Van Hollen ‘eager’ to get back to work, wife says at Baltimore political rally

Katherine Van Hollen, pictured with Vincent DeMarco, stood in for her husband, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D), at a fundraiser in Baltimore on Monday for the Maryland Health Care For All Coalition. Photo by Josh Kurtz.

Here’s an encouraging sign that U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who suffered a mild stroke over the weekend, is on the mend: his wife, Katherine Van Hollen, was struck for him Monday morning during a public appearance.

Aside from admitting to having consumed too much caffeine, she was in good spirits.

The senator was scheduled to speak at a fundraiser in Baltimore for the Maryland Health Care For All Coalition. He is resting for the next few days after falling ill at the Western Maryland Democratic Summit on Saturday.

As Van Hollen spoke at the summit late Saturday morning, he felt lightheaded and felt a pop in the back of his neck. But it wasn’t obvious to the audience members; they thought he was leaning on the podium for dramatic effect during a rousing partisan address. Only hours later, after a visit to George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., doctors realized that Van Hollen had suffered a mild stroke.

But the 63-year-old senator is on the mend, his wife reported at the Maryland Health Care For All fundraiser.

“Chris is very upset and frustrated that he can’t be here in person,” Katherine Van Hollen said. Her husband, she said, was “eager” to be discharged from the hospital and back to work as soon as possible, which should happen later this week, according to his office.

She praised the health care coalition for “doing God’s work.”

Coalition Chairman Vincent DeMarco has called Senator Van Hollen a great ally since his time in the General Assembly. He recalls working with Van Hollen on tobacco tax legislation in the late 1990s over the objections of powerful state senate president the late Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D), who said a tobacco tax increase would happen “on my dead body”. .”

“I guess that’s what we’re going to have to do,” DeMarco recounted, telling Van Hollen, as the crowd burst into laughter.

Katherine Van Hollen said that despite the difficulty of accomplishing anything substantial in Congress these days, her husband remains optimistic that lawmakers will be able to find a compromise to reduce the price of prescription drugs .

“Few things are more important than access to affordable, quality health care,” she said.

Also speaking at the fundraiser Monday: Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott (D), State Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), who just resigned as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in Annapolis, and state Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D), who appeared via Zoom. The event raised about $30,000 for the health care advocacy group and attracted an “A-list” of politicians, health care policy experts, labor leaders and philanthropists.

Van Hollen is the second Democratic senator to have a mild stroke this year. New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Lujan (D) had a stroke in late January, and he returned to Capitol Hill in early March. But since the Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, the absence of a single senator for a few days can have a significant impact on the legislative agenda and the confirmation votes of candidates for the Biden administration.

This week may not be as busy in the Senate as some weeks have been in recent years. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was due to return with fellow Republicans from a trip to Ukraine Monday night. And with President Biden scheduled to travel to Buffalo, NY, on Tuesday to comfort the families of victims of the racially motivated mass supermarket shooting, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) is likely to accompany it, further slowing down the work of the Senate.

Coincidentally, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the frontrunner in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate in Keystone State, also revealed that he had a mild stroke during the weekend. It remains to be seen whether this will have an impact on his electoral fortunes.

DeMarco gave each of the speakers a jar of homemade spaghetti sauce, based on his mother’s recipe, “made with tomatoes, basil, salt and love.”

“This will heal Chris,” he told Katherine Van Hollen as he presented her with the gift.

“I hope there’s garlic in it, as a Greek-American,” she said.

“You can add garlic,” DeMarco replied.