April 4th: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This week, I commemorated the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, President Obama announced that more than 7 million Americans enrolled in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces, the Library of Congress announced they will preserve Isaac Hayes’ work in the National Recording Registry, and the Humane Society awarded me with their “Humane Champion” award for my work protecting animals. Keep reading to learn more.
April 4th: Remembering Martin Luther King
Join My Telephone Town Hall on Monday, April 7th
Building a Healthier Memphis
Ensuring Memphians Get the Tax Refunds They Deserve
Fighting for the Unemployed
Remembering the Late, Great Isaac Hayes
Supporting Memphians and Promoting International Trade
Protecting Animals from Abuse
Another Republican Budget Proposal That Hurts the Middle Class
Putting Even More Money into Politics
Helping St. Jude
Make Sure to Claim Unclaimed Property
VA Rolls Out Secure Veteran Health ID Cards
This morning, I went to the floor of the United States House of Representatives to pay tribute to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and commemorate the 46th anniversary of his assassination at the Lorraine Motel. Reverend King was killed while standing up for economic justice including fair wages and the right to organize. Sadly, for too many Memphians and Americans, economic justice remains a dream unfulfilled. I will continue fighting for fairness and justice in Congress. You can watch my speech here.
Tonight, I will also speak at the April 4th Foundation’s 2014 Gala, where Dr. C.T. Vivian will give the keynote and receive this year’s “I Am A Man” award. The award is presented each year to individuals who continue to strive to keep Dr. King’s dream alive and make it a reality, something that Dr. Vivian, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, has spent his life doing. I look forward to the Gala as well as seeing Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Bobby Seale there this evening.
Tomorrow, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel will reopen after its renovation. The New York Times this week described the newly rebuilt museum as “setting a standard for museums exploring civil rights.” I will speak at the official opening ceremony tomorrow morning about the changes made during the renovations and the museum’s importance to our city and to our country. I hope you will visit the museum to see the changes for yourself.
On Monday evening at 6:20PM CT I will host a telephone town hall to answer your questions and discuss a variety of topics including my next “Building a Healthier Memphis” wellness event taking place next weekend. If you would like to participate in this telephone town hall on Monday, April 7th, please fill out the form here with your home phone number before Sunday evening – unfortunately, we are unable to call cell phones.
The open enrollment period for 2014 health coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces ended on Monday, and more than 7 million Americans enrolled in high-quality, affordable coverage before the deadline. With so many Americans now enrolled in coverage through marketplaces like HealthCare.gov, President Obama is right when he says “the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”
The Affordable Care Act is already helping millions of Americans get covered and get the care they need, but we can do more. Last month, I launched my “Building a Healthier Memphis” series on wellness in the Ninth District with a panel discussion and education session focused on the racial disparities in breast cancer outcomes in Memphis. During the panel—which drew an overflow crowd—experts discussed the reasons for the current outcome gap and helped identify how Memphians can take advantage of provisions of the President’s Affordable Care Act that include no co-pay and no deductible mammograms to address the disparity and improve outcomes for themselves, their families, and their communities.
I was encouraged that so many Memphians attended the panel and education session to learn how they can improve their own health and the health of their families and communities. Today, I am glad to invite you to the next wellness event in my “Building a Healthier Memphis” series. It will be held at 10:00AM on Saturday, April 12th at Church Health Center Wellness located at 1115 Union Avenue.
This next event will focus on how our community can work together to stem the rising tide of diabetes diagnoses in Memphis and will include a number of local experts on diabetes prevention as well as Dr. Ann Albright, the United States Centers for Disease Control Director of diabetes prevention. If you would like to attend on Saturday, April 12th, please give my Memphis office a call at 544.4131 to RSVP. I hope you can join us next weekend.
April 15th – the deadline to file your 2013 federal tax return – is less than 2 weeks away. As you prepare your return, I hope you won’t overlook the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) if you are eligible for it. It is an important credit that can give families a financial boost. But historically, eligible taxpayers in Memphis and Shelby County have not taken full advantage of the program. Last year alone, as much as $70 million in potential tax credits were left on the table by area taxpayers.
If you have not yet filed your 2010 federal tax return and are owed a refund, the April 15th deadline is also your last chance to claim that refund. If the federal government owes you a refund from 2010, there is no penalty for filing a late return for that year. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), nearly $13 million in unpaid refunds is owed to more than 16,000 taxpayers across Tennessee, but you must file by April 15th in order to collect those funds or they will be forfeited.
Memphians shouldn’t pay more than they owe, and they should receive every penny they deserve in refunds. This year, I helped open one of 15 new Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites that are now operating throughout Shelby County. The VITA sites are available to provide tax return guidance and advice free of charge to ensure that Memphians take full advantage of programs like the EITC and get the tax refund they are entitled to. More information including a list of all VITA locations and their hours is available at my website, and I encourage you to find one near you to help ensure you get every penny you are owed.
Yesterday, the Senate took another step towards passing a bill to extend unemployment insurance to Americans whose benefits expired at the end of the year because of Republican obstruction. I’m glad that some in Congress have finally recognized the urgent need to pass this legislation, but I remain very disappointed that Speaker John Boehner has indicated that he won’t even let the House vote on it when the Senate sends it to us.
Speaker Boehner shouldn’t make millions of out-of-work Americans—including more than 31,000 Tennesseans—wait another day for the unemployment benefits they need to keep a roof over their heads and put food on their tables. He should stop obstructing the Senate’s bipartisan bill and immediately let the House vote to extend this critical lifeline to people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
On Wednesday, legendary Memphian Isaac Hayes’ Billboard chart-topping “Shaft” soundtrack was inducted into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. The registry preserves sound recordings as cultural, artistic and/or historical treasures that represent the richness and diversity of our nation’s soundscape.
In helping calm frayed nerves in both Watts and Memphis after the riots of the 1960s and in so many other ways, Isaac Hayes served as an iconic role model for young African American males. Isaac departed much too soon but his induction into the National Recording Registry underlines the remarkable legacy he left behind. His contributions to the artistic community, his years at the legendary Stax Records, and his appearance at Wattstax will not be forgotten. He was a dear friend and supporter, and I miss him profoundly—and I am glad that his work will be preserved.
This week, Memphian Anthony “Amp” Elmore met with South African Ambassador to the United States Ebrahim Rasool to discuss his proposal to launch a cultural and economic exchange between the African nation and the city of Memphis. Amp’s proposed exchange would link our unique histories and our fights for equality, led here in America by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and in South African by former South African President, His Excellency Nelson Mandela. He has also proposed creating a trade relationship between our city and South Africa that would make Memphis the main American hub for imports from the country.
Amp’s proposal is an exciting opportunity for both Memphis and for South Africa that will help grow both economies as well as strengthen cultural ties between our countries, and I am happy to support his efforts to foster what could be an important partnership.
This week, I received another “Humane Champion” award from the Humane Society for my perfect voting record in 2013. Not only do I have more of these annual awards than anyone else in Tennessee’s Congressional Delegation, but the Humane Society also gave me extra credit for sponsoring the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, which would end an abusive practice used by some horse trainers.
It is a privilege and an honor to be recognized for my long record of protecting animal welfare and preventing abuse. Our treatment of animals is a reflection of how we treat ourselves and each other, and I believe that we must do all that we can to do better on each front.
On Tuesday morning, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released his 2015 Republican budget proposal. I’m not surprised that he chose Tuesday, April 1st to do it—as his proposal certainly looks like a cruel April Fools’ joke being played on the American people. The Ryan plan—with its gimmicks, fuzzy math, and loopholes—keeps the deck stacked against hardworking Memphians who deserve a fair shot at the American Dream. It takes away the health care security provided by President Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act, kills jobs, ends Medicare as we know it and hurts seniors, slashes food stamps and NIH medical research programs, makes college harder to afford, and raises taxes on middle-class families to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.
The Progressive Democrats’ “Better Off Budget” is a more effective approach for Memphis and for all of America. Our plan would create more than 8 million jobs, cut the deficit by more than $4 trillion dollars, restore unemployment insurance that out-of-work Americans rely on to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables, reverse harmful cuts that hit middle-class families the hardest, and help give Memphians who work hard and play by the rules a fair shot at success. It’s a plan that will build a strong, lasting economy that works for everyone, not just a select few.
At a time when more and more Big Money is flowing into politics to sway elections, the Supreme Court this week decided that allowing even more money into our elections is the right way to move forward. After opening the floodgates with their “Citizens United” ruling, with this week’s decision the Supreme Court breached the remaining levees protecting the voices of middle class Americans from being completely drowned out of the political process by the ultra-wealthy.
This ruling—which gives even more power and influence to Big Money—once again underscores just how urgently Congress must pass meaningful campaign finance reform to put the ‘People’s House’ back where it should be: in the hands of the American people. The Government by the People Act will give every citizen a fair shot at participating in our government along with the confidence in democracy that they deserve and expect, and I will work with my colleagues to pass it.
This morning, I announced more than $330,000 in federal funding to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to help research a compound discovered at the hospital that could help reverse resistance to cancer drugs. I’m glad that St. Jude, one of the world’s finest health care institutions, will be able to conduct this important research.
The State of Tennessee maintains a searchable database of unclaimed property, which can include bank accounts, stocks and dividends, wages, refunds, insurance payments, gift certificates, credit balances and overpayments, and a number of other things. There is no cost for accessing the database, and you may find that you are owed money or property. If you have not searched the database yet or if you haven’t searched in a while, you can visit https://www.claimittn.gov and see for yourself whether the state is holding any property or assets for you. And you may pass this information along to your friends and family as well!
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced the phased roll out of newly designed, more secure Veteran Health Identification Cards. The new cards are distinguished by additional security features and will have a different look and feel.
Similar to a typical health insurance card, the VHIC displays the veteran’s Member ID, a new unique identifier, as well as a Plan ID, reflecting the veteran’s enrollment in VA health care. The card replaces the Veteran Identification Card (VIC), which was introduced in 2004. As part of a phased rollout, the card will only be offered to newly enrolled and other veterans who have not been issued a VIC. In early April, the VA will begin a three month effort to automatically issue the more secure VHIC to current VIC cardholders. The VA recommends veterans safeguard their VIC as they would a credit card, and cut up or shred the card once it is replaced. While not required to receive VA health care, all enrolled Veterans are encouraged to get a VHIC.
Enrolled veterans can get more information about the VHIC by visiting their VA medical facility enrollment coordinator or the website www.va.gov/healthbenefits/vhic, calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or visiting their local VA health care facility. Veterans who are not enrolled in the VA health care system can apply for enrollment at any time by visiting www.va.gov/healthbenefits, calling 1-877-222-VETS (8387) or visiting their local VA health care facility.
As always, I remain.
Member of Congress