Press Releases

Black: Incorrect Obamacare Tax Info Sent to Consumers ‘Beyond Embarrassing’ for Obama

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; February 20, 2015:

Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), a member of the Ways & Means Health Subcommittee and nurse for more than 40 years, released the following statement on the news that the Obama Administration sent 800,000 customers incorrect tax information, which may result in delayed tax refunds:

“The Obama Administration has built a healthcare law so complex, so confusing, and so costly that even they don’t know how to properly administer it,” said Congressman Diane Black. “From a faulty website, to staggering cost estimates, to more Administration-led delays, the hits just keep coming under Obamacare. Now, the White House tells us in a classic Friday news dump that nearly one million Americans could see their tax refunds delayed because of this President’s inability to implement his own law. This is beyond embarrassing for President Obama and is an unfair blow to taxpayers who are once again left holding the bag for this Administration’s incompetence. Moreover, it is yet another example of why the House voted earlier this month with my support to repeal this disastrous law once and for all.”

Press Releases

Members of TN Congressional Delegation Respond to Obama Seeking AUMF Against ISIS

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker; R-Tenn.; February 11, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the following statement about President Barack Obama’s proposed authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIS that was submitted to Congress today. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has jurisdiction over AUMF legislation.

“I appreciate the president following the long tradition of seeking authorization for the use of military force from Congress,” said Corker. “It also will be important that the president exert leadership, lay out a clear strategy for confronting the threat posed by ISIS, and do the hard work of making the case to the American people why this fight is necessary and one we must win. We will quickly begin to hold rigorous hearings where the administration will have an opportunity to provide Congress and the American people greater clarity on the U.S. strategy to address ISIS, particularly in Syria. Voting to authorize the use of military force is one of the most important actions Congress can take, and while there will be differences, it is my hope that we will fulfill our constitutional responsibility, and in a bipartisan way, pass an authorization that allows us to confront this serious threat.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. 01; February 11, 2015:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) released the following statement regarding President Obama’s request for Congress to authorize use of military force against the Islamic State:

“The Islamic State is a radical terrorist organization with every intention of bringing their heinous acts of terror to our homeland. We must address this serious threat and act pragmatically and deliberately to eliminate this evil. As is the case with any matter regarding war and peace, before I can support any authorization for use of military force, I must see a clear, strategic plan that includes an exit strategy. I am carefully considering the president’s proposal and I am hopeful we can work together to stop these murderers in their tracks.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn. 02; February 11, 2015:

WASHINGTON – Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. released the following statement Wednesday in response to President Obama’s request for use of military force against ISIS:

I am reviewing the Authorization for Use of Military Force draft very closely and keeping watch for any changes to it that will likely occur in the coming days.

If we do have to go to war against ISIS, we need to get in and get it over with and not drag it out for 13 or 14 years like the Afghanistan war.

I do believe most of the fighting in the Middle East should be done by men and women from those countries.  I don’t want to see young Americans killed in what is thus far a regional civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

These ISIS fanatics are probably the most evil, hate-filled people in this world.

If any American goes to fight with them, they should have their citizenship immediately revoked.  If any of them try to do anything to people in the United States, they should be given the death penalty without delay.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. 03; February 11, 2015:

WASHINGTON− Today, President Obama sent his formal request for Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS to Congress. In response, Rep. Chuck Fleischmannreleased the following statement.

“The combination of the rapid growth and barbaric violence employed by ISIS poses one of the greatest modern threats to the US, our allies, and global security and stability. We must learn from our past experiences and adapt our military strategy to deal with the evolving threats we face today. The President took the proper step in requesting an AUMF from Congress to take any substantial action against ISIS but he must outline and justify the force he plans to use.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburtn, R-Tenn. 07; February 11, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s request for Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIL.

“The President’s request for an AUMF is one that should not be taken lightly or considered without doing the due diligence that such a request requires. The House will proceed in the appropriate manner to review the strategy that would be implemented by such an order and the objectives set forth that our military would be required to achieve. As we proceed through this process, I will continue to visit with our military commanders and seek their input and guidance. ISIL poses a growing threat. We must have a plan to eliminate them.”

Press Releases

Cooper Congratulates Nashville Attorney on Nomination for Federal Judgeship

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

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) on Wednesday praised the news that President Obama has nominated a celebrated Nashville attorney for a federal judgeship in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

“Out of an outstanding field of candidates, President Obama is nominating a first-rate local attorney and community leader,” Cooper said. “Waverly Crenshaw will make a fine federal judge. I just hope the Senate confirms him quickly because he is needed on the bench now.”

Crenshaw proudly calls himself “a product of the desegregated Nashville public school system.” A graduate of McGavock Comprehensive High School, Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Law School, Crenshaw joined Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis in 1990, becoming the firm’s first African-American attorney. He made partner, started an expansive mentoring program and served on the firm’s Diversity Committee.

Crenshaw has handled cases for clients in multiple industries, including health care, retail, manufacturing, transportation, communications, hospitality, education, public utilities and more.

NewsTracker Tax and Budget

TN Congressional Delegation Responses to Obama Budget Proposal

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama submitted a nearly $4 trillion budget to Congress, calling for an end to the across-the-board cuts in federal spending brought about by the sequestration agreed to by Congress in 2011.

Instead, Obama suggested a 7 percent budget increase over the agreed-upon sequester levels for domestic and defense spending.

“I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward. It would be bad for our security and bad for our growth,” Obama said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security offices Monday.

The U.S. national debt exceeded $18 trillion for the first time in mid-December 2014, just about 14 months after it exceeded $17 trillion in mid-October 2013.

Republican members of Congress have indicated the budget proposal is “dead on arrival.”

Responses from Tennessee’s congressional delegation to the president’s proposed budget follow:

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2015 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016:

“We need to address Washington’s spending problem and fix the federal government’s $18 trillion debt, and the way to do it is by reducing the growth of out-of-control entitlement spending. I plan to work with our Republican majority – and, I hope, the president – to make tough choices so we can pass a real plan to fix the debt while supporting other priorities like national defense and national labs and medical research.”

Alexander noted that mandatory spending – which includes out-of-control entitlement spending that is driving the growth in the federal debt – makes up about 60 percent of overall federal spending each year. Discretionary spending – the part of the budget that is already subject to spending caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the Bipartisan Budget Act – makes up about 34 percent of federal spending each year and funds national defense, national labs, national parks and other federal priorities.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, released the following statement today regarding President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal.

“Our inability to get our nation’s fiscal house in order continues to be one of the most critical national security threats our country faces. The president’s budget makes little effort to solve that problem and is not a serious proposal,” said Corker. “The spending limits put in place in 2011 have generated the only real fiscal progress our nation has made in decades, yet the president wants to not only break the promise we all made to the American people, but also revert back to the bad habits that created our massive deficits in the first place. I hope Congress will show courage and finally address the largest drivers of our deficits so we can generate economic growth and create more opportunities for Tennesseans.”

Corker, also a member of the Senate Banking Committee, commented on the president’s renewed commitment to work with Congress to pass comprehensive housing finance reform.

“On the other hand, I am pleased the administration has renewed its commitment to working with Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said Corker. “The biggest issue this year for the Senate Banking Committee, and the last major unfinished business from the 2008 financial crisis, is finally addressing this tremendous taxpayer liability and ending the failed model of private gains and public losses.”

The president’s budget says bipartisan housing finance legislation passed last year by the Senate Banking Committee was a “meaningful step” in the right direction. The bill, the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014 (S.1217), passed the committee in May 2014 by a vote of 13 to 9 and was first introduced by Corker and Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) in June 2013.

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, Jr., R-Tenn. 02; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON – Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. released the following statement Monday in response to President Obama’s 2016 budget:

This budget would result in a nearly half-trillion dollar deficit next year alone, and our deficits and interest payments on the National debt would continue to go way up every year.

The most wasteful, least efficient way to spend money is to turn it over to the federal government.  The best way to create more good jobs and keep the cost-of-living low is to decrease federal spending and leave more money in the hands of American families.

I strongly support tax cuts for the middle class.  The president claims he is trying to help the middle class, but during his years in office, the gap between the wealthy and the middle class has grown faster than ever, primarily because of big government policies that help only big federal contractors and the federal bureaucracy.

Like all presidential budgets, it will undergo significant changes.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischman, R-Tenn. 03; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON− Rep. Chuck Fleischmann released the following statement in response to President Obama’s proposed budget for FY2016.

“Much like in his State of the Union speech, the President has taken an opportunity to work with Congress and turned it into a partisan game. This budget would increase spending by $2.4 trillion, never balances and simply isn’t a real option. As Tennessee’s sole House Appropriator, I will use my oversight responsibility to comb through the President’s request and ultimately make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and responsibly.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 2, 2015:

Nashville’s federal courthouse is Judiciary’s top priority

NASHVILLE – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) announced today that President Barack Obama’s newly released budget for FY 2016 includes funding for construction of a new federal courthouse building in Nashville.

“Nashville is #1 in the nation on the list of priorities for courthouse construction. This announcement is a critical next step in getting the courthouse built, but we’re not done yet,” Cooper said. “We still need Congress to appropriate the funds, and I hope that happens this year.”

Nashville has been waiting for a new courthouse since 1992, when the Estes Kefauver Federal Courthouse was first deemed “inadequate.”

In 2002, the federal government selected the downtown property on Church Street as the site of the new building and purchased the parcels making up the site from 2002-2005. Since then, further studies and an economic downturn have delayed construction on any new federal courthouse. Neither the President’s budget nor Congressional appropriations has included funding for courthouses in four of the last five years, with the exception of the Mobile, Ala., courthouse in FY 2014.

Federal courthouse funding is supposed to follow the Judicial Conference’s five-year plan that contains a priority list of proposed courthouses ranked by need. But for many years, the Judicial Conference’s priorities were routinely ignored in favor of political favoritism and earmarks, a process Cooper opposes.

Cooper has pushed for a transparent, fair funding process and has led bipartisan efforts to award projects based on priority, not politics. Cooper was a founding member of the Congressional Courthouse Caucus, which was formed to address the urgent need for functional, secure courthouses around the country. Cooper has written to President Obama and Members of the House Appropriations Committee several times asking them to prioritize courthouse funding. Cooper has also met with the General Services Administration regarding the public safety hazard that sits atop the site designated for Nashville’s new courthouse, urging its immediate demolition.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; February 2, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), member of the House Budget Committee, released the following statement on President Obama’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2016:

“I had hoped to congratulate President Obama on finally delivering a budget to Congress by the legal deadline for the first time in five years, but this proposal isn’t really a budget at all – it is a messaging piece. This so-called budget ignores both the reality of our already crippling $18 trillion national debt and of a new Republican majority in Washington that will not allow this laughable tax-and-spend proposal to pass.” said Congressman Diane Black.

Congressman Black added, “The President promised in his State of the Union address to present ‘a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan.’ Sadly, he has done just the opposite. This budget is not practical, it is political. By adding nearly $8.5 trillion to our debt over the budget window, the President’s plan prioritizes the next election over the next generation – which would be forced to foot the bill for his costly agenda. This budget does nothing to address the strain of our mandatory spending programs and never achieves balance. I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues on the House Budget Committee to craft a responsible, timely budget that offers a substantive alternative to the President’s reckless proposal.”

Additional information:

  • The President’s budget calls for $2.1 trillion in new tax increases, on top of $1.7 trillion in tax hikes already imposed by the AdministrationThis budget would grow total federal spending by $259 billion next year alone
  • Under this plan, interest on our debt would rise to $785 billion by 2025
  • The President’s budget increases annually-appropriated spending for next year by $74 billion over current law
  • Under the President’s budget, gross debt would climb to $26.3 trillion in 2025

(Source: House Budget Committee)

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.07; February 2, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who is a member of the House Budget Committee, issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2016.

“President Obama has declared that the time for ‘mindless austerity’ is over, but there is nothing ‘mindless’ about creating a responsible budget and spending within one’s means. The President’s $4 trillion budget proposal will increase taxes and add to our $18 trillion national debt. At a time when our economy is still trying to get back on track, it isn’t prudent to raise taxes and stifle small business as a way of paying for wasteful government spending.

“The President’s budget is simply out of sync with the concerns of the American people – even 55% of Democrats believe that reducing the federal deficit is a ‘top priority.’ While I appreciate the President’s efforts to propose a budget on time, it would be more productive if he took our unprecedented level of national debt seriously. We need to stop spending money on failed policies from the past and instead craft a budget that will improve our country’s fiscal health and put more money back in the pockets of hard-working Americans.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 2, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal:

“President Obama’s budget is a positive vision for our nation’s future that will put us on a sustainable fiscal path. It will spur further economic growth by making critical investments to improve our roads and bridges—creating jobs in Memphis and around the country—and boost take-home pay for the middle-class while closing tax loopholes that allow the wealthiest one percent to avoid paying their fair share.”

“The President’s budget also gives middle-class families better access to higher education by making college more affordable and helps young adults climb out from under a mountain of student debt by capping monthly payments. And it will also help them find jobs by doing more to develop the high-paying, private-sector jobs that will keep our country competitive in the 21st century.”

“And by reversing mindless sequestration cuts, this budget proposal will reinvest in the National Institutes of Health, which is another U.S. department of defense that protects us from deadly diseases and illnesses—because Americans are far more likely to be stricken by Alzheimer’s, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, stroke, cancer, or Parkinson’s than by a terrorist attack. President Obama’s budget will help make our economy work for all Americans instead of just the wealthiest among us, and it is a step in the right direction.”

Press Releases

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.

Featured Health Care NewsTracker

Alexander Makes First Move to Repeal Individual Mandate

Lamar Alexander has filed a bill to repeal the portions of President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation that require all Americans purchase health insurance or pay a fine.

Tennessee’s senior U.S. senator, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, joined Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and 20 other Republican senators in filing the “American Liberty Restoration Act” on Wednesday.

In a press release, Alexander questioned how the federal government can “continue to enforce the individual mandate” when “the law doesn’t clearly ensure that millions of Americans are allowed to receive subsidies to help cover the cost.” He added that the ACA “outlaws plans that fit family budgets.”

“Millions more Americans are in for sticker shock when they see how much they owe the IRS in April because of Obamacare. We need to focus on making health care plans affordable to Americans,” Alexander said in the release.

For 2014, the first tax year affected by the individual mandate, individuals without health insurance will have to pay a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of their income — whichever is more. In 2015, the fine will go up to $325 or 2 percent of their income.

In his State of the Union speech this week, Obama appeared to double-down on statements made in the wake of the Republican takeover of the Senate in November when he vowed to veto any attempt to undo key pillars of the Affordable Care Act.

“We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance, or unraveling the new rules on Wall Street, or refighting past battles on immigration when we’ve got a system to fix. And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto,” Obama said Tuesday night.

Back in November, the president told reporters he would “draw some lines” when it came to future legislation dealing with Obamacare passed by the GOP-controlled Congress. He said he would not sign a repeal of the law or support any other “efforts that would take away health care from the 10 million people who now have it and the millions more who are eligible to get it.”

“In some cases there may be recommendations that Republicans have for changes that would undermine the structure of the law, and I’ll be very honest with them about that and say, look, the law doesn’t work if you pull out that piece or that piece,” he said.

One of the areas of the law Obama vowed to stand firm on was the mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance. While the president said he understood that even with provided federal subsidies some Americans may still not be able to afford their insurance, the mandate is “a central component of the law.”

“The individual mandate is a line I can’t cross because the concept, borrowed from Massachusetts, from a law instituted by a former opponent of mine, Mitt Romney, understood that if you’re providing health insurance to people through the private marketplace, then you’ve got to make sure that people can’t game the system and just wait until they get sick before they go try to buy health insurance,” Obama said in November.

The concept of the individual mandate was first discussed in the late 1980s by conservative economists and pushed by Republican-leaning groups — including the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. It was supported by GOP congressmen in the early 1990s as “a less dangerous future than what Hillary [Clinton] was trying to do [with ‘Hillarycare’],” said former U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich in December 2011.

The mandate was in part conceived of in response to the 1986 Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, which required any hospital accepting Medicare funding to provide emergency care for anyone in need, regardless of ability to pay. Thus were created concerns of a “free-rider” problem in which medical-industry experts and economists worried people would intentionally go without insurance, knowing that a hospital had to provide them free care.

But just as conservatives haven’t always opposed the individual-mandate concept, liberals haven’t always been on board with it.

As recently as 2008, Obama criticized Hillary Clinton over her support of the mandate. “If things were that easy, I could mandate everybody to buy a house, and that would solve the problem of homelessness. It doesn’t,” he said at the time.

In 2011, Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill passed by the Tennessee Legislature in response to the ACA which declared Tennesseans should “be free to choose or to decline to choose any mode of securing health care services without penalty or threat of penalty.”

The General Assembly will convene an “extraordinary session” of the legislature on Feb. 2, to discuss Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” proposal to expand health insurance coverage for low-income Tennesseans.  Next Tuesday, Jan. 27, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on “the legal issues raised by the governor’s proposed Obamacare Medicaid expansion plan.”

State Sen. Brian Kelsey, a Germantown Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also filed legislation earlier this month to prevent the IRS from assessing any fines on Tennesseans who haven’t signed up for health insurance. The bill would also prevent the state from operating any healthcare exchange.

Press Releases

TN AFL-CIO President: Congress Should ‘Stop Playing Games,’ Remember Constituents Needs

Press release from the Tennessee Chapter of the AFL-CIO; January 21, 2015:

“Tonight, we turn the page.” That’s one of my favorite lines from President Obama’s State of the Union address, which he delivered Tuesday evening.

While this phrase symbolically sets the stage for a fresh start, we all know that there is much work to be done, especially when it comes to working families and the challenges that we face every day. Fortunately, the president made this topic a major part of his many remarks.

The bottom line for working families? Higher wages. President Obama acknowledged this by saying “That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.”

Yet another one of my favorite phrases from this year’s State of the Union address.

The president also reminded us of another harsh reality: the United States is the only advanced country that does not offer paid sick or maternity leave. Even though he at least outlined a plan for paid leave, it’s disheartening to think that it has taken our nation so long to get to this point.

Now, it’s time for President Obama’s actions to speak louder than his words. It’s time for Congress to put aside partisan differences and do what’s best for each and every citizen. We call on lawmakers to stop playing games and start remembering the needs of their constituents who put them in office.

Only then will we truly be able to “turn the page” on some of the most troubling times in recent memory.

Press Releases

Corker Objects to Obama Administration Opposition to Congressional Vote on Final Iran Agreement

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; January 21, 2015:

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WASHINGTON – In his first Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing as chairman, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) objected to the Obama administration’s apparent opposition to Congress having an up-or-down vote on a final agreement with Iran.

“I want these negotiations to be successful…but just stiff-arming [Congress]…and saying, ‘No, we really don’t want you to play a role, we want you to just trust us,’ is totally unacceptable from my standpoint,” said Corker during the hearing on Iran nuclear negotiations.

Corker further argued that requiring a vote in Congress would strengthen the U.S. negotiating position, increasing the likelihood of an acceptable final deal that would outlast the Obama administration.

“I would just argue that having Congress as a backstop as you enter these final steps…would be somewhat of an anchor to keep us from continuing to move toward Iran’s position,” added Corker.

He also rejected any notion that U.S. partners in the talks with Iran fear congressional review would disrupt the negotiations.

“I’ve talked with our international partners. Not a single one of them has any concerns whatsoever with Congress having the ability to vote up or down on a final deal. Many of them believe it strengthens our hands,” said Corker in response to Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who admitted during today’s hearing that the Iranian parliament might have to approve a deal if one is reached.

Senator Corker’s proposal would require the Obama administration to submit any final nuclear deal with Iran to Congress for review and an up-or-down vote. The purpose of the proposal would be to give relevant congressional committees the opportunity to hold hearings and for both the Senate and the House of Representatives to vote on the agreement. Under existing U.S. law, a similar role for Congress is required when the U.S. shares civilian nuclear technology with a foreign country (known as a “123 agreement”).

Press Releases

Cohen Signs on to Bill to Lift Cuban Embargo

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; January 15, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) joined Congressman Charles B. Rangel (NY-13) and several other House Democrats today in introducing legislation aimed at allowing free trade between the two countries. The Free Trade with Cuba Act reflects President Barack Obama’s announcement in December of normalized relations with Cuba and the subsequent rules easing travel and trade restrictions. Joining Congressman Cohen as original co-sponsors of Congressman Rangel’s legislation are Reps. Karen Bass, William Lacy Clay, John Conyers, Keith Ellison, Chaka Fattah, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Henry C. Johnson Jr., Sheila Jackson Lee, Barbara Lee, Gregory Meeks, Rick Nolan, Collin Peterson, Jared Polis, Bennie G. Thompson, Jose E. Serrano, and Jan Schakowsky.

“I support the President’s efforts to improve our relationship with Cuba and am pleased to join Congressman Rangel in introducing the Free Trade with Cuba Act to lift the embargo. Our outdated policies toward Cuba have failed to help the Cuban people, and the Castros still rule the nation. The reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba and lifting our trade embargo are humane and logical steps forward that will enable the United States to more effectively promote change in the country, support the Cuban people while expanding economic opportunities for Memphis and the Mid-South, and end anti-American restrictions on our citizens’ rights to freely travel to Cuba,” said Congressman Steve Cohen.

“President Barack Obama has indicated to the world that now is the time to change the course of our outdated foreign policy towards Cuba,” Rangel said. “Allowing trade with Cuba will not only generate revenue for our economy, but will also enable us to exchange American culture and ideals that can help foster democratic principles in Cuba. Polls repeatedly indicate strong support among Americans–both Republicans and Democrats, nationally and among Cuban-Americans–for closer diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba. I am very pleased to work with my colleagues in the House to fix a policy that has been broken for years. Given President Obama’s momentous and historic announcement, now is the time for Congress to catch up with the rest of America on this issue,” said Congressman Charles B. Rangel.

The Free Trade with Cuba Act would lift the long-standing embargo on trade with Cuba to give American companies their fair share. Cuba sits 90 miles off the U.S. coast and has a GDP of $60 billion.  The longer American businesses are locked out of Cuba, the longer they will lose a foothold for trade and investment in this expanding market. U.S. businesses are falling behind foreign competitors who are increasing their participation in the Cuban market.

Polls indicate bipartisan and multigenerational support for reestablishing trade with Cuba. In an annual survey released this June, 68 percent of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County favor diplomatic relations with Cuba and 69 percent favor lifting travel restrictions to Cuba for all Americans. A separate poll shows that this support crosses party lines–52 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats favor more engagement with Cuba. Finally, support for a new policy is especially strong among young adults, with only 8 percent of Cuban-Americans ages 18 to 29 supporting the embargo.

“I am proud to join Congressman Rangel as an original co-sponsor of the Free Trade with Cuba Act. Cuba represents a growing market for U.S. products and services, especially agricultural and technology products, that has been closed off for far too long. Current U.S. policy towards Cuba has failed. It is time to normalize relations, open Cuba’s markets to U.S. goods and create good-paying jobs, right here in America,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA).

“We are about to see better days when it comes to global diplomacy with the most significant changes in our Cuban policy in more than fifty years.  For nearly a half-century we have squabbled, leered at, and marginalized our Cuban neighbor with the overlay of Cuba’s ties to the old Soviet regime and Communism.  The Soviet Union is a relic of the past and capitalism and freedom have washed over the majority of the world.  The time has come to resume normal ties and allow the Cuban people to benefit from what American ingenuity offers, and hopefully we can learn from each other.  This action by Congressman Rangel once again demonstrates his leadership and his ability to change the political landscape in the best interest of the American people,” said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX).

“I’m very pleased to cosponsor the Free Trade With Cuba Act because ending the embargo is the best way to advance human rights and political freedom. The failed embargo has done nothing to advance freedom or strengthen our national security, but it has caused innocent people to suffer for generations. Lifting it would be in the best interests of the American and Cuban people,” said Congressman William Lacy Clay (D-MO).

“President Obama’s plan to establish and facilitate trade and commerce with Cuba is a major market opportunity for American business.  Support for this bill will promote investment and trade opportunities for U.S. businessmen and farmers and demonstrate our commitment to building new partnerships with Cuba,” said Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY).

“It is long past time for our nation to change course on our antiquated and failed policy of isolation toward Cuba,” said Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO). “President Obama’s announcement last month was a historic first step, but fully normalizing relations between our two nations will require action from Congress. I hope the House will act quickly to pass this important bill and resume the flow of commerce and the free exchange of ideas between the United States and Cuba that has been stymied for more than half a century.”

“I have traveled to Cuba on multiple occasions with constituents from my District. Upon each visit, I recognized the real potential for economic gain through trade with Cuba. The Free Trade with Cuba Act helps to not only boost our economy, but helps to normalize relations with Cuba and demonstrates America’s commitment to diplomacy. I applaud these efforts and am pleased to be an original co-sponsor,” said Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS).

“Promoting peace, democracy, and human rights requires engagement—not isolation. The United States isolated Cuba for 53 years in a failed attempt to promote democracy and freedom. Restarting diplomatic relations and establishing a new embassy was a great first step. Now Congress needs to follow the President’s lead and pass legislation that opens the pathway to economic engagement,” said Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN).

“We have a ready-made market in Cuba, just 90 miles off our coast, yet the current embargo gives this market away to other countries, putting American producers at a disadvantage. This legislation will significantly open the Cuban market for our nation’s farmers and ranchers, who have struggled to get their products to Cuba due to the cash in advance requirement and prohibition of direct transactions. I have long advocated for legislation to expand U.S. trade with Cuba and the Free Trade with Cuba Act does just that,” said Congressman Collin C. Peterson (D-MN).

“I commend Congressman Rangel for again introducing the Free Trade with Cuba Act. I recently traveled to Cuba where I saw firsthand the success of a therapeutic drug that they are using to prevent foot amputations in patients with diabetes. This is just one example of how lifting the embargo against Cuba will provide a direct benefit to Americans,” said Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA)

“For more than half a century, our policy of isolation toward Cuba failed to promote democracy or prosperity for the Cuban people. While President Obama’s announcement last month was a historic step in the right direction, Congress should pass the Free Trade with Cuba Act to fully remove the counterproductive embargo against Cuba. Increasing trade with Cuba will both improve quality of life for Cubans and provide a boost for American agriculture and manufacturing, creating jobs here at home. I commend Congressman Rangel for his steady leadership on this critical issue,” said Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13).

“These bills to promote long overdue travel and trade between the United States and Cuba will help create good jobs here at home, improve the quality of life for the people of both nations and  demonstrate the success and prosperity that democracy brings to all people. This is good foreign policy, sound economic policy and old-fashioned common sense rolled into one,” said Congressman Rick Nolan (D-MN)

“The Free Trade with Cuba Act is a critically important effort to end the failed half-century embargo on Cuba. It is time for the United States to reshape our relations with Cuba to reflect current realities. Opening trade of goods and information will be a galvanizing force that will ultimately help bring democracy to the Cuban people,” said Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA): “After more than 50 years of failed policy, I support President Obama’s initiative to engage our neighbor – Cuba. Trade between the U.S. and Cuba will create economic opportunity for both countries and through the free exchange of goods we will also promote openness that will help further our relationship. I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of Rep. Rangel’s Free Trade with Cuba Act, and I look forward to the development and blossoming of this new relationship.”

“As a longtime supporter of lifting the failed Cuban embargo, I am proud to co-sponsor once again the Free Trade with Cuba Act. President Obama’s announcement last month took important steps in the right direction, towards greater engagement between the two nations. This legislation will help lift once and for the restrictions that prevent American companies from doing business with Cuba, which will generate economic opportunity for both Americans and Cubans,” said Congressman José E. Serrano (D-NY).

Press Releases

Alexander Criticizes Obama’s Call for Mandatory Paid Sick Time

Press release from the office of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; January 15, 2015:

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 15 –U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate labor committee, today made the following statement on President Obama’s call for mandatory paid sick time:

 “Americans have great freedom when it comes to work—they can choose the career they like and negotiate with their employer for the things they need, and they can one day become employers, opening businesses with few restrictions compared to the rest of the world.  One more government mandate, however well-intentioned, will only reduce those freedoms—making it harder for employees to find jobs, negotiate for the things they need, and open and run businesses. Washington should do what it can to encourage employers to offer paid sick leave—not impose a big new mandate that will cost employers $11.4 billion over five years and make it harder for them to hire new employees.”