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LARGO – Over 100 people joined Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in an open house at his Largo offices on Mercantile Lane on Nov. 29 to talk about the state of the national government before the holidays.
People stood in a line that stretched out to the entrance for about 10-15 minutes in order to speak to their senate representatives during an important time before the festive part of the year. The Democratic Senator also acknowledged that citizens are more “engaged on what is happening on Capitol Hill” that ever before.
“That’s what keeps us going; we need an engaged citizenry who will move this country forward and that is what you see in this room,” Van Hollen said. “You see a lot of people who care about our community and our country and frankly, that’s what keeps me going and gets me up in the morning to go to work and represent my constituents as best as possible.”
Van Hollen spoke to audience on the importance of trying to keep the Trump Administration accountable and provided updates on votes being made on the Senate floor including the attempts to agree to a new fiscal budget before a Dec. 21 deadline. During his public remarks and speaking to the press afterwards, Van Hollen was clear that it was important to get a deal done to avoid a government shutdown.
He later confirmed that Senate Democrats had enough votes to block the nomination of Thomas Farr after Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) confirmed his opposition for the pick.
The Senator’s Largo office has been open since 2017 and is a way for state residents can speak to Van Hollen through his staff, officials said. Van Hollen encouraged Marylanders to use the office as a resource for their daily live, regardless of its local or national importance, in order to have their voices heard. The office is equipped with state information to serve all residents.
In response President Donald Trump’s statement standing by Saudi Arabia following the Oct. 2 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Van Hollen slammed the response while announcing that a bipartisan discharge petition was going through Congress stating that the United States would no longer support Saudi Arabia in the war against Yemen.
After a briefing with national security officials, a group of senators presented a separate resolution on Dec. 6 stating that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was “complicit” in the murder.
“When your own C.I.A. says that the Saudi Crown Prince was the person that orchestrated the assassination of an American resident, a Washington Post reporter in Khashoggi, and you’re the president of the United States and look the other way, that puts us all in more danger all over the world,” Van Hollen said.
Supporters cheered throughout Van Hollen’s speech while local government representatives in attendance, like State Senator Joanne Benson (D-24), praised the senator. Benson called Van Hollen accessible and very helpful in assisting her in the case of Curtis Brown, a prisoner who is looking to be granted a reduced sentence or be released from jail after being charged with a felony murder he witnessed in 1995 but did not commit.
“The things Chris Van Hollen has done are for the good of people,” Benson said. “…I do not care what he runs for; I am going to be supporting Chris Van Hollen. I can go on-and-on talking about the things this young man has done.”
For Washington, D.C. resident Stephen Duckworth, 36, it was great affair for those who wanted to get their voices heard. Because Washington does not have representation in the Senate, Duckworth writes emails to surrounding senators to stay engaged. He was invited to attend the open house and spoke to Van Hollen about the issues bothering him, including statehood for the District of Columbia.
“I was stunned to get the invite,” Duckworth said. “But I am glad that opportunities like this one exist because you should be active, learn who your representatives are and if you can, talk to them.”
Becca Smith, 38, agreed. She said the open house was an opportunity to bring her three children to speak to their senator and learn more about politics. Her youngest child, six-year old Marcellus, ask the second-term senator does he like Democrats or Republicans more, to which Van Hollen “everyone but prefers Democrats more.”