steve cohen

Trump budget ax would slash lots of fed spendng in TN

Dozens of programs that provide funding or services in Tennessee are targeted for elimination or drastic cuts under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, reports Michael Collins.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Delta Regional Authority all would be impacted by Trump’s spending plan, released early Thursday and dubbed “America’s First” budget by the White House.

Other programs that reach into the state yet would get no funding under Trump’s budget include Community Development Block Grants, which provide resources to cities for a variety of activities such as affordable housing and anti-poverty initiatives; the Meals on Wheels food-delivery program for the elderly; the Minority Business Development Agency, which works to help minority-owned businesses grow and stay competitive; and heating assistance for low-income residents.

“The list of important programs cut or eliminated is huge,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis. “President Trump’s budget will thrust America into social and cultural deterioration, a new Dark Ages.”

 

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Cohen named to House Ethics Committee

News release U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today was appointed by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and approved by the House Democratic Caucus to serve on the House Committee on Ethics. In 2008, then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi referred to Congressman Cohen as the “conscience of the freshman class.”

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Cohen joins 19 Democratic congressmen boycotting Trump inauguration

Rep. Steve Cohen says he will boycott President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony on Friday in a show of solidarity with fellow Democratic Congressman John Lewis, a veteran civil rights leader, reports the Commercial Appeal.

At the Be the Dream celebration for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Cohen derided Trump for numerous personal attacks on well-known figures from actress Meryl Streep — “a saint in many people’s eyes” — to Lewis. Lewis recently said Trump was not a “legitimate president,” prompting Trump to Tweet, among other things, that Lewis was “All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!”

Lewis, who was beaten by police as he marched for equality in Alabama, is boycotting the inauguration, along with a growing number of Democrats. Cohen, who previously expressed hopes of working with Trump’s administration, said the remarks about Lewis “crossed the Rubicon” and that Trump “does not deserve” to be president.

“The dream is turning into a nightmare,” Cohen said, alluding to King’s famed “I have a dream” speech.

Politico reported that, as of Sunday, 19 Democrats (not including Cohen with his Monday announcement) had announced they would boycott the inauguration. An excerpt:

In addition to (California Rep. Barbara) Lee and Lewis, Democratic Reps. John Conyers of Michigan, Marc Pocan of Wisconsin, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois, José Serrano, Nydia Velazquez, Adriano Espaillat and Jerrold Nadler of New York, Earl Blumenauer and Kurt Schrader of Oregon, Lacy Clay of Missouri, and Mark Takano, Mark DeSaulnier, Jared Huffman, Ted Lieu and Judy Chu of California have all said they’ll skip the ceremony because they can’t stomach Trump.

However, House Democratic leaders say they will be in attendance at the inauguration, if mostly to support the office, not the man.

And similar to the attempt to derail Trump’s victory in the Electoral College, no Senate Democrats have joined into the inauguration boycott, at least not yet.

“That’s my responsibility,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on NPR Friday. “It is the wonderful thing about our country, the peaceful transfer of power.”

 

Obama’s clemency to 36 Tennesseans: Excessive says Duncan; not enough says Cohen

Three dozen convicted felons in Tennessee have been given a second chance in recent years through commutations and pardons by President Barack Obama. Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen hopes he’ll do more before leaving office on Friday. Republican Congressman John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. of Knoxville says the number already granted seems “excessive.”

So reports Michael Collins. Excerpts:

“There are still so many more people in prison for non-violent offenses like marijuana convictions and due to the crack-cocaine disparity – injustices that deserve clemency,” the Memphis Democrat (Cohen) said. “I’ve been disappointed for several of my constituents who I’ve been advocating for on behalf of their relatives who haven’t received clemency.”

Obama has been much more generous than his predecessors when it comes to using his executive powers to dole out forgiveness…. Obama has commuted the sentences of more inmates than all previous presidents combined. The commutations are part of an effort by the Justice Department to rectify what it sees as overly punitive sentences from the war on drugs.

So far, 36 Tennesseans have seen their sentences reduced by the president, ranking the Volunteer State 11th in the nation in terms of commutations. The state that received the most is Florida, where Obama has reduced the sentences of 190 felons since 2011. Next is Texas, with 123.

… Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., who was a state court judge in Knox County for seven years before he was elected to Congress, agrees that sentencing reform is needed. But he thinks Obama has gone overboard in handing out commutations, most of which have come over the past two years.

…Judges should have some latitude, for example, when sentencing someone who got mixed up in the wrong crowd when they were young and had just limited drug use, Duncan said.

“To put them in the same category with big-time drug dealers is wrong,” he said. But, “I doubt if I had been president I would have done 1,100 commutations in the last two years. That sounds excessive to me.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cohen: Fidel Castro and Donald Trump have similar ‘personality traits’

Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis got considerable media attention Tuesday by saying during a CNN interview that President-elect Donald Trump and former Cuban president Fidel Castro have similar “personality traits” and ties to Russia.

As quoted by USA Today Network’s Michael Collins:

 “The last two people I remember in this Western Hemisphere who were so close to Russia were (businessman) Armand Hammer, who loved oil and money, and Fidel Castro, who loved to talk for long periods of time, hated disloyalty and dissent and eliminated it, and was very much an egocentric individual,” Cohen said on CNN.

Asked if he was comparing Trump to Castro, Cohen replied, “personality traits, indeed.”

“Castro needed to be the center of attention at all times,” said Cohen, a Memphis Democrat. “He executed certain of his comrades for trumped-up charges because he wanted total control and he wanted to put that fear into people. He was very close to his family, and he had a multitudinous family. Didn’t trust others. And it was all about him and public speaking.

“With the exception of the fact that he was dedicated to a philosophy and to his country, making an allegiance with Russia, there are a lot of personality traits that are similar.”

Note: The CNN video of Cohen’s interview is HERE. Brietbart News has longer bloc quotes HERE.

Cohen announces 2018, 2020 reelection bids

Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen has announced that he will not only seek reelection in 2018, but in 2020 as well, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Cohen, 67, revealed his plans at former Memphis City Council member Myron Lowery’s New Year’s Eve prayer breakfast.

Cohen won his sixth consecutive race to represent the solidly Democratic 9th Congressional District last November, He rolled up 86 percent of the vote over three challengers in the August party primary.

Cohen said since his re-election he’d been hearing persistent rumors that he didn’t plan to run again.

“I decided to announce for re-election in 2018 and 2020,” Cohen said. “I thought it was a good time to squelch those rumors. My opponents don’t think they can beat me anymore, so they just want to will me away.”

Cohen bill would provide fed funding for school bus seat belts

News release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today introduced the Bring Enhanced Liability in Transportation for Students (BELTS) Act to help protect children who ride on school buses. The bill would create federal grants to purchase new school buses with lap/shoulder seat belts or equip existing ones with such belts and creates federal grants to equip school buses with motion-activated detection systems.

The bill would also direct the Secretary of Transportation to withhold 10% of a state’s apportionment of certain federal-aid highway funds if the state has not enacted a law that requires the employer to conduct background checks before hiring school bus drivers. Finally, the bill would direct the Secretary to withhold 10% of federal highway funding if the state has not enacted and is not enforcing a law that imposes specified first offense and second offense civil or criminal penalties for motorists found guilty of illegally passing a stopped school bus.

“Last month’s horrific school bus crash that killed six children in Chattanooga, Tennessee was a wake-up call,” said Congressman Cohen. “When it comes to protecting our school children, safety must come first. To date, only six states require seat belts on school buses. When I was in the Tennessee State Senate, I sponsored a bill to require seat belts on school buses, yet it was opposed by the industry and never received a vote in committee.

“On average, there are 134 school-transportation-related fatalities per year. Seat belts, background checks for drivers and other measures could help reduce future disasters. I urge my colleagues to support this common sense legislation to protect our children riding on school buses.”

Further, from the News Sentinel:

The bill is largely symbolic, as it was filed just days before Congress is expected to adjourn for the year. Cohen will likely have to reintroduce it next year.

Former state Rep. Joe Armstrong proposed a similar bill in the Tennessee General Assembly after the rollover bus crash that killed two children and a teacher’s aide in Knoxville in 2014. Armstrong’s bill died in the Transportation Committee due to opposition over expenses, he said Wednesday. He said he believes Cohen is “definitely moving in the right direction,” but “has an uphill battle.”

“How many more tragedies do we need to have?” Armstrong said. “Although I’m not in the Legislature anymore, I’m still an advocate out here in the public that seat belts save lives.”

Armstrong said his 2014 research placed the cost at around $9,000 to equip a new bus with seat belts and around $13,000 to retrofit a bus with seat belts. Those figures were too high for contracted school bus operators who opposed the bill, he said.

Cohen proposes constitutional amendment for popular election of president

Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis filed a constitutional amendment Thursday that calls for eliminating the electoral college and allowing for direct election of the president and vice president, reports Michael Collins.

The congressman’s amendment comes as Democrat Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote in last month’s presidential election topped 2.5 million. Clinton lost the electoral college – and the presidency – to Republican Donald Trump.

“For the second time in recent memory, and for the fifth time in our history, we have a President-elect, who lost the popular vote,” said Cohen, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

“The Electoral College is an antiquated system that was established to prevent citizens from directly electing our nation’s president, yet that notion is antithetical to our understanding of democracy,” Cohen said. “In our country, ‘We the People’ are supposed to determine who represents us in elective office.”

The legislation is unlikely to gain any traction in the Republican-controlled Congress. It would need two-thirds approval in both the House and the Senate and would then have to be ratified by 38 of the 50 states.

Cohen calls for FBI director’s resignation

News release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, today called on James Comey to resign as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“FBI Director James Comey’s recent public comments on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her emails, apparently before seeing any evidence, and against the advice of the Justice Department according to press reports, and even, some have suggested, in violation of the Hatch Act, make it clear that for the good of the FBI and the Justice Department, he should resign his position effective immediately,” said Congressman Cohen. “In the past, even quite recently, I have expressed my appreciation for Director Comey.  I appreciated his courage as Deputy Attorney General when he stood up to President Bush’s Chief of Staff Andrew Card and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales when they attempted to persuade hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to reauthorize Bush’s domestic surveillance program, which the Justice Department had just determined was illegal.  When, in July of this year, Director Comey recommended no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information while she was Secretary of State but added his own sidebar of opinions to the announcement, I gave Director Comey the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that his making such highly unusual remarks was called into question by many.”

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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