October 7, 2023

Senate Update: Shutdown Averted, but Republican Chaos in House Threatens Further Progress 

One week ago today, at the 11th hour, the Congress narrowly averted a government shutdown. As a result, we avoided major disruptions to our economy and vital government services Americans rely on. 

That’s the good news. But we came far too close to the precipice, and the clock is already ticking toward the next government funding deadline of November 17th. If we don’t get a bipartisan agreement by then, the government will shut down, and our economy and millions of American families will suffer. Instead of abiding by the agreement reached between President Biden and Speaker McCarthy months ago, the extreme MAGA Republicans have triggered mass chaos in the House by removing the Speaker with no clear substitute on the horizon. The most specific action they have taken since then was the petty and small-minded order to evict former Speaker Pelosi from her Capitol office. This is a bad sign of things to come. 

Make no mistake, this dysfunction is hurting the country. It is going to make it harder for us to finalize a budget for this fiscal year, keep the government open, and send much needed aid to Ukraine – something a majority of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle support. We have a short time to pass an updated budget plan that meets the needs of our country. Bipartisan agreement is the only way to achieve that and to avoid a shameful government shutdown. Republicans in the House need to sideline their most extreme elements so we can get the job done.

Standing Up for Democracy and Keeping our Promise to the Ukrainian People

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking in the Old Senate Chamber, recently delivered a clear message: this is no time to waver in our support for Ukraine. We’re at a pivotal point in the war, and Putin is counting on us to abandon Ukraine. Each day the war grinds on, Putin’s brutality exceeds the last. As his advance has been slowed by brave Ukrainian soldiers, Putin’s barbaric war crimes have mounted.

When Putin’s forces invaded Ukraine in February of last year, we stood together as Americans in opposition to this horrific assault on a democracy and its people. The United States and our allies are giving military and economic assistance; the Ukrainian people are shedding blood and giving lives. To date, 80,000 alleged Russian war crimes are being investigated – approximately 1 war crime every 10 minutes. Without additional U.S. aid, we would leave Ukraine increasingly defenseless against these assaults. And this is not only a battle for the future of freedom in Ukraine; it is also a fight to protect democracies against autocrats around the world. Our allies and adversaries alike are watching closely to see if we will abandon the people of Ukraine and surrender in the battle to protect democracy. This is a test we cannot afford to fail.

Tommy Tuberville's Military Fumble

For months, former football coach and now senator, Tommy Tuberville, has blocked hundreds of military promotions and nominations in protest of Pentagon protections for service members’ reproductive care. This includes holding up confirmation votes on the nominations of officers in crucial roles across five Maryland based commands, including the Superintendent for the United States Naval Academy and the Commander of U.S. Cyber Command. While every Senator has the right to have his or her say in the promotion of military personnel, we have never before witnessed this abuse of the process. 

Senator Tuberville’s blockade is putting our national security at risk and the longer it goes on, the more dangerous it will get. I’m grateful we were able to overwhelmingly confirm the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the Marine Corps and Army commandants, with broad bipartisan support, but that’s only three out of more than 300 equally-qualified promotions.

It is no exaggeration to say that our nation’s military readiness is being eroded and increasingly threatened by Senator Tuberville’s actions, and so is the well-being of our country’s military families. Until Senator Tuberville ends his dangerous blockade, hundreds of military families will be in limbo, unable to move or enroll their children in school. Our service members and their families already make many sacrifices for our country; we should not force them to make this one. The only people who are gaining from Senator Tuberville's antics are our adversaries. His ploy is undermining our readiness – and playing right into their hands. It is way past time for Republican senators to publicly rebuke Senator Tuberville for his blockade and call upon him to cease and desist. 

Maryland Strong

As division and chaos among House Republicans threatens to damage the country, federal Team Maryland has been united in securing funding for vital initiatives in every corner of our state. Last month, I joined the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County in Hagerstown for the groundbreaking of their new clubhouse and teen center. With the help of federal funding, this new facility will allow the Boys & Girls Club to double its average daily attendance, to serve as many as 500 young people each day, and the teen center will allow for the implementation of a new workforce development program.

I also stopped by Frederick County’s Northgate Fire Station #29 to deliver $9.7 million in federal funding to help the County hire new firefighters to increase firefighter and community safety. This investment builds on the $35.7 million in SAFER funding we’ve delivered to Frederick County Fire & Rescue Services since 2016 – translating to more than 149 new firefighters. While there, I discussed my bipartisan FIRE STATION Act which would help us build and upgrade fire stations in Maryland and across the country, because no American fire station should be allowed to endanger the very same people who risk it all for us. The FIRE STATION Act will be a critical new federal funding stream to support public safety in our communities, but we also need to ensure the existing funding sources that local agencies have counted on for years – like the SAFER and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) programs – don’t expire. That’s why, earlier this year, I worked to pass bipartisan legislation in the Senate to continue funding for these vital programs through 2030. Now, our House colleagues need to pass this bill so our firefighters can continue to count on federal support to stay fully equipped, staffed, and trained in the years to come.

Keeping our economy strong is also front of mind for me. I recently joined President Biden and my Team Maryland partners at Prince George’s Community College in Largo to address the economic challenges we face in America today, and to discuss the work we are doing together to help American families. We will not return to MAGAnomics and another era of failed trickle-down policies. We’re building the economy the right way – from the bottom up and the middle out – creating over 14 million jobs in the process as real wages rise and inflation falls. 

Those are just a few examples of all we’ve been doing to deliver for Marylanders and to move our country forward.

I’m grateful for your support in this mission, 


Chris Van Hollen