I have the great honor of serving on the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over a wide range of issues including criminal justice system, civil rights, civil liberties, and voting rights. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I take my oversight duties very seriously.
I currently serve as Ranking Member of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over all constitutional amendments and federal civil right laws among other issues. Making sure that my constituents’ rights are not infringed upon is of the utmost importance to me.
Incidents of unarmed African Americans dying at the hands of police in cities such as Memphis, Baltimore, Ferguson, New York City and others have led to many protests across America. While most police officers spend their careers admirably protecting the communities they serve, it is unfortunate that there have been a string of incidents where some officers discharged their weapons against unarmed African Americans. Disparities in the criminal justice system and the death of unarmed African Americans have fueled calls for reform. As someone who has always supported civil rights and liberties for all people, I am particularly concerned about the systemic causes of the protests and unrest in these communities. This is why I am devoted to working to reform the criminal justice system, ensure education is accessible to all people and protect the voting rights of all Americans.
Protecting Civil Rights
Congressman Cohen has cosponsored legislation that prohibits law enforcement from engaging in racial profiling, grants victims of racial profiling the right to file suit, authorizes grants to collect data relating to racial profiling, and requires state and local law enforcement to certify that they have eliminated any practices that permit or encourage racial profiling. The Congressman is a cosponsor of the End Racial Profiling Act.
When, where and against whom police use deadly force is a serious issue that deserves both urgent attention and careful thought. Unfortunately, no meaningful statistics are kept to help us understand how to best prevent deadly force from being used inappropriately. The Congressman believes that states should be required to collect data on all instances in which deadly force is used by police and report that information to the U.S. Department of Justice. The required reporting would include the race, ethnicity, gender, and age of the individual against whom the deadly force was used as well as an explanation as to why non-lethal efforts were not employed or were ineffective. For this reason, the Congressman introduced the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act, which would close a loophole in federal law that prevents adequate collection of comprehensive national data regarding justified and unjustified use of deadly force with police. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, the Congressman is continuing to press for vitally important legislation that will ensure that our community is safe while respecting the difficult job our men and women in law enforcement perform every day.
Congressman Cohen introduced Police Training and Independent Review Act which would create an incentive for states to require independent investigation and prosecution of incidents in which police use of deadly force results in a death or injury. The bill would require sensitivity training requirements regarding racial bias, cultural diversity, and interactions with the disabled, mentally ill, and new immigrants. His bill has been endorsed by the NAACP, the Chicago Tribune, and has the support of the majority of the Congressional Black Caucus. He also introduced the Police Creating Accountability in Making Effective Recording Available (CAMERA) Act, a grant program that would assist state and local law enforcement with the purchase of body cameras to be worn by police officers. The Congressman believes that this country can do better than to allow unarmed youth to be unnecessarily chased, shot, and ultimately killed without any punishment of the perpetrator. We have a real problem in this country when it comes to the relationship between police and communities of color, which they are sworn to protect and serve. The Congressman has dedicated his career to fighting for civil rights and civil liberties, and as the Ranking Member of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee, he is continuing to follow these issues closely.
The Congressman has cosponsored numerous pieces of legislation to safeguard access to online voter registration and same day registration, to push for poll workers that are informed and reliable, to create a national voter hotline; and to ensure that all provisional ballots are counted votes. He introduced the Streamlining and Improving Methods at Polling Locations and Early (SIMPLE) Voting Act, to ensure that every state allows citizens to vote for at least 15 days prior to federal elections and require that states provide adequate poll workers and other resources to prevent wait times of longer than one hour.
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision that down portions of the landmark Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Congressman Cohen cosponsored the Voting Rights Advancement Act to establish a new, nationwide coverage formula for preclearance and make improvements to the law. In addition, he has cosponsored legislation to require states to automatically register anyone who provides identifying information to the state’s department of motor vehicles, as well as, legislation that allows voters to provide a sworn, written statement attesting to their identification as a means by which to meet voter identification requirements. The Congressman has also cosponsored constitutional amendments that explicitly guarantee that every U.S. citizen of legal voting age has a fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which he or she resides.
Congressman Cohen has been a tireless advocate for women’s equality in Congress. He believes that it is important that women are not denied their reproductive rights. He stands with Planned Parenthood and the essential preventative health services such as mammograms, HIV testing, and access to birth control that it provides. The Congressman remains committed to fighting for women’s health care and opposes any efforts to defund Planned Parenthood or repeal the Affordable Care Act that could put many low-income and minority women at risk. He has also worked to ensure that women have the ability to protect their rights against wage discrimination. The Congressman cosponsored The Paycheck Fairness Actbecause he believes that with increased information on wage data and a commitment to eradicating wage discrepancies, our nation’s women would be better prepared to recognize and enforce their rights.
The Congressman has been a long-time supporter of women’s rights initiatives, especially when it pertains to making personal decisions regarding women’s health and family. He believes that it is important to ensure affordable abortion coverage and care for every woman. He has long been a strong supporter of a woman's right to choose and believes that this choice is one that should remain between a woman and her doctor. The Congressman is committed to continuing to fight for women’s rights here and abroad, and continuing to urge his House and Senate colleagues in Congress to do the same.
The Congressman was honored to attend the Women’s March in Memphis.
More on Civil Rights
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) applauded today’s Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee passage of his bill to rename the facility at 1325 Autumn Avenue as “The Judge Russell B. Sugarmon Post Office.” The Senate committee’s action clears the way for consideration by the full Senate.
Congressman Cohen made the following statement:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today noted the 55th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that brought a quarter of a million people to the National Mall to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial while millions more watched on television. Congressman Cohen made the following statement:
On the anniversary of the Charlottesville hate march, planned and carried out by a cabal of hate groups including Klansmen and Neo-Nazis, I call upon Americans to reflect upon the tragic loss of life and the deplorable words and actions of the white supremacists and nationalists, countered by passionate Americans standing for love, tolerance, hope, and kindness.
As I watched Spike Lee’s “The Black Klansman” last night, I thought back on that event and President Donald Trump’s insistence that there were “very fine people on both sides” that day.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) celebrated the passage of the Voting Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on this date in 1965, and made the following statement:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, took note of Saturday’s 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and made the following statement:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) took note of the 70th anniversary of the integration of the armed services by President Harry Truman’s Executive Order 9981 and made the following statement:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) commended the Justice Department for reopening the Emmett Till murder case that many say galvanized a nascent Civil Rights movement in 1955. The 14-year-old Chicago youth was killed after a white woman claimed he wolf-whistled at her in Money, Mississippi, and his admitted killers were later acquitted by an all-white jury. See Congressman Cohen speaking about the case on the House floor this morning here. He also made the following statement:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) announced a $142,362 grant to the National Civil Rights Museum to build the skills of young African American students and frontline staff members to address the lack of minorities in the museum field. Another grant for $24,855 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which was created by Congress in the legislation that authorized building the popular National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall, will go to the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery’s sports collection.