January 6, 2023

Senate Update: Happy New Year (We Hope!) 

Happy New Year! I wish you and your family all the best in 2024. As we enter the new year, we have a huge fight on our hands: to defend democracy both at home and abroad, even as we continue to work together to deliver results for all Marylanders.

Standing up for Democracy at Home

Here at home our democracy continues to be tested by new and deepening challenges.

Today marks the third anniversary of the January 6th insurrectionist attack on our Capitol, one of the darkest days in our history. I remain eternally grateful to the brave members of the Maryland National Guard and all of those from the Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police Department, and others who stood up to protect our Capitol, and our democracy. But, the threat remains, as so many continue to deny the outcome of the 2020 election and seek to undermine the pillars of our democracy.

Three years later, the tremors of January 6th continue to shake our Capitol and our nation. We must continue to fight the Big Lie and redouble our efforts to protect access to the ballot box – even as MAGA Republicans in Congress and in states around the country seek to erect barriers to exercising the right to vote.

We also face the ongoing threat presented by the far right’s efforts to strip women of their reproductive freedom and rights. Last month, in Texas, Kate Cox couldn't get the care she needed because MAGA lawmakers and an extremist court said so – forcing her to travel to another state for lifesaving medical treatment. Her baby had a devastating fatal diagnosis, and Kate, a mom of two, had been admitted to the emergency room four separate times due to increasingly dire complications from her pregnancy. This is the shameful and unacceptable reality women face in a post-Roe world. And across the United States, Republican lawmakers and far-right state legislatures are working to expand these harmful bans. Nothing about this is “pro-life.” It’s dangerous. Yet MAGA Republicans want to pass a federal law to impose their will nationwide.

We cannot and must not allow them to succeed. There is no question that our struggle to protect this reproductive freedom is part of our broader struggle to protect the freedoms that Americans hold dear. It’s time to codify Roe once and for all by passing the Women’s Health Protection Act.

Standing up for Freedom and Democracy Around the World

Freedom and democracy are not only under attack here at home, but also in many other parts of the world – and the United States should stand with those who are fighting to defend these values.

I am very disappointed that Congress has, to date, failed to pass President Biden’s security supplemental package, including desperately needed military aid for Ukraine in their fight against Putin’s aggression. It’s critical that we get this done. But the same political forces that are working to weaken democracy here at home are doing the same overseas.

When President Zelensky addressed the United States Senate in December, he was very clear: the Ukrainian people need our support and every day we don't pass critical aid, Putin celebrates. But MAGA Republicans in Congress are blocking that assistance and Kremlin officials are publicly praising them for their obstruction.

Failing to support Ukraine destroys our credibility with our allies and emboldens our adversaries around the world. Make no mistake: authoritarian leaders are keeping a close watch on what happens in Ukraine, including President Xi of China, who has one eye on America’s position on Ukraine and one eye on Taiwan. Republicans cannot pretend to be tough on China if they are willing to abandon the people of Ukraine.

President Biden was also right to stand with the people of Israel in the aftermath of the horrific Hamas terror attacks on October 7th. Israel not only has the right, but the duty to defend itself and end Hamas’ control of Gaza. There must be no more October 7ths.

While Israel’s war against Hamas is just, it must be fought justly. How Israel wages this war matters and the United States is not a bystander in this effort. As we consider the President’s supplemental request for Israel, we must also secure vital humanitarian aid for the millions of civilians in Gaza who are caught in the midst of this conflict through no fault of their own. To date, more than 22,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, over two thirds of them women and children. It’s clear that we must do more to protect civilian lives and address the current humanitarian catastrophe unfolding before our eyes.

We must ensure that any military assistance provided by the United States – whether it be to Ukraine, Israel, or any other country – be used in a manner consistent with U.S. law, international humanitarian law, and the law of armed conflict. We owe that accountability to American taxpayers, and I will work to uphold that principle.

President Biden’s supplemental request also contains important measures to strengthen our border security, including substantial resources to hire more Border Patrol agents and acquire more machines to better detect and prevent deadly shipments of fentanyl from entering the United States. As my colleagues continue to negotiate a bipartisan border security agreement, I am willing to consider reasonable ways to improve border security, but I will not support the House Republicans’ extreme proposals that would allow long detention and mistreatment of children coming across the border. There is a path forward that can uphold our American values while securing the border – I will be tracking these discussions closely – but it’s critical that we move forward to both support our allies abroad and provide the resources President Biden requested to improve border security here at home.

Delivering for Maryland

Even in the face of these domestic and global challenges, I am pleased that we have been able to deliver important results for the people of Maryland. Record federal investments from a wide range of historic initiatives passed the last Congress are now helping Maryland achieve the lowest unemployment rate of any state in the country, modernizing and expanding our outdated infrastructure, reducing the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, and accelerating the deployment of clean energy.

Last year also brought good news to Maryland on another front. In November, after our decades-long push, we were excited to announce that our state will officially serve as the home for the new FBI headquarters, bringing with it good-paying union jobs and more economic opportunity. This search began in 2011, when the Government Accountability Office informed Congress that the current FBI headquarters was unable to meet the mission requirements of the Bureau. Since then, we have been fighting to bring the new headquarters to Prince George’s County, Maryland – the best location to meet the security and mission needs of the men and women of the FBI. And, during this last year, through a fair and transparent process, the General Services Administration – the body in charge of the selection process – came to the same conclusion. Maryland is the best home for their new headquarters.

The selection of Greenbelt as the location of the new FBI headquarters is a win for the FBI mission, a win for the American taxpayer, and a win for our goal of ensuring equity in government investments. I was proud to fight for this result alongside Team Maryland, and we have already secured resources to get moving on this project. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’m committed to delivering the funding necessary to complete it.

I’ve also been all over Maryland to highlight other big wins, including joining the Biden-Harris Administration to announce that Baltimore was selected as one of one of just five Workforce Hubs nationwide. At the National Aquarium, I also announced a major investment of federal funds for key Maryland non-profit partners that are helping protect and preserve our state’s greatest natural treasure: the Chesapeake Bay. We have also identified areas where we need to do much better, which is why I participated in a roundtable with federal health officials in Prince George’s to discuss the unacceptably high rate of maternal mortality and morbidity in the United States and Maryland today and the work we’re doing to address it. We also informed Marylanders about available resources. And in Ellicott City, I joined County Executive Calvin Ball to review the resiliency measures Howard County is taking to address the severe flooding that has hit this historic town and met with housing advocates to discuss the innovative ideas Howard County is pursuing to boost the supply of affordable housing.

These are just a few examples of recent opportunities I’ve had to visit with Marylanders across our state and discuss our shared efforts to invest in and create opportunity for our people.

But none of this work is possible without funding for our federal government operations. As we enter the new year, we are now fast approaching the threat of a totally unnecessary and manufactured government shutdown. Last year President Biden worked with the former House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, on an agreement that both avoided a catastrophic default on our national debt AND set the overall federal funding levels for the current fiscal year. Unfortunately, the new House Speaker, Mike Johnson, has walked away from that agreement. We have only a very short time left for him to come to his senses and stick with the bargain that had been negotiated, which required compromises on both sides. Most of the country is sick and tired of the chaos being caused by the MAGA crowd in the House of Representatives and we can only hope the new year will bring with it some sanity. Of course, hope is not a strategy, so we will continue to look for a way forward.

In the face of all of these challenges at home and abroad, I’m grateful to each and every one of you for staying active and involved. You are truly essential partners in our work to protect our great American experiment in democracy and create more shared opportunity and prosperity for all.

Happy New Year, let’s get to work,


Chris Van Hollen