitomizes the positive power of climate financing and the opportunities they unlock for our communities. Now, we’re implementing that idea on a national scale.

Securing Funding for Key Maryland Initiatives and Priorities 

One of my top priorities in the Senate is securing federal investments, through my work on the Appropriations Committee, that make a difference for Marylanders and their communities. This past month, I’m proud to report that the Committee passed all 12 funding bills with bipartisan support for everything from education, health care, and public safety, to economic development, job training, local projects, and more. This work marks the passage of a critical hurdle in the Senate and puts us on track to pass these bills on a bipartisan basis in the full Senate as well.

While funding for some important programs was constrained by the debt default deal negotiated by President Biden and Speaker McCarthy, overall, these bills make critical investments in our nation. As the House GOP is working on an extreme, partisan basis, to advance a far-right wish list of items, from gutting reproductive rights to making it harder to access essential social safety programs, I’m glad that we could get this work done in a bipartisan way in the Senate. I am still concerned that hyper-partisan Republican posturing in the House could precipitate a government shutdown in the fall, but hope the Senate’s bipartisan approach will ultimately prevail. 

The bills passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee include not only funds for national programs that will benefit Marylanders, but also nearly $118 million in targeted investments for Maryland community projects requested by Senator Cardin and myself. Those projects range from local infrastructure improvements, to workforce development services, to opportunities for small businesses and much more. These funds will also help advance promising initiatives to tackle other pressing challenges our state faces – including addressing gun violence and confronting climate change, while helping Maryland families succeed. These investments will support organizations that are already making a real, positive impact – and that’s why I’m determined to get them over the finish line.

Bringing the FBI Headquarters to Maryland

It’s long past time the crumbling FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. is replaced by a new headquarters that can meet the security and mission requirements of the Bureau. For years I have fought to bring the new headquarters to Prince George’s County, Maryland, where we have two sites that would serve the needs of the FBI, come in at a lower cost to taxpayers, and meet the Biden’s Administration’s stated goals to make equity a whole-of-government priority.

We in Maryland have long known that Prince George’s County is the best site for the new FBI headquarters, but late in this process – at the 11th hour – the General Services Administration (GSA), which is leading the site determination, announced criteria that undermined Congressional intent and did not adequately weigh the importance of cost to the taxpayer or the Biden Administration’s commitment to equity in the siting of federal agencies.

But, this past month – after we fought to secure legislative language last year requiring the GSA to reconsider these requirements – we were encouraged to see revised guidelines that correct the flawed approach released earlier. These revised guidelines are a critical step in the right direction.

We remain as confident today as we have been for the past decade: Greenbelt and Landover provide the best operational and cost-effective options for the new, consolidated FBI Headquarters. These sites meet and exceed the criteria laid out by GSA, and alongside Team Maryland, I will continue working to bring the FBI Headquarters to Prince George’s County. 

Fostering Success at Home in Maryland

One of the best parts of serving Maryland is the opportunity to travel across our great state, meeting the amazing people who power the success of our communities. Over the last few months, I’ve met inspiring individuals doing vital work in every corner of our state, and I’m grateful to have been able to deliver federal investments to many non-profit organizations to support their efforts. 

Just last week, I was on the Eastern Shore, where I attended the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) Conference and met hundreds of fellow Marylanders who are excited about the future of our state and nation. As I traveled across the shore, I toured East New Market’s Waterloo Farm, which serves as a great preview of upcoming conservation and wetland protection efforts that will be replicated across Dorchester County by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) and other key on-the-ground partners. These projects will be supported by the Chesapeake WILD program, which includes federal funding I secured to support ESLC’s efforts to protect habitat migration corridors between Blackwater and the Nanticoke River Watershed. I also stopped by the Berlin Fire Company to announce newly-awarded federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant program funding, which will help this fire company purchase new safety equipment and help protect our firefighters as well as the community they serve. Additionally, I discussed my FIRE STATION Act, which I introduced to help fire companies across Maryland and the country restore crumbling and unsafe firehouses. 

In July, I visited The Arc Prince George’s County, the oldest and largest provider of disability services in that County, to announce federal funding to support their essential work. I also dropped by Melwood in Upper Marlboro to deliver funding to help expand their abilIT workforce training program, which provides both technical and professional development training to individuals with disabilities and helps them secure jobs in the community. I also visited Howard County’s Autism Society to commemorate their 30th anniversary and announce federal investments which support their efforts to connect individuals with job opportunities. All of these organizations have changed the lives of countless individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and they are vital to helping us achieve our shared dream of an inclusive society where all people are treated with respect and dignity and have the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential. 

In Montgomery County, I stopped by Mary’s Center to celebrate their 15 years of service to the County. Mary’s Center has provided high-quality health care, education, and social services to build better futures in a community that has traditionally suffered from a paucity of health care access. Mary’s Center also does vital work across Maryland, and that’s why we fought to include funding to support Mary's Center Prince George's County Health Center in this year’s appropriations process.

In Baltimore, I visited Baltimore Community Lending (BCL), an organization that is focused on revitalizing and strengthening the City’s underserved neighborhoods through community development. Senator Cardin and I were proud to secure funding to help BCL open a one-stop-shop for local small businesses to get the resources they need to succeed. I also joined Team Maryland to announce our efforts to get the Red Line project back on track, to establish affordable, equitable, East-West transit in Baltimore, and address the critical need after former Governor Hogan cancelled this essential investment in local transit. I’m grateful Governor Moore has stressed his desire to work with our Congressional delegation and our state, local, and community leaders to revive the Red Line. 

In other transportation news, I joined Senators Warner, Kaine, and Cardin at National Airport to express our strong opposition to changing the slot and perimeter rules governing air traffic at the airport. Changes to the current rules being considered as part of the FAA reauthorization bill would result in delays and longer lines at National by further overburdening its facilities and lead to an increase in aircraft noise for nearby Maryland and Virginia residents. I will continue to fight to protect our communities from these problems. 

Those are just a few highlights of the work we've been doing to deliver for Marylanders and move our country forward. I’m grateful for your ongoing interest and engagement in these essential matters. As always, I welcome your input and insights on the key issues and challenges of our day. 

Many thanks for being a partner in this progress,


Chris Van Hollen