Congressman Steve Cohen

Representing the 9th District of Tennessee

Civil Rights

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 Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, 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.  Toward that end, I am devoted to protecting the voting rights of all Americans, working to reform the criminal justice system, and ensuring that education is accessible to all people.

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.

I am also deeply disturbed by recent challenges to voting rights and attempts to suppress votes in minority communities.  The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, and I am working to protect this right and make it easier for Americans to exercise it.

Protecting Civil Rights

Voting Rights

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.

Racial Profiling

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.

Police Reform

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.

Gender Equality

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 Act because 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.

Reducing the School to Prison Pipeline

Congressman Cohen offered an amendment to the Student Success Act, also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act to allow Title II funds to be used for restorative justice and conflict resolution training.  Using these techniques rather than suspension, expulsion or involving the police has been proven to reduce the School to Prison Pipeline.  Similar language was included in the Senate version of the bill which was ultimately signed into law by President Obama.  

More on Civil Rights

December 6, 2019 Press Release

 

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today voted for, and the House passed, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which restores protections of voting rights gutted by a 2013 Supreme Court decision. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Congressman Cohen conducted several hearings on this bill, including one at the University of Memphis School of Law in September. Congressman Cohen spoke in favor of the measure before it passed this morning. See that speech here.

November 20, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, today voted to advance the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act to the House floor. The committee vote was 24 to 10. 

November 13, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, today voted to advance a measure that would eliminate the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment.  The Judiciary Committee approved H.J. Res. 79 by a vote of 21 to 11. Earlier this year, Congressman Cohen chaired the first public hearing on the Equal Rights Amendment in 36 years. 

November 6, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, will participate Thursday in a Committee on Homeland Security field hearing on “Immigration Raids: Impacts and Aftermath on Mississippi Communities” at Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi. 

October 31, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberates, today joined his colleagues to establish rules and procedures for the next phase in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s misconduct.  These new procedures provide a forum of productive open hearings, the transmission of the evidence from the six committees engaged in the impeachment inquiry to the Judiciary Committee, and guidelines for any Judiciary Committee proceedings on impeachment of the Presid

October 28, 2019 Press Release

 

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the Judiciary Committee on which Congressman John Conyers served with distinction for so long, remembered his friend and mentor today at his passing at 90 in Detroit.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

October 23, 2019 Press Release

[Washington, D.C.] –Today, Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, supported the Judiciary Committee’s passage of the H.R.

October 22, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) questioned witnesses today at an Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services hearing titled “Long Overdue: Exploring the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (H.R.

October 17, 2019 Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, today presided over a hearing on legislative proposals to strengthen the Voting Rights Act in the wake of the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.