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Cooper Files Bill to ‘Eliminate Duplicative Programs’

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; January 28, 2015:

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan bill reintroduced today by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) would require the federal government to find ways to eliminate duplicative programs.

The Taxpayers Right to Know Act unanimously passed the House in the last session of Congress. It would compel each federal agency to publish an annual report card for all of its programs.

Each agency’s list would be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, which would determine how many identical and overlapping government programs exist and recommend ways to eliminate duplication.

“I hate when taxpayer money is wasted,” Rep. Cooper said. “It’s embarrassing that we even need this bill. Congress knows what it should cut. It just needs to do the job.”

“The American people deserve to know how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent, and the federal government should be accountable for its spending,” Rep. Walberg said. “It’s no secret the federal government is cluttered with wasteful and duplicative programs, and this bipartisan bill will help identify the outdated programs that should be streamlined or eliminated to save taxpayer money.”

U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) plans on introducing an identical companion measure in the Senate.

Each government program would be identified and reports would outline:

  • Total administrative costs of the program;
  • Total expenditures for services;
  • Total number of beneficiaries who receive assistance from the program; and
  • An estimate of the number of staff who administer the program, including contractor staff.

Each report also would include:

  • A listing of other programs within the agency with duplicative or overlapping missions and services;
  • The latest performance reviews for the program, including the metrics used to review the program;
  • The latest improper payment rate for the program, including fraudulent payments; and
  • The total amount of unspent and unobligated program funds held by the agency and grant recipients.

This information would be updated annually and posted online, along with recommendations to consolidate duplicative and overlapping programs; to eliminate waste and inefficiency; and to terminate lower priority, outdated and unnecessary programs.

The bill is based on the annual report from the Government Accountability Office on government duplication, waste and mismanagement. Last year’s report found 64 actions across 26 areas – ranging from unemployment benefits to military contracting practices – where agencies may be able to achieve greater efficiency or effectiveness.

 

Black Files Legislation to Require Feds Notify Consumers if Data Breached on Healthcare.gov

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; January 27, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) and Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA-07) led a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner demanding information on the Obama Administration’s practice of sharing consumers’ private information through Healthcare.gov. You can read a copy of the letter here. Reps. Black and Meehan also introduced the Federal Exchange Data Breach Notification Act of 2015. This legislation would simply require the government to notify consumers if their personal information is breached on the Healthcare.gov exchanges. Currently there is no such requirement under federal law – despite similar standards being in place for the private sector and state-run exchanges.

The Associated Press reported last week that numerous third-party vendors were given access to consumers’ personal data – including age, income, zip code, and smoking and pregnancy status – through Healthcare.gov. Rep. Black immediately responded to the report, citing “inherent security flaws” in the Healthcare.gov website and calling for data-breach notification legislation to protect users’ personal information when accessing the federal healthcare exchanges. Last Friday, the Obama Administration announced that it would “scale back” data sharing on Healthcare.gov, however it is still unclear what information will continue to be transmitted and what is done with information that was already collected.

As Reps. Black and Meehan point out in their letter to HHS and CMS, the Obama Administration’s practice of disseminating users’ personal information directly contradicts Healthcare.gov’s own privacy policy which states, “No personally identifiable information is collected.” Reps. Black and Meehan released the following statements on their letter and newly introduced legislation:

“I have warned for over a year now of security and privacy concerns under Healthcare.gov. Sadly, from the website’s hacking last summer, to these latest revelations of data-sharing without users’ knowledge or consent, the Obama Administration continues to show that our concerns are well-founded and that Americans’ personal information on this site remains at risk,” said Congressman Diane Black. “Americans deserve the highest standards of privacy and confidentiality when enrolling in health insurance, and they certainly shouldn’t be left holding the bag for this Administration’s failure to maintain a secure website. That is why my letter to the Administration demands answers on Healthcare.gov’s privacy and security standards and seeks information on what data was collected by Healthcare.gov, how long it was stored, and in what way it was secured.”

Congressman Black added, “In light of the Obama Administration’s latest failing, I am proud to reintroduce the Federal Exchange Data Breach Notification Act of 2015. This commonsense legislation will simply require the government to notify affected consumers if their personal information is compromised on Healthcare.gov. It defies all logic that this basic requirement is not already law. I was pleased to carry this legislation in the last Congress and will fight once again for its passage so that Americans can take action to protect themselves in the event of an Obamacare security breach.”

“It is unacceptable that security and privacy failures keep happening with Healthcare.gov,”said Congressman Patrick Meehan. “No American should have to fear their data will be exploited or compromised through HealthCare.gov. The data on the exchanges is among families’ most private, and it should not be shared without a user’s consent. The legislation we have introduced today will ensure that the feds live up to their obligation to disclose data breaches on the federal exchange and come clean with consumers.”

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Cohen, Cooper Join Bipartisan Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Arizona Redistricting Case

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 27, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, this week joined 19 other Members of Congress in filing a bipartisan amicus brief in the Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission case scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court later this year. The amicus brief, which was signed by 10 other Democrats and 9 Republicans, supports the right of citizens to determine how federal elections are conducted in their individual states and defends the federal government’s Constitutional authority to make or alter regulations related to the “time, place, and manner” of Congressional elections.

“Elected officials should focus on effectively and equitably representing their constituents, not merely winning partisan battles,” said Congressman Cohen.“Unfortunately, in seeking to overturn the decisions of a non-partisan, independent commission endorsed overwhelmingly by the voters of their state, Arizona’s Republican leaders have chosen a different path. This meritless lawsuit misrepresents the Founder’s intentions, puts partisanship above people, and merely underscores the urgent need to get politics out of the redistricting process. The people of Arizona voted to eliminate gerrymandering, and the Supreme Court should respect their choice.”

The Arizona case centers on a referendum passed by Arizona voters in 2000 which, in an effort to make the redistricting process non-partisan and to combat gerrymandering, set up an independent, five-member redistricting commission to take redrawing of congressional districts out of the hands the Arizona legislature. In 2012, after the independent commission carried out its duty for the second time following the 2010 Census, the Arizona State Legislature sued, arguing that the U.S. Constitution’s Elections Clause grants the power of setting election laws explicitly and exclusively to the individual state legislatures, a misinterpretation of the language.

In supporting the constitutionality of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the bipartisan Congressional amicus brief reiterates that:

  • Congress has broad and express Constitutional authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of congressional elections,
  • For more than 170 years, Congress has done so in a way that supports the people of Arizona to form a redistricting commission,
  • Congress has in fact weighed in and has said in federal statute that states’ redistricting can be done by more than the State Legislature proper,
  • The use of an independent commission for districting is consistent with, and supports, core principles of federalism reflected in the Constitution and the Elections Clause itself, which seek to ensure a direct link between national representatives and the People,
  • The use of an independent commission is an important, democracy-promoting development that will help reduce negative effects of severe partisan gerrymandering.

Congressman Cohen also reintroduced his Tanner Fairness and Independence in Redistricting (FAIR) Act, which would bring an Arizona-style independent redistricting commission to every state, earlier this month. His legislation would take the decennial congressional apportionment process, which often leads to partisan gerrymandering, out of the hands of politicians and give it to an independent redistricting commission.

“It’s time to take politics out of the redistricting process,” said Congressman Cohen when introducing the John Tanner FAIR Act. “Congress is so polarized today that we’re unable to find common ground on the major issues facing our country.  Instead of solving our nation’s problems, Congress is just kicking the can down the road and waiting until the next election for answers.  I believe that if we eliminate the gerrymandering of districts we will help get more accomplished for our country.”

The John Tanner FAIR Act was championed for many years by former Congressman John Tanner and was introduced in the 112th Congress by former Congressman Heath Shuler. Beginning after the 2020 census, it would require each state to appoint an independent and transparent congressional redistricting commission. The commission would be charged with creating a redistricting plan that emphasizes geographical contiguity and compactness of districts rather than political affiliations or the impact a district’s lines may have on incumbent representatives.

The Congresspeople signing on to the Arizona amicus brief include: Julia Brownley (D-Cal.),Ken Calvert (R-Cal.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.),Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Duncan D. Hunter (R-Cal.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Cal.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Cal.), Tom McClintock (R-Cal.), Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.), David E. Price (D-N.C.), Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Cal.).

Blackburn Introduces Bill to Allow Purchase of Health Insurance Across State Lines

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; January 27, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today renewed her fight to repeal Obamacare and replace it with her proposal to allow consumers to shop for insurance across state lines. Blackburn introduced H.R. 543, the Health Care Choice Act of 2015, which would empower consumers by giving them the ability to purchase affordable health insurance coverage with a range of options. The bill has 14 original cosponsors.

“We all know that the consumer can make better choices for their health care than a Washington bureaucrat,” Blackburn said. “The Health Care Choice Act offers a common sense solution that will replace Washington mandates with interstate competition by allowing consumers to shop for health insurance just like they do for other insurance products – online, by mail, over the phone, or in consultation with an insurance agent in their hometown.

“Instead of requiring every health plan to carry so many mandates that it becomes unaffordable, the Health Care Choice Act frees insurance companies to compete for your business across state lines, offering better options for lower prices.”

Original cosponsors of the Health Care Choice Act of 2015 include: Rep. Diane Black (TN-06); Rep. Charles Boustany (LA-03); Rep. Scott DesJarlais(TN-04); Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (TN-03); Rep. Chris Gibson (NY-19); Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY-02); Rep. Gregg Harper (MS-03); Rep. Adam Kinzinger (IL-16); Rep. Leonard Lance (NJ-07); Rep. Billy Long (MO-07); Rep. Mia Love (UT-04); Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-04); Rep. Pete Olson (TX-22); and Rep. Phil Roe (TN-01).

Black Pushes for Tougher Human Trafficking Legislation

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; January 26, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) spoke on the House floor to raise awareness of the crisis of human trafficking. As Congressman Black noted in her remarks, human sex trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world, with an estimated 300,000 young Americans at risk of becoming victims. This week, the House will vote on a series of bipartisan bills aimed at ending this crime, including the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act of 2015 and the Human Trafficking Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Act of 2015. Congressman Black is an original cosponsor of both items of legislation. A transcript of Rep. Black’s remarks on the House floor are below or click here for a video.

Mister Speaker, for many Americans, the issue of human trafficking is far removed from their daily lives; something that is relegated to foreign countries and history books. But the truth is, human sex trafficking is the third largest criminal enterprise in the world – with an estimated 300,000 young Americans at risk of becoming victims.

According to the Department of Justice, those most likely to fall prey to this heartbreaking crime are 12 to 14 year old girls. These young women are someone’s daughters, and we cannot turn a blind eye to their plight.

Last year, I visited End Slavery Tennessee – a nonprofit that works tirelessly to confront trafficking in my state. Their mission is taken from the book of Isaiah: “…to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

This week, the House will take meaningful steps to fulfill that vision by taking up a series of bipartisan bills addressing the impact of trafficking. This includes the SAVE Act – legislation I am cosponsoring to go after online advertisers who profit off the sale of these innocent victims.

Mister Speaker, no single act of Congress will stop all acts of trafficking, or bring justice for every victim whose innocence has been stolen by this evil.  But we can’t let our inability to do everything stop us from doing something.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Cohen Announces $7M in Federal Grants to Address Homelessness in Memphis

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 26, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today announced 34 federal grants totaling $6,909,905 to help local community organizations reduce homelessness in the Ninth District. This funding comes through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Continuum of Care program, which is designed to promote communitywide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness.

“This significant infusion of federal funding will help our communities and our local organizations work together to reduce homelessness in Memphis and improve the lives of individuals and families who are at risk of falling through the cracks,” said Congressman Cohen.

The 34 grants announced today include grants to the Memphis Strong Families Initiative, the organization One Door at a Time, the Beers-Van Gogh Center of Excellence, the Breaking the Cycle Shelter Plus Care nonprofit, and the Memphis Family Shelter. HUD’s Continuum of Care program provides funding to help non-profits, State, and local governments quickly rehouse homeless individuals and their families while minimizing trauma and dislocation. The program also aims to promote self-sufficiency among individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

Cohen Named Co-Chair of Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 23, 2015:

[MEMPHIS, TN] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today announced that he is the newest co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus, which was founded in 1989 and aims to broaden support and knowledge of biomedical research issues throughout Congress. 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 National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“The National Institutes of Health is another department of defense that protects us from deadly diseases and illnesses,” said Congressman Cohen. “And while we more than adequately fund the Department of Defense, we have significantly cut funding for the NIH, preventing critically important research for cures and treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, stroke, cancer, and Parkinson’s. 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 a disease is much more likely. We need to fight those diseases, and we can successfully come up with treatments and cures if we fund the NIH. I am proud to serve as a co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus and look forward to reaching across the aisle to support the NIH and our nation’s best research facilities like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the 114th Congress.”

Congressman Cohen has a strong track record of fighting for stronger federal funding of biomedical research, and in the 113th Congress led a coalition of nearly 50 U.S. Representatives in urging the reversal of a decade-long slide in support for the National Institutes of Health (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.

Congressman Cohen joins Reps. Jackie Speier (CA-14), Steve Stivers (OH-15), and Charlie Dent (PA-15) as leaders of the bipartisan caucus.

Black: Obama Administration Decision to Limit Healthcare.gov Data Sharing ‘Welcome News’

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; January 23, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) released the below statement on the news that the Obama Administration reversed its policy of sharing consumer data on Healthcare.gov. The Associated Press previously reported that “certain personal details — including age, income, and smoking habits — were being passed along, likely without consumers’ knowledge” to third-party sites. In a previous statement, Rep. Black said the revelations point to “inherent security flaws” in the Healthcare.gov website.

“While the Obama Administration’s decision to limit its data sharing practices on Healthcare.gov is certainly welcome news, it begs the question – why was this information shared in the first place? To what extent will the policy actually be ‘scaled back’ and what becomes of the information that was previously collected? Americans are already doubting the Obama Administration’s competence to handle their most personal information, particularly given the successful hacking of Healthcare.gov just last year. This data sharing policy, and the Administration’s sudden about-face in a classic Friday news dump only adds to the laundry list of questions my constituents have regarding the handling of the Obamacare exchanges,” said Congressman Diane Black.

Rep. Black added, “To add to the Obama Administration’s Healthcare.gov woes, this news coincides with the release of a government report finding that the Obama Administration did not bother to properly vet the contractors responsible for developing this website in the first place. With or without the Administration’s risky information-sharing practices in place, Healthcare.gov continues to be a stunning display of the Obama Administration’s haphazard approach to the rollout of this law.”

Black, Blackburn Speak in Favor of ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; January 22, 2015:

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35tPeCV4Mzg&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

 

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06) spoke on the House floor to urge support for H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. The legislation, which Congressman Black also cosponsored, would codify the Hyde amendment requiring that “No funds authorized or appropriated by Federal law . . . shall be expended for any abortion.” The bill additionally prohibits premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies under the Affordable Care Act from being used to purchase health plans that cover abortion.

Today’s vote follows a September 2014 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which found that, under the President’s health care law, abortions are paid for with taxpayer funds on more than 1,000 exchange plans across the country. This is despite a 2009 pledge from President Obama that, “Under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.”

The No Taxpayer Funding Abortion for Abortion Act passed the House by a vote of 242 to 179. A transcript of Rep. Black’s remarks on the House floor are below, or click here for a video.

Madam Speaker, today is a somber occasion. On this 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s tragic decision in Roe v. Wade, our hearts ache for the 56 million unborn lives lost to the shameful practice of abortion. But today, there is also hope because we have an opportunity to make a difference by passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.

This commonsense, compassionate legislation will protect Americans’ conscience rights by ensuring their hard-earned tax dollars are not used to fund the destruction of innocent life.

As a mother, a grandmother, and a nurse for more than 40 years, this measure is especially meaningful to me. During my years in the health care industry, I saw the joy in young parents’ eyes when they met their newborn child for the first time. I held the hands of grieving spouses and children as they said their final goodbyes to a loved one. And, sadly, I witnessed a young woman lose her life due to the effects of a botched abortion.

These experiences informed my view that all life is a precious gift from God and I pray that, in time, this truth will be reflected in our nation’s laws. But until then, can’t we at least do this much?

I urge a yes vote on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act and I thank the sponsor for his work on this deeply important legislation. I yield back my time.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; January 22, 2015:

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXy2RUeYnG0[/youtube]

 

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today issued the following statement on House passage of H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act.

“On a day when people around the nation gather together in support of life, it is appropriate that the House has acted on an issue that 68 percent of Americans agree on – there should be no taxpayer dollars used to pay for abortions. We are pleased to take this important action on the day when we welcome so many of our constituents to Washington to join us in celebrating the March for Life. I am grateful for the leadership of Rep. Chris Smith who worked diligently to craft this legislation the right way.

“This bill is about protecting life and protecting taxpayer dollars. It also ensures that we have much needed transparency under the President’s health care law. It is imperative to do that because the President has promised on numerous occasions that there would be no taxpayer funds used for abortions. Yet we have learned from GAO that there are over 1,000 plans in the marketplace that allow taxpayer dollars to be used for abortions under Obamacare.

“Consumers should have the right to know whether the plan they are selecting on an exchange includes abortion coverage. While Obamacare included some notification provisions, many of our constituents are simply unable to find out whether a plan is paying for abortions. This legislation brings transparency to the plans and money flow so that hard-working taxpayers that don’t want their money used for abortion will have clarity and certainty on the issue.”

VIDEO: Blackburn Works in Support of Pro-Life Policies

Cohen Introduces Legislation to Require States Provide 15 Days of Early Voting, Wait Times of Less Than an Hour

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 22, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) has introduced H.R.411, the Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act, which would ensure that every state allows citizens to vote for at least 15 days prior to federal elections and require that states provide adequate poll workers and other resources to prevent wait times of longer than one hour. Congressman Cohen also joined Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., and U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (WI-02) and Keith Ellison (MN-05) on Capitol Hill today to introduce H.J.Res.25, which would explicitly guarantee the right to vote to in the Constitution, an implied right which is currently not enshrined in the document’s text and that has been eroded in recent years.

“With more than 300 successful voting rights lawsuits over the last 2 decades, the Supreme Court striking down critical Voting Rights Act protections, and states across the South making it harder for citizens to vote, it is clear that more must be done to protect this cornerstone of our democracy,” said Congressman Steve Cohen. “Our constitutional amendment would clearly and unequivocally guarantee the right to vote for each and every American, and my SIMPLE Voting Act would ensure they can do it conveniently and without burdensome, unfair wait times. Both would be important steps forward in the march for civil rights.”

In addition to guaranteeing early voting opportunities and adequate resources, Congressman Cohen’s SIMPLE Voting Act would strengthen enforcement of these rights to ensure states comply with the legislation’s provisions. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 83 restrictive bills were introduced in at least 29 states, including efforts to require a photo ID, make voter registration more difficult, reduce early voting opportunities, and make it harder for students to vote.

While most Americans believe an explicit right to vote is enshrined in our Constitution, the Constitution in fact contains no expressed guarantee of an individual’s right to vote, a point that was confirmed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. Only a constitutional amendment can ensure this right will be guaranteed in the future.

The text of H.J.Res.25, the Right to Vote Amendment, follows:

  • SECTION 1: Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.
  • SECTION 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.