Legislative Accomplishments in the House of Representatives

113th Congress (2013/2014)

H.R.3658, Monuments Men Recognition Act of 2014

Signed into law on 6/9/14

Ensures that the World War II unit known as the "Monuments Men" receives a Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest recognition for distinguished achievements and contributions. Congressman Cohen was one of the lead Democratic cosponsors of this legislation. The Congressman single-handedly secured nearly half the signatures required for its passage in the House and was credited by Representative Kay Granger of Texas, the bill's original sponsor, as the person responsible for the bill’s passage.

Legislation Passed by the House of Representatives:

H.AMDT.717 to H.R. 4660, Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015. Provision included in H.R. 83, Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015.

Passed the House on 5/29/14

This deficit-neutral amendment transfered $5 million in federal funds to a new grant program focused specifically on helping law enforcement agencies and cut through their sexual assault kit backlogs. The additional funding would increase the grant program’s budget by nearly 15%, from $36 million to $41 million, and increase Memphis’ chances of receiving the funding necessary to significantly reduce its rape kit backlog.

H.AMDT.853 to H.R.4800, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015

Passed the House on 6/11/14

This amendment adds $3 million in funding to the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children program, which is a pilot program focused on helping provide meals to low income children during summer months when school lunch programs are not in effect.

H.AMDT.1120 to H.R.4984, Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act

Passed the House on 7/24/14

This amendment would ensure that student loan borrowers are informed of and adequately understand the risks associated with their loans, including those issued by private lenders with excessively high interest rates and fees. Because of an unjustifiable change to the bankruptcy code made in 2005, student loans from private lenders are no longer treated the same as other types of private debt in bankruptcy proceedings, meaning students can be saddled for life with mountains of fees and loan debt that they have no hope of ever paying off. 

H.R.3086, Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act

Passed the House on 7/15/14

This bipartisan legislation amends the Internet Tax Freedom Act to make permanent the ban on state and local taxation of Internet access and on multiple or discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. Congressman Cohen was one of the lead Democratic cosponsors of this legislation.

H.R.2919, Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act

Passed the House on 5/6/14

This bipartisan legislation would improve government transparency by reinstating the tracking and reporting requirements of certain payments awarded by the federal government to help ensure the American people have access to this important information. Congressman Cohen was a lead Democratic sponsor. 

H.R.4292, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act

Passed the House on 5/6/14

This bipartisan legislation would remove certain legal barriers and make foreign artwork and artifacts more accessible to the public to view, study and appreciate in American schools and museums while preserving important protections in current law for Holocaust-related claims.

H.AMDT.74 to H.R.3, Northern Route Approval Act

Passed the House on 5/22/13

This amendment requires TransCanada to submit its oil spill response plan and any updates to the plan, to the Governors of each State in which the Keystone XL pipeline operates.

H.AMDT.372 to H.R.2397, Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014

Passed the House on 7/23/13

This amendment reduces funding for the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund by $139 million and applies the savings to the Spending Reduction account.

112th Congress (2011/2012)

H.R. 1067, Surface Transportation Earmark Recession, Savings, and Accountability Act of 2011, provisions included in HR 1473, FY 2011 Continuing Resolution

Signed into law on 4/15/11.

Rescinds funding for outdated earmarks that date back to 1978 from prior surface transportation authorizations.  Many of these projects have been completed or are no longer viable.

H.R. 2192, National Guard and Reservist Debt Relief Extension Act

Signed into law on 12/13/11.

Helps members of the National Guard and Reserve obtain bankruptcy relief if they need it by extending a bankruptcy provision that that enables Guardsmen and Reservists to bypass the ‘means test.’

H.R. 1046, Honor the WISH Act included in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act

Signed into law on 12/31/11.

Removes limitations of who members of the Armed Forces can designate to oversee disposition of remains.

Legislation Passed by the House of Representatives:

H.AMDT. 1401 to H.R. 5856, FY13 Defense Appropriations Bill

Passed the House 7/18/2012.

Reduced the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund by $175 million and applied the savings to the spending reduction account.  

H.R. 1046, Honor the WISH Act included as amendment to HR 1540, the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act

Passed the House 5/26/2011.

Provision requires the Pentagon to initiate a study to examine the effects of expanding the current statute to allow other people, including foster parents, friends or fellow soldiers to be designated.

Legislation passed in Committee:

Amendment to HR3534, Security in Bonding Act of 2011

Passed the Judiciary Committee on 3/20/12.

Added a GAO study to access to the effects of the bill on the ability of disadvantaged business entities to obtain federal contracts.
 

111th Congress (2009/2010)

H.R. 2765, the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act.

The measure was signed into law by President Obama in August 2010.  The law protects American authors, journalists and publishers from foreign defamation judgments that undermine the First Amendment and American due process standards.

H. Res 18, Honoring the life, achievements, and contributions of Paul Newman, Passed the House on 2/24/2009.

H.R. 2247, the Congressional Review Act Improvement Act.

Eliminates a requirement that federal agencies must submit specified information about a rule to both Houses of Congress before such rule can take effect (thus requiring that the information be submitted to only the Comptroller General).

H. Res 476, Celebrating the 30th anniversary of June as "Black Music Month"
A resolution honoring the contributions of African-American artists to America’s history and culture.

H. Res 260, Supporting efforts to reduce infant mortality in the United StatesExpresses support for efforts to: (1) lower the rate of infant mortality in the United States; and (2) correct the racial disparities in prenatal care to lower that rate.

H.R. 3470, the NEWBORN Act. Included in H.R. 3249, Healthcare Reform bill which passed the House on 11/7/09. Also passed the House on 9/22/10. Addresses the United States’ high rate of infant mortality through the creation of pilot programs across the nation.  These programs would be established in the cities and localities with the highest rates of infant mortality and would be financed through grants given by the Department of Health and Human Services.  Each program will focus on providing at-risk mothers pre-natal care, community outreach, and education about pregnancy and infant mortality.   

110th Congress (2007/2008)

H.Res. 194 , An Apology for the Enslavement and Racial Segregation of African Americans.

On July 29, 2008, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.Res.194, apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of African-Americans. Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) introduced the resolution on February 22, 2007.  This is the first time that the federal government has ever formally apologized for slavery or racial segregation in United States history.  Congressman Cohen's statement on the passage of H.Res. 194:

I am very proud that my colleagues in the House of Representatives passed our resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow in the United States.  This is a historic moment in the ongoing struggle for civil rights in this country, and I hope that this legislation can serve to open the dialogue on race and equality for all.  Apologies are not empty gestures, but are a necessary first step towards any sort of reconciliation between people. I thank Congressman John Conyers (MI-10), whose assistance in moving this resolution forward was indispensible, for his strong support for this bill.

Congressman Steve Cohen

 

Watch Congressman Cohen's speech in support of this historic legislation by clicking on the picture above.

H.R. 6146 , Libel Tourism Bill

Congressman Cohen wrote and introduced this legislation to amend U.S. code to prohibit recognition and enforcement of foreign defamation judgments.  On September 26, 2008, the House passed the bill unanimously.  The New York Times wrote an editorial in support of the bill which can be found HERE.

TIH Amendment

In March 2007, Congressman Cohen ammended the Rail and Public Transportation Security Act of 2007. The amendment would establish a program to coordinate with state and local governments to minimize the need for toxic inhalation hazardous materials to be routed through our communities. The amendment passed the House by a comfortable margin.

Local officials who were concerned about the transportation of hazardous materials through District 9 approached Congressman Cohen earlier that year.  He heard their concerns and worked to find a bill which would appropriately carry the language needed to guard against potential toxic spill incidents.

H.R. 6986 , the Individual Depositor and Community Bank Protection Act
On Sept. 22, Congressman Cohen introduced this influential legislation which would raise the maximum federal deposit insurance coverage from the FDIC from $100,000 to $200,000.  Leaders in both parties negotiated a similar provision into H.R. 1424, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which was enacted into law Oct. 3, 2008. 

H.RES. 162 , Negro Baseball Leagues Resolution

This resolution introduced by Congressman Cohen recognizes the contributions of the Negro Baseball Leagues and their players.  It passed the House of Representatives unanimously.

H.R. 3385 , Homelessness Task Force Bill

Congressman Cohen introduced this legislation which calls on Congress to establish a bipartisan task force to examine homelessness in the United States and make recommendations to alleviate its causes and effects.  With 27 cosponsors, it has been referred to committee and will be taken up in the 111th Congress.

H.R. 4158 , the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System Act

Congressman Cohen introduced this legislation which would consolidate the authorization of the National Urban Search and Rescue program and place its authority in one section of the Stafford Act. This will help ensure that the Urban Search and Rescue can competently and proficiently respond to a wide range of natural disasters.

Further, the bill would ensure Urban Search and Rescue Task Force members are given secure uniform workers compensation and tort liability protection under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which currently provides such protections to activated National Guard and reserve members.  The bill was referred to committee and will be taken up in the 111th Congress.

H.R. 2 , the Fair Minimum Wage Act

This landmark legislation raised the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour as one of the first acts of the 110th Congress.  It had been 10 years since the previous increase in the minimum wage, and this was one of the first acts of the 110th Congress.  Congressman Cohen was an original cosponsor of this bill. 

H.R. 6 , the Energy Independence and Security Act

Among its provisions, this legislation increases research, development, and deployment of clean renewable energy and efficiency technologies. This legislation also included a landmark increase in corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards.  Congressman Cohen was a lead cosponsor of this legislation, and it became law on December 19, 2007.

H.R. 2578 , the Empowerment Zone and Renewal Community Enhancement Act

Congressman Cohen was a lead cosponsor on this legislation introduced by Congressman Artur Davis (AL-07). It extends and expands the benefits for businesses operating in empowerment zones, enterprise communities and renewal communities, and promotes housing choice for low-income families through the HOPE VI grant program which revitalizes severely distressed public housing.

H.R. 2881 , the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act

Congressman Cohen was an original cosponsor of this legislation, which authorizes appropriations for the Federal Aviation Administration for fiscal years 2008 through 2011, to improve aviation safety and capacity, provide stable funding for the national aviation system. The bill also includes provisions for consumer rights, noise abatement, safety issues, flight attendant, air traffic controller and pilot work conditions (passed the House Nov. 20, 2007).

H.R. 5524 , the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act of 2008

Congressman Cohen was an original cosponsor on this bill which revises requirements for services provided under grants from the Secretary of Health and Human Services for centers for runaway and homeless youth and their families.  The President signed this into law on October 8, 2008.

H.R. 6658 , the Disaster Response, Recovery, and Mitigation Enhancement Act of 2008

This billl requires the president to award financial assistance under the pre-disaster hazard mitigation program on a competitive basis and authorize continuing appropriations for this program through Fiscal Year 2011.  Congressman Cohen was one of the lead cosponsors of this legislation.

H.R. 753 , a bill which redesignates the federal building at 167 North Main Street in Memphis as the "Clifford Davis/Odell Horton Federal Building."

Congressman Cohen wrote this legislation and introduced it in the House of Representatives on January 31, 2007.  It passed unanimously and was signed by the President on May 2, 2007. 

Odell Horton was appointed to the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee by President Jimmy Carter on May 12, 1980, the first black federal judge appointed since Reconstruction. Judge Horton served as chief judge of the district from January 1, 1987 until December 31, 1993.

H.R. 2587 , a bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 555 South 3rd Street Lobby in Memphis, Tennessee, as the "Kenneth T. Whalum, Sr. Post Office Building."

Congressman Cohen wrote this legislation and introduced it in the House of Representatives on June 6, 2007.  It passed unanimously and was signed by the President on October 24, 2007.

Kenneth Whalum died on October 22, 2007, two days before this legislation passed.  He worked for years in the U.S. Postal Service as director of personnel and served two terms on the City Council.  He was best known, however, as the founder and long time pastor of the Olivet Baptist Church, one of the largest congregations in Memphis.

Other Accomplishments

HIDTA, Congressman Cohen helped secure designation for Shelby County as a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA).  This federal designation -- which was made in August 2010 -- will further the development of joint drug control efforts by federal, state, and local law enforcement officers in the region and allow them to benefit from ongoing initiatives.  Congressman Cohen issued a letter to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in April 2010.

U.S. Attorney, Congressman Cohen recommended lifelong Memphian Ed Stanton to President Obama, who then nominated Stanton as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.  Ed Stanton was confirmed by the Senate in August 2010.

Federal Judge, Congressman Cohen recomended Sheryl Lipman to President Obama to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee after convening a diverse and bipartisan screening committee to conduct interviews of nine potential candidates for the position. The President then nominated Lipman and she was confirmed as U.S. District Court Judge in April 2014.

The MED, Congressman Cohen advocated for a provision that addresses Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments to Tennessee that will ensure the state receives federal funding for hospitals like The MED that provide uncompensated care – a battle which dates back to inception of the TennCare program in 1993.

It was a long, difficult road to secure these critical funds in the Affordable Care Act but Congressman Cohen paved the way for their inclusion when he stood up at a Democratic Party meeting and gained the support of President Obama, who now shares Tennesseans' concerns about the funding shortfall.

FDIC, Congressman Cohen authored legislation in 2008 to raise the maximum federal deposit insurance coverage from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) from $100,000 to $200,000.  His idea was used and increased to $250,000, and included in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which became law.

CHIP, Congressman Cohen voted in favor of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2009, a bill that not only provided health insurance to many of our nation’s needy children, but also included provisions that help The MED.

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board, Congressman Cohen recommended Memphian V. Lynn Evans, CPA, to President Obama, who then nominated Evans to the Board of Directors of the TVA. V. Lynn Evans was confirmed by the Senate in January 2013. In August 2014, President Obama also nominated Ron Walter for the TVA Board after Congressman Cohen recommended the Memphian.

Youth PROMISE Act, Congressman Cohen authored this bill to bring together various stakeholders in the community to address the problem of gang violence.  Everyone from law enforcement and the legal system to schools, faith-based organizations, and mental health organizations would develop a comprehensive strategy for diverting young people who are at risk of joining a gang.

High Speed Rail, Congressman Cohen proposed building a high-speed rail corridor from Little Rock to Memphis that would be a major economic catalyst that has the potential to create jobs, reduce congestion on our roads and bridges, curb our reliance on fossil fuels, and improve our environment.  He worked to amend the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act to include a feasibility study on the South Central High-Speed Rail Corridor expansion.

$15 Million Main Street to Main Street TIGER Grant, After working for nearly 3 years to secure funding for the Main Street to Main Street Multi-Modal Connector Project, Congressman Cohen announced a nearly $15 million grant for the region’s most ambitious and impressive bicycle/pedestrian project in June 2012.

NIH, Congressman Cohen authored an amendment in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to give the National Institutes of Health (NIH) an additional $10 billion to help fund hospitals like Memphis' St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  The measure was incorporated into the Recovery Package through an amendment put forth by Senator Tom Harkin.  NIH is the primary source of funding for treatments to diseases like cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Top

Most Significant State Legislative Accomplishments

2006: Lottery-funded after-school programs, Lottery scholarship awards increased, Felon voting rights reform, Coretta Scott King Memorial Highway, Teen DUI death initiative
2005: Lottery Scholarship expansion & refinement, One of the Principal Ethics Bills of 2005 which included the Prohibition of Lifetime Health Benefits for Interim Legislators, and Cell phone restrictions/learner and graduated drivers
2004: "General Patton Act"/animal cruelty felony, Lottery Education Reform, Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act
2003: Tennessee Education Lottery Implementation Law and Scholarship/Education Law
2002: State Lottery Referendum passed with 58%, President Tennessee Student Scholarship Lottery Coalition, Aggravated animal cruelty act, Cultural license plates reform act
2001: State Lottery Referendum, Non-livestock Humane Death Act, Post Conviction DNA Analysis Act, Uniform Athlete Agents Act, & The 2000 Presidential Election Debacle Reform Bill
2000: Graduated Drivers License, T-BO Act (non-economic damages for death of pets), & Emeritus Pay Reform
1999: Naming of the "Albert Gore, Sr. Memorial Interstate Highway System," The Good Samaritan Protection Act, & Elderly Abuse Law
1998: Most Aggravated Drunk Driver Act, 70 MPH Speed Limit, & Cultural/Special License Plate Reform
1997: Music Highway Act, Anti-SLAPP Act, Memphis Sports Authority Funding Act, & Professional Baseball Sales Tax Rebate Act (AutoZone Park)
1995: Toll Free Legislative Line Service, Campaign Finance Reform (co-prime sponsor), Lobbyist Reform Act (co-prime sponsor), State Carjacking Law, Handicapped Parking Citation Law, & Imported Keg Beer Law
1994: Handgun Permit Reform Bill & Women's Restroom Equity Act
1993: Sexual Harassment Act, Used Oil Collection Act, & Bicentennial Beautification Act (interstate wildflowers)
1992: Open Appointments Act & Stalking Law
1991: Reduction of Waste in Government Act, Anti-Skullduggery Act (election reform), & Consumer Telemarketing Protection Act
1990: Civil Rights Act & Finance Registry Act (Ethics)
1989: Volunteer State Investment Fund Act (tax free open-ended bond funds)
1988: Sports Agent Legislation & Hate Crimes Bill
1987: Racing Control Act (Parimutuel referendum), College and Cultural License Plates (Arts funding), Dual Divorce Act, & Private Protective Services Licensing & Regulatory Act
1986: Felon voting rights (1986-96 "Cohen Period")
1984: Created the Tennessee Commission on the Commemoration of the Holocaust

Primary budget proponent for state funding for: The Pyramid, the Memphis Zoo, the Brooks Museum of Art, the Memphis Food Bank, the Orange Mound Senior Care Home, Orange Mound Concerned Citizens Headquarters, Aloyious House, Friends for Life, the Memphis College of Art's Burton Callicott Auditorium, Overton Park/Ted Rust lawn sculpture, the Brannon-McCulloch Primary Health Center, The Blues Foundation, the Center for Southern Folklore, the Blues City Cultural Center and the state student ticket subsidy program for the arts, sponsored legislation which created the environmental license plates and suggested the iris design. Charter form of county government, Hall Income Tax exemptions for elderly and low income, and citations in lieu of arrest for misdemeanants and a plethora of laws facilitating the enjoyment of wine while dining.

Other Political Positions

1980,1992, 2004 & 2008: Delegate to Democratic National Convention; Platform Committee 2000
1984: Shelby County Charter Commission
1988-90: Chair, Shelby County Legislative Delegation
1986: Delegate to American Council of Young Political Leaders, USA/Japan Study Mission
1999: Delegate NCSL/China 1999
2000: Delegation Leader NCSL/Germany
2002: Council of State Governments Executive Committee, 2002
1998-2005: National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Executive Committee Member