News from Congressman Steve Cohen

June 28, 2019

Dear Friend,  
This week, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, I presided at a hearing on challenges to the Voting Rights Act after the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court ruling. I also voted to protect our election security by requiring paper ballots in elections for federal office; wrote to President Trump to recommend he commute the sentences of non-violent drug offenders; hosted a “Congress On Your Corner” event; offered an amendment and voted to prohibit federal spending at Trump businesses; congratulated the White Station High School JROTC Knowledge Bowl champions; met with the winner of this year’s Congressional Art Competition; provided a reminder regarding Tennessee’s new “Hands Free Law;” and offered a tip about distracted driving.  Keep reading to learn more about my week and follow me on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram to see more updates as they happen. 

Presiding at Hearing on Challenges to the Voting Rights Act 
Voting to Protect Election Security 
Writing to Trump Recommending Commutations for Non-Violent Drug Offenders 
Holding a “Congress On Your Corner” Event   
Voting to Prohibit Federal Spending at Trump Businesses 
Voting to Send Emergency Border Aid 
Congratulating White Station JROTC Knowledge Bowl Champions 
Congratulating Vanderbilt National Champion Baseball Team
Announcing Grant to UTHSC   
Meeting Myles Hardy, Winner of Congressional Art Competition 
Meeting with St. Jude Officials and Cancer Survivor Sarahbeth Rivers Howes 
Reminding that Hands Free Cellphone Law takes effect July 1 
Weekly Health Tip 
Quote of the Week 


Presiding at Hearing on Challenges to the Voting Rights Act 

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On Tuesday, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, I presided at a hearing on challenges to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) following the 2013 Shelby County (Alabama) v. Holder Supreme Court decision. Prior to this harmful decision, voting jurisdictions with a history of discrimination had to submit any changes to their voting laws to the Department of Justice for approval. Now, without this preclearance requirement, states and local governments across the country are enacting new policies that suppress minority voting. Witnesses described current efforts across the United States to suppress minority voting. Many of these polices are in the exact places previously covered by the Voting Rights Act. See my release about the hearing and my opening statement and questioning of witnesses here. Prior to the hearing, I spoke at a press conference on the VRA with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Georgia Congressman and Civil Rights hero John Lewis, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and others. 

Voting to Protect Election Security 

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Congressmen Cohen with, from left, Congressmen Ted Lieu, Eliot Engel and Gerry Connolly

On Wednesday, I voted to approve $600 million in election security grants to strengthen our election system in the wake of Russian meddling in 2016 presidential election and ongoing foreign interference. On Thursday, I voted for H.R. 2722, the Securing America’s Federal Elections (SAFE) Act, requiring that voting systems used in elections for federal office produce a voter-verified paper ballot for each vote cast. I also spoke at a press conference Thursday on the Secure Our Democracy Act that I co-sponsored, which would punish foreign interference in our elections with sanctions and other penalties.

Writing to Trump Recommending Commutations for Non-Violent Drug Offenders 

On Wednesday, I sent a letter to President Trump recommending that he commute the sentences of 16,000 non-violent drug offenders. See my press release and the letter here.

Holding a “Congress On Your Corner” Event   

Earlier today, my district office staff held a “Congress On Your Corner” event at the Gaston Park Branch Library to help my 9th Congressional District constituents with issues with federal agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits. My next “Congress On Your Corner” will be Friday, July 19, at the South Branch Library, 1929 South Third Street, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you need assistance, please drop by. If you are interested in attending one of my “Congress on Your Corner” events, you can sign up here to receive notification as soon as the next event is scheduled. 

Voting to Prohibit Federal Spending at Trump Businesses 

On Wednesday, I went to the House floor to offer an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act that prohibits the use of federal funds at Trump-related businesses. This follows amendments that I introduced that were included in the State and Foreign Operations and Commerce, Justice, and Science bills. See that speech here.  Later in the day, I voted for the measure and it passed the House. 

Voting to Send Emergency Border Aid 

On Tuesday and again on Thursday, I voted for and the House passed a bill to send $4.6 billion in emergency aid to deal with the migrant crisis on our Southern border. Images of the crisis are disturbing and the need for this emergency funding is clear. 

Congratulating White Station JROTC Knowledge Bowl Champions 

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I want to congratulate the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) academic team from White Station High School for winning the JROTC Academic National Championship on Sunday. The team, one of 32 invited to compete for the national championship at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C, consists of rising senior Catherine Hu and rising juniors Johnnie Walton, Michael Golden and Diran Tan. Their teacher and coach is Sergeant Major Karen Bolden. Congratulations to the team and all the White Station Spartans. 

Meeting Myles Hardy, Winner of Congressional Art Competition 

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This week, rising Southwind High School senior Myles Hardy and his family visited my Washington office. Myles is the winner of the annual Congressional Art Competition for Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District and, as part of being a winner, was flown to the capital by Southwest Airlines. His “Sights of Memphis” collage, capturing the energy and spirit of our city, will hang in the U.S. Capitol for a year. I walked with Myles to the Subcommittee hearing on the Voting Rights Act I was chairing and he had an opportunity to meet the witnesses, including former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Congratulations, Myles.  

Congratulating Vanderbilt National Champion Baseball Team

I want to congratulate the Vanderbilt Baseball Team for winning the College World Series on Wednesday. As a Commodore myself, the victory was particularly welcome. Coach Tim Corbin led the team to a record-setting 59 victories this season and pitcher Kumar Rocker pitched a no-hitter against Duke. Congratulations, Commodores.

Announcing Grant to UTHSC   

This week, I announced federal grants to the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. See that release here

Meeting with St. Jude Officials and Cancer Survivor Sarahbeth Rivers Howes 
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On Wednesday, I met in the Capitol with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital representatives and with St. Jude patient and cancer survivor Sarahbeth Rivers Howes and her husband, Brett Howes. We talked about my longstanding support for biomedical research and for St. Jude.   

Reminding that Hands Free Cellphone Law takes effect July 1 

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On Monday, July 1, Tennessee’s new “Hands Free Law” takes effect, which prohibits using cell phones or mobile devices while driving. While texting and driving is already illegal, this law bans all cell phone usage while driving except pushing one button to accept or end a phone call. The “Hands Free Law” will help to minimize the serious and growing problem of distracted driving in Tennessee.  

Weekly Health Tip 

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Tennessee unfortunately leads the nation in distracted driving deaths at 7.2 per 10 billion vehicle miles. That’s five times higher than the national average. Over a 10-year period from 2009 to 2019, Shelby County had 56,176 distracted driving crashes, the most in the state. See the National Highway Traffic Administration’s assessment of this risky behavior and its consequences here.  

Quote of the Week   

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“This act flows from a clear and simple wrong. Its only purpose is to right that wrong. Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote. The wrong is one which no American, in his heart, can justify. The right is one which no American, true to our principles, can deny.” -- President Lyndon Johnson at the signing of the Voting Rights Act, August 6, 1965.

I want to wish everyone a Happy 4th of July. 

As always, I remain
Most sincerely,

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Steve Cohen
Member of Congress

 

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