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Cohen Praises FBI Director’s Support for Requiring Reports on Police Shootings

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 12, 2015:

Congressman introduced legislation in January that would accomplish goals set forth by FBI Director James Comey this morning

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) applauded FBI Director James Comey for stating in a speech this morning that it is “ridiculous that [he] can’t tell you how many people were shot by the police last week, last month, last year.” In the same speech, Director Comey suggested that police departments nationwide should be required to report shootings that involve police officers so that these numbers can be tracked. Congressman Cohen introduced his National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act (H.R.306) last month to do just and more. His legislation would close a loophole in federal law that prevents adequate collection of comprehensive national data regarding justified and unjustified fatal interactions with police.

“FBI Director Comey is exactly right: it is ridiculous that we can’t tell the American people how many lives were ended by police officers this year, or any year,” said Congressman Cohen. “Before we can truly address the problem of excessive force used by law enforcement we have to understand the nature of the problem and that begins with accurate data. That is why I introduced the National Statistics on Deadly Force Act; so that our country can do a better job of honestly assessing racial disparities and other problems in our justice system and begin to fix them. It is a step in the right direction and a critical component of the healing process, I look forward to working with Director Comey to bring accountability and transparency to policing in America, and I commend him for addressing this issue.”

Without accurate and comprehensive data, racial disparities, abuses, and instances of excessive use of force are difficult to identify and unlikely to be fixed. The 1994 Crime Bill requires the Attorney General to collect statistics on the use of excessive force, but the law does not provide any enforcement mechanism nor does it adequately define what “excessive force” is. As a result, the federal government has been unable to gather data from many local police departments and there are no reliable statistics on how often law enforcement uses deadly force. Congressman Cohen’s legislation, which has 8 cosponsors, would incentivize states to require local law enforcement agencies to provide data to the Attorney General on:

  • The date of each instance when deadly force was used;
  • The identifying characteristics of the victim and officer involved, including the race, gender, ethnicity, religion and approximate age of the victim;
  • Any alleged criminal behavior by the victim;
  • An explanation, if any, by the relevant law enforcement agency of why deadly force was used;
  • A copy of any use of deadly force guidelines in effect at the time at the law enforcement agency;
  • The nature of the deadly force used, including whether it involved a firearm; and
  • A description of any non-lethal efforts that were taken before deadly force was used.

This data would be made publicly available, but would not disclose any personally identifying information. Congressman Cohen also plans to introduce legislation this year that would require incidents of deadly force used by police to be investigated and, if need be, prosecuted, by an independent actor. Currently, these cases are rarely prosecuted effectively due to an obvious conflict of interest between local police and the prosecuting District Attorney, who relies on a close working relationship with those same police officers to carry out other prosecutorial duties.

Cohen Announces $6.7 M in Federal Public Housing Funds for Memphis

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 12, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today announced $6,701,299 in federal funds to help improve and modernize public housing facilities in the Ninth District. The Memphis Housing Authority will receive a total of $6,589,736 and the Millington Housing Authority will receive $111,563 in 2015 Capital Fund Program grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“Quality, affordable housing is crucial as Memphians work to pull themselves out of the recession,” said Congressman Cohen. “Many of these housing units are in need of large-scale improvements, including repairing roofs, replacing old plumbing or electrical rewiring. The infusion of these federal funds will help the Memphis and Millington Housing Authorities make further investments that will make public housing more sustainable.”

This announcement is part of nearly $1.8 billion in public housing grants awarded nationwide, and more than $47.6 million awarded statewide in Tennessee, by HUD today. The Department’s Capital Fund Program provides funding to local public housing agencies to build, repair, modernize, and renovate public housing facilities in their community.

Black Files Bill to Grant States Authority to Lease, Permit Energy Exploration on Federal Land

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; February 12, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) reintroduced H.R. 866, the Federal Land Freedom Act (FLFA) of 2015. This legislation would delegate the leasing and permitting process for energy exploration on federal lands to the states. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is set to introduce the Senate companion bill.

“Today Americans are enjoying a reprieve from the sky-high gas prices that have become a hallmark of President Obama’s time in office. But the fact remains, this Administration lacks a commonsense strategy to create more energy at home and to ensure that affordable fuel costs are here to stay,” said Congressman Diane Black. “Right now, our government is hampering domestic energy production by tying up the process in bureaucratic red tape. In 2014 alone it took, on average, 227 days just to process applications for permits to drill on federal lands. Our states have the tools and regional expertise necessary to regulate energy production on their own timetables and in a safe, responsible manner. That is why my bill puts them in the driver’s seat and returns federalism back to our national energy discussion.”

Congressman Black added, “The Federal Land Freedom Act  will finally loosen the Obama Administration’s grip on energy development of public lands. The states already play a role in the federal permitting process, and putting full energy permitting authority in their hands makes good sense both for our economy and our government. I urge my colleagues to join me in working to advance this critical states’ rights legislation.”

Background:
The Federal Land Freedom Act empowers states to establish programs to lease, permit, and regulate the development of all forms of energy resources on federal lands, including renewables.  Once a state makes a declaration that such a program has been established, the state would receive the rights to develop the energy resources located on the federal lands within its borders.

In past years, the number of leases on federal lands has dropped from 131,000,000 acres in Fiscal Year 1984 to less than 35,000,000 acres in Fiscal Year 2014. According to the Congressional Research Service, there are 166 million acres of public lands deemed off-limits or inaccessible by the federal government for oil and gas development. Additionally, the time spent to obtain a permit to drill on federal lands stands at 227 days. In comparison, states average around 30 days to approve their corresponding permits.

The Federal Land Freedom Act would not extend to federal Indian land, the National Park System, the National Wildlife Refuge System, or a congressionally designated wilderness area. The legislation is supported by Heritage Action, Western Energy Alliance, The R Street Institute, and the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC).

Duncan Introduces Bill to End ‘Cadillac’ Crop Insurance Subsidy

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, Jr., R-Tenn. 02; February 12, 2015:

Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.) introduced bipartisan legislation Thursday to eliminate a little-known “Cadillac” crop insurance subsidy that costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year and is used mostly by large corporate farmers.

The Harvest Price Subsidy Reduction Act would end taxpayer support for harvest price option insurance plans.  The measure is supported by a wide range of taxpayer watchdog groups and would save $19 billion over 10 years.

Under a traditional crop insurance plan, farmers purchase a policy that pays out if they earn less money at harvest time than they were projected to make when they planted their crop. It is meant to be a safety net to protect farmers from catastrophic and unanticipated losses.

Under harvest price option plans, however, if the crop ends up higher than projected, the farmer is paid out at that higher price.  Since harvest price option policies are purchased with taxpayer subsidies, it amounts to taxpayer-subsidized profit guarantees.

“Our crop insurance system is not fair to the 99-percent of business owners in my District who do not get subsidies from the federal government to run their business,” Duncan said. “Big agro businesses and insurance corporations have a sweetheart deal.  The largest corporate farms collect the lion’s share of the money, creating an unfair playing field for small, family farmers. It’s crony capitalism at its best.”

“Of the 20 largest crop insurance companies operating in the U.S., eight are foreign-owned and have been receiving U.S. taxpayer money to provide these policies,” Duncan continued.

Under the bill, farmers could continue to purchase harvest price option insurance policies, just without taxpayer subsidy support.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate.

“Making a living in agriculture is not easy or predictable. That’s why there are safety net programs like traditional crop insurance,” said Flake. “But HPOs are not safety net programs: They put taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars even when huge profits are being made.”

The Crop Insurance Subsidy Reduction Act is supported by the following groups: Heritage Action; American Enterprise Institute; R Street Institute; Club for Growth; National Taxpayers Union; Campaign for Liberty; Taxpayers Protection Alliance; Center for Individual Freedom; Coalition to Reduce Spending; Less Government; and the Environmental Working Group.

Read a joint letter of support from these organizations HERE.

Cohen, Cooper Critical of General Assembly’s Rejection of Insure TN

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 4, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today issued the following statement regarding the Tennessee State Senate Health & Welfare Committee, by a vote of 4 to 7, effectively killing Governor Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee:

“Foolish, foolish, foolish. Sad, sad, sad. Sick, sick, sick.”

“This vote is foolish because it leaves $1 billion in federal funds each year on the table that could have helped keep hospitals open, boosted our economy, and improved our citizens’ health.”

“This vote is sad because it shows inhumanity and disdain for Tennessee’s sick and our poorest citizens in need of health care.”

“And it is sick because some of those Tennesseans will die as a result of this decision. Those who voted ‘no’ today made a foolish, sad, sick and outright wrong decision.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 4, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) today issued the following statement:

“Tennesseans will die and hospitals will close as a result of our cruel state legislature. Rarely in state history have we seen such a devastating lack of leadership.”

Roe, Black, Blackburn Praise Obamacare Repeal Legislation

Press release from U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. 01; February 3, 2015:

Roe Statement on Obamacare Repeal Vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House passed legislation to repeal Obamacare and to direct the committees of jurisdiction in Congress to develop a replacement bill that increases access to health insurance, lowers cost and improves quality. Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) was unable to be in Washington for the vote because of a family illness, but released the following statement on the legislation:

“As an outspoken opponent of Obamacare, I was proud to cosponsor this legislation, which repeals the president’s health care law and lays the groundwork for a patient-centered alternative. I am glad the House passed this bill, and I hope the Senate will take up this important legislation so we can keep our promise to protect the American people from this terribly flawed and unworkable law. I strongly support this measure and will continue to push for a full repeal of Obamacare and for alternative solutions that will lower costs and increase access to health care.”

“I want to repeal this bill and replace it with something a lot simpler that will actually work, which is why I introduced the American Health Care Reform Act. I’m still convinced we can right the wrongs of Obamacare, but it’s going to take a complete overhaul. I will continue to push conservative, market-based health care reform that will actually lower the cost of health care for American families while allowing them the freedom and flexibility to make their own health care decisions.”

In the last Congress, Rep. Roe introduced the Republican Study Committee’s alternative to Obamacare. The bill, H.R. 3121, the American Health Care Reform Act, had more than 130 cosponsors. More information about H.R. 3121 can be found here.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; February 3, 2015:

Rep. Black on House Floor: Obamacare “Hurts the Very People It Pretends to Help”

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KzspXtP28k[/youtube]

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), a member of the Ways & Means Health Subcommittee and nurse for more than 40 years, spoke on the House floor in support of H.R. 596. If enacted, this legislation would repeal the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, and direct appropriate House committees to devise a patient-centered replacement to this law. The bill, which Congressman Black cosponsored, is expected to receive a vote on final passage in the House later this afternoon. A transcript of Rep. Black’s remarks is below or click here for a video.

Mister Speaker, as a nurse for more than 40 years, I saw how decisions in Washington impacted real people.

I witnessed the effects of Congress’s actions on my patients’ faces and in their billing statements.

I understand better than most the need for health care reform but Obamacare was never the way to do it.

Just ask the 16,000 Tennesseans who lost their health insurance through CoverTN despite the President’s promise that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” Or the 11 million small business employees that CMS says will see their premiums spike because of this law.

The results are in: Obamacare was a mistake that hurts the very people it pretends to help. That is why, today, I will vote to repeal this law once and for all.

I yield back.

Resources:

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; February 3, 20

Blackburn Votes to Repeal Obamacare, Says Law is Too Expensive To Afford
Works to restore healthcare choice & options for American people

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) issued the following statement in support of legislation to repeal Obamacare, H.R. 596, which passed the House today as part of the continued effort to protect consumers from President Obama’s disastrous healthcare law.

“House Republicans remain united in our opposition to the damage done by Obamacare. It is clear to us and clear to our constituents that this law is not affordable,” Blackburn said. “Obamacare is taking us back to the day of old major medical policies with high deductibles, high premiums, and limited choice of doctors and hospitals.

“Over 100 bills have already been introduced this Congress to undo the damage caused by President Obama’s failed healthcare law. One of those bills is my legislation, H.R. 543, the Health Care Choice Act that would empower consumers by giving them the ability to purchase affordable health insurance coverage with a range of options from any provider in any state in the country.

“One thing is clear — Obamacare is not working. It’s time to get it off the books and replace it with common sense solutions that will restore choice and options for the American people.”

Click Here for Video of Blackburn’s Remarks in Support of the Bill

Cooper Assigned to 3 Armed Forces Subcommittees

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 24, 2015:

Appointed to three subcommittees; top Democrat on panel that oversees nuclear arsenal

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today announced his appointment to three subcommittees within the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).

“America has the finest military in the history of the world, and it’s the first duty of government to keep it that way,” Cooper said. “It’s an honor to work on the Armed Services committee and focus on issues involving strategic weapons, counterterrorism and oversight.”

Previously a member of two HASC subcommittees, Cooper received a special waiver to join a third in the current Congress.

As the Ranking Member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Cooper is responsible for overseeing America’s vast nuclear arsenal, as well as a $30 billion annual budget.

Cooper’s newest subcommittees include Emerging Threats and Capabilities, which provides oversight of the Pentagon’s $70 billion research and development budget. He’s also joining the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, which investigates allegations of waste, fraud and abuse within the Department of Defense.

The House Armed Services Committee is responsible for providing the common defense and general welfare of the United States. For the last 53 years, the committee has passed annual legislation to fund budgets and authorize policies for America’s armed forces.

Cohen Praises Obama’s ‘Precision Medicine Initiative’

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 30, 2015:

[MEMPHIS, TN] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus, today applauded President Obama’s launch of the Precision Medicine Initiative, a bold new research effort aimed at revolutionizing how America treats disease and improves health. Through a $215 million investment in the President’s 2016 Budget, the Precision Medicine Initiative will pioneer a new, patient-focused research model that promotes individually-tailored treatments instead of the current norm of “one-size-fits-all” treatments that can be successful for some patients but not for others.

“I am pleased that the President’s innovative Precision Medicine Initiative will invest $200 million in the National Institutes of Health, which is another department of defense that protects us from deadly diseases and illnesses,” said Congressman Cohen. “The likelihood of any one of us dying from a terrorist attack or weapon fired by a rogue nation is very slim, but the odds of suffering from disease are much more likely. While we more than adequately fund the Department of Defense, we have significantly cut funding for the NIH and for biomedical research, preventing critically important research for cures and treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, stroke, cancer, and Parkinson’s. The President’s new plan will help modernize the NIH, restore some of sequestration’s cuts, and propel the next generation of effective individualized treatments. I urge my fellow Members of Congress to join me in helping him launch the Precision Medicine Initiative.”

Advances in precision medicine have already led to powerful new discoveries and several new treatments that are tailored to specific characteristics of individuals, such as a person’s genetic makeup, or the genetic profile of an individual’s tumor.  This is leading to a transformation in the way we can treat diseases such as cancer. Patients with breast, lung, and colorectal cancers, as well as melanomas and leukemias, for instance, routinely undergo molecular testing as part of patient care, enabling physicians to select treatments that improve chances of survival and reduce exposure to adverse effects. The potential for precision medicine to improve care and speed the development of new treatments has only just begun to be tapped. Translating initial successes to a larger scale will require a coordinated and sustained national effort.

Through collaborative public and private efforts, the Precision Medicine Initiative will leverage advances in genomics, emerging methods for managing and analyzing large data sets while protecting privacy, and health information technology to accelerate biomedical discoveries. The Initiative will also engage a million or more Americans to volunteer to contribute their health data to improve health outcomes, fuel the development of new treatments, and catalyze a new era of data-based and more precise medical treatment. Complementing robust investments to broadly support research, development, and innovation, the President’s 2016 Budget will provide a $215 million investment for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), together with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to support this effort, including:

  • $130 million to NIH for development of a voluntary national research cohort of a million or more volunteers to propel our understanding of health and disease and set the foundation for a new way of doing research through engaged participants and open, responsible data sharing.
  • $70 million to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of NIH, to scale up efforts to identify genomic drivers in cancer and apply that knowledge in the development of more effective approaches to cancer treatment.
  • $10 million to FDA to acquire additional expertise and advance the development of high quality, curated databases to support the regulatory structure needed to advance innovation in precision medicine and protect public health.
  • $5 million to ONC to support the development of interoperability standards and requirements that address privacy and enable secure exchange of data across systems.

Congressman Cohen is a leading voice in the U.S. House of Representatives for supporting our nation’s research institutions and has long fought to reverse the devastating effects sequestration has had on biomedical research in America, especially on research funded and conducted by the NIH. In the 113th Congress, the Congressman led a coalition of nearly 50 U.S. Representatives in urging the reversal of a decade-long slide in support for the NIH and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that has left our nation less prepared to stop the spread of viral diseases and without cures or vaccines for some of the most deadly illnesses. The Congressman also introduced the Research First Act to increase NIH funding for research by more than $1.5 billion, after that funding had been cut by sequestration.

Fincher Supports U.S. Ex-Im Bank Reform Legislation

Press release from U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn. 08; January 28, 2015:

Reform Bill Will Support Job Growth, Minimize Risk,and Enhance Accountability

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Stephen Fincher (R-TN) today made the following statement regarding H.R. 597, The Reform Exports and Expand the American Economy Act, to reform the U.S. Export-Import Bank which was introduced and cosponsored by 58 Members of Congress.

“The U.S. Ex-Im Bank has been a job-creator since its inception, yet it is in dire need of major reforms to ensure its ability to continue creating jobs at no expense to the taxpayer. In reforming the Ex-Im Bank, we’ll make its practices more accountable and transparent than ever before. We’ll also enhance taxpayer protections by requiring the Bank to become more solvent and self-sufficient.”

“People in my District, and across the country, are demanding more economic opportunities and expansion of the job-market. We can meet their demands by taking action now and supporting reforms to the Ex-Im Bank that improve its ability to support jobs and growth in communities across the nation.”

Legislative reforms include:

  • Increased capital requirements for loan-loss reserves to protect taxpayers from future defaults;
  • Reduced taxpayer exposure from $140 billion to $130 billion;
  • Parallel GAAP reporting;
  • Making the EX-IM Bank the lender of last resort;
  • Increased risk sharing by private sector lenders and exporters;
  • Enhanced multilateral negotiations to reign in official export credit from OECD countries as well as non-OECD countries like China;
  • A clearly defined a role for the Chief Risk Officer and members of the Board of Directors that provides balance with the Bank’s Chairman;
  • Required independent audit of the Bank’s portfolio; and
  • Greater anti-corruption safeguards.

Cosponsors Include: Aderholt, Amodei, Barletta, Bost, Boustany, Bucshon, Calvert, Cole, Collins, Comstock, Costello, Cramer, Crawford, Crenshaw, Davis, Dold, Gibbs, Gibson, Graves, Hanna, Harper, Hartzler, Hultgren, Hunter, Johnson, Jolly, Joyce, Katko, Kelly, King, Kinzinger, LoBiondo, Long, Lucas, MacArthur, Marino, Meehan, Mica, Mullin, Newhouse, Pitts, Reed, Reichert, Rice, Rogers, Schock, Shimkus, Shuster, Stefanik, Stivers, Thompson, Tiberi, Turner, Valadao, Wagner, Walorski, and Wilson.

 

Black: Healthcare.gov ‘as Flawed’ as Obamacare

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; January 28, 2015:

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc7YwAVDXpg[/youtube]

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) spoke on the House floor to highlight continued privacy concerns on Healthcare.gov. As Congressman Black noted in her remarks, the Obama Administration was recently found to have shared users’ personal data – including age, income, zip code, and smoking and pregnancy status – with numerous third party vendors.

Yesterday, Congressman Black and Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA-07) led a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) demanding answers regarding the Administration’s data-sharing practices. Reps. Black and Meehan also reintroduced the Federal Exchange Data Breach Notification Act of 2015, legislation requiring the government to notify affected users if their information is breached on the federal healthcare exchanges. Currently, there is no law requiring the federal government to issue these notifications, even though it is required in most state-based exchanges and in the private sector.

A transcript of Rep. Black’s remarks on the House floor are below, or click here for a video.

Mister Speaker, more than a year after its launch, Healthcare.gov remains just as flawed as the underlying Obamacare law itself. Most recently, we learned the Obama Administration was sharing users’ personal data with numerous third party vendors.

When the Administration was caught with their hand in the cookie jar, they quietly scaled this back but many unanswered questions remain. That is why I led a letter with Congressman Pat Meehan demanding answers regarding Healthcare.gov data security and privacy policies.

While we await their reply, we also reintroduced the Federal Exchange Data Breach Notification Act—legislation simply requiring the government to notify consumers if their personal information is breached on the healthcare exchanges.

It defies all logic that this basic requirement isn’t already law – it’s time we change that. I yield back.