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Cohen Leads Congressional Delegation to Stop Taxpayer-funded ‘Abuse, Inhumane Research’ at U.S. MARC

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

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a Humane Society “Humane Champion,” is leading a delegation of 43 members of Congress in an effort to stop taxpayer-funded animal abuse and inhumane testing at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Nebraska. According to a recent New York Times exposé, MARC’s profit-motivated research programs have caused great suffering to its animals, which have been subjected to illness, pain, and premature death for decades. Congressman Cohen is also a cosponsor of Representative Earl Blumenauer’s AWARE Act, which would close the loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that exempts MARC from adhering to federal animal welfare standards.

“The Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska has been operated at taxpayer expense for the purpose of increasing production and profits for the meat industry, benefits that have been questionable at best, even by many within the meat industry,”said Congressman Cohen.  “Taxpayer dollars have been used in ways most taxpayers would abhor.  Animals have needlessly suffered and died in ways that are unspeakable.  We cannot as a government, as a nation, stand idly by and allow this to continue.  Our humanity is diminished when we not only allow but actively sanction and financially support such abuse.”

The Animal Welfare Act of 1966 was aimed at preventing animal abuse, but exempted farm animals researched for the benefit of the agriculture industry. This loophole has allowed the MARC to continue and expand its research programs, which have virtually no oversight and incredibly lax welfare standards that have already led to the easily preventable starvation of more than 6,500 animals and unnecessary disease and injury to other animals.

“People are becoming more aware and concerned each day about where their food comes from and that meat and other animal products be obtained in a humane manner.”  Congressman Cohen continued, “42 other members of Congress have joined me in asking Secretary Vilsack to immediately stop the research done at the MARC facility.  It is my hope that Secretary will take immediate action.”

To address these and other problems, in a letter sent this week Congressman Cohen and 42 other Members of Congress have urged Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to halt research at MARC, review their procedures, and implement new animal welfare procedures that voluntarily comply with the Animal Welfare Act. Joining Congressman Cohen’s call to immediately halt MARC research until the implementation of new animal welfare protocols are:

Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Madeleine Bordallo(Guam-AL), Michael Capuano (MA-07), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), David Cicilline (RI-01),Katherine Clark (MA-05), John Conyers (MI-13), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Ted Deutch (FL-21),Eliot Engel (NY-16), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Jim Himes (CT-04), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Eddie Bernince Johnson (TX-30), Jim Langevin (RI-02), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Nita Lowey (NY-17), Stephen Lynch (MA-18), Carolyn Maloney(NY-12), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Jim McNerney (CA-09), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Charlie Rangel (NY-13), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Linda Sánchez (CA-38), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Mark Takano (CA-41), Dina Titus (NV-01), Chris Van Hollen (MD-08), Peter Welch (VT-AL),Frederica Wilson (FL-24), and John Yarmuth (KY-03).

The text of Congressman Cohen’s letter follows, while a pdf copy is available here:

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

As you are aware, on January 19, 2015, the New York Times published the article, “U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit.” The article highlights the experimentation done on farm animals at taxpayer expense at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center. Cows, sheep and pigs have undergone torturous experimentation and have suffered painful, often fatal, neglect including starvation. The research in question has been done to maximize profits for agribusiness but at a terrible cost and with no real benefit. The experimentation has been for naught and the animals have suffered and died needlessly. The taxpayers have paid nearly $200 million between 2006 and 2015 for research at the MARC facility, research done for the benefit of private entities but which has not even produced meaningful and useful results.

While we appreciate that you have directed USDA staff to create and deliver an updated Animal Welfare Strategy plan within 60 days, we urge you not to wait to stop the research at MARC. The American public is increasingly aware of where its food comes from and is concerned about animal treatment, especially in the production of food.  The call for more humanely produced food becomes louder each day. We are writing to urge the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to immediately stop animal testing at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Nebraska until a full review is completed and new animal welfare protocols are implemented.

Further, we are asking the USDA to voluntarily comply with Animal Welfare Act standards as has been done by many other U.S. Government departments and agencies such as the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services, which includes the Centers for Disease Control and The National Institutes of Health.

We appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

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Press Releases

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.

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Press Releases

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.

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Press Releases

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.”

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Press Releases

Blackburn, Cohen, Cooper, DesJarlais Co-sponsor Bill to End Use of Ticket-purchasing Bots

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; February 4, 2015:

U.S. Representatives Marsha Blackburn (TN-07), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Scott DesJarlais (TN-04), and Jim Cooper (TN-05) today introduced H.R. 708, the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act.

H.R. 708 would make the use of bots to circumvent security measures employed by ticketing sites an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act, and a crime under Title 18 of the U.S. Code. It would also create a private right of action whereby parties harmed by bots can sue in federal court to recover damages.

“I am pleased to be working on a bi-partisan basis with the Tennessee delegation on this important legislation,” Rep. Blackburn said. “Scalpers have been taking advantage of computer hacking software (BOTS) to circumvent restrictions put in place by on-line ticketing agents for years. They purchase tickets in mass quantities and sell them at a considerably marked up rate, which hurts fans of live entertainment who get priced out of the market. The Live Entertainment industry goes to great lengths to build relationships with its fans and ensure that they will access to shows. The BOTS Act will allow FTC enforcement, criminal sanctions, and a private right of action to be brought against on-line scalpers. It is time to level the on-line ticket playing field for fans of live entertainment.”

“With many fans already finding ticket prices for their favorite artists and events too high, it is disappointing that scalpers would seek to extract even more money out of consumers by using unfair ticket-purchasing and reselling practices,” said Rep. Cohen. “The BOTS Act would help end these anti-consumer tactics and clarify that using computer programs to snap up all available tickets to resell at a much higher price is, in fact, illegal under the Federal Trade Commission Act.”

“I am proud to have cosponsored this commonsense legislation that cracks down on deceptive ticket scalpers,” Rep. DesJarlais said. “For too long, scam artists have used computer hacking software to drastically increase the cost of attending an event. This bill protects American consumers by making the use of BOTS illegal.”

“Computer programs shouldn’t be allowed to cheat people out of fair ticket prices and great entertainment,” Rep. Cooper said.

Organizations supporting this bipartisan legislation include The Recording Academy, Live Nation Entertainment, as well as the Tennessee Sports and Entertainment Industry Coalition.

Daryl Friedman, Chief Advocacy & Industry Relations Officer of The Recording Academy praised the legislation saying: “The relationship that forms when an artist connects to a fan through his or her music is at the core of what makes music special. Artists try to keep their tickets affordable for their fans, but scalpers move in and drive up the price by using automated ticket ‘bots’ to make it harder for fans to buy tickets to see their favorite artist perform live. On behalf of The Recording Academy, I want to thank Congressman Marsha Blackburn, along with Reps. Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, and Scott DesJarlais, for introducing the ‘BOTS Act’ so that artists will be able to offer concert tickets to fans in the manner that they want, ensuring that the special connection between music lovers and music makers continues.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.).

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Press Releases

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.

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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.