Monitoring the Closure of the Memphis I-40 Bridge
May 14, 2021
This week, I closely monitored the closure of the I-40 Hernando de Soto Bridge and coordinated with the U.S. Department of Transportation and state officials to seek a swift and safe reopening. I hosted an historic Congressional Forum about the legacy of the FBI’s COINTELPRO Program with witnesses including Akua Njeri, Fred Hampton, Jr., Bobby Seale, Ericka Huggins, and Betty Medsdger. I introduced the Interstate Rail Compacts Advancement Act to promote regional coordination and sustain a vision of passenger rail service across America, including a potential line from Memphis to Nashville, Atlanta, and Florida. I also voted to pass the Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act, which included my bill to protect consumers from predatory debt collectors collecting or attempting to collect expired debt. I also voted for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which has long been one of my priorities given Memphis’s own dark experiences with employers providing insufficient protections to pregnant workers. I was pleased to announce a significant grant to the Memphis International Airport to continue constructing deicing pads. I also monitored the shooting of two officers in Memphis and extended my sympathies. Plus, I offered a health tip about getting COVID vaccines. Keep reading and follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see what I’m doing as it happens.
I am working with federal, state and local officials regarding the closure of the I-40 Hernando de Soto bridge over the Mississippi River to coordinate the reopening of this important throughway. While it’s fortunate that a routine inspection averted a potential disaster, the closure of this bridge harms our community and the entire nation, which depends on Memphis as a national distribution hub. The damage on the bridge illustrates the need for an infrastructure bill immediately, and I look forward to working with my colleagues and the President to move a comprehensive infrastructure package forward. You can watch the remarks I delivered on the House floor urging action here.
On Monday, I held a virtual forum with Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13) and Bobby L. Rush (IL-01) about the FBI’s notorious COINTELPRO program. The program’s illegal and unconstitutional tactics were recently portrayed in the Academy Award-winning “Judas and the Black Messiah” that dramatizes the FBI-orchestrated assassination of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton in 1969. The forum focused on the stories of those affected, contemporary impacts, policy changes made in response to the revelations of the abuses of COINTELPRO, and the work that remains to be done. The forum featured testimony from the partner of the late Chairman Fred Hampton, Akua Njeri; their son Fred Hampton Jr.; Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale; civil rights activist and author Nkechi Taifa; former FBI Special Agent Mike German; human rights activist and former Black Panther Ericka Huggins; and the Washington Post reporter who helped break the story on COINTELPRO, Betty Medsger. You can watch a video of this historic forum here.
On Tuesday, I introduced the Interstate Rail Compacts Advancement Act, which would incentivize the formation of a multi-state passenger rail commission to promote regional coordination and sustain a vision of passenger rail service across America. Such a commission could help realize the proposal to establish a rail line from Memphis to Nashville, Atlanta, and Florida. Expanding passenger rail here and across the country would connect more communities to educational, economic and recreational opportunities that may not be easily accessible via air travel or to those without access to automobiles. See my release here.
On Thursday, I voted to pass the Comprehensive Debt Collection Improvement Act with amendments that I offered and cosponsored to extend the bill’s protections for consumers from predatory debt collection practices. I introduced one amendment to add a bill that I introduced earlier this Congress with Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Bonamici, the Fair Debt Collection Improvement Act, which prohibits debt collectors from collecting or attempting to collect debt from consumers after the statute of limitation has expired. I also cosponsored an amendment to include provisions from the Securing Consumers Against Misrepresented (SCAM) Debt Act, a bill I introduced with Congresswoman Bonamici to expand requirements debt collectors must meet to take legal action on a debt. I am pleased that the House adopted both amendments and that my bill was included in the comprehensive bill that passed the House. See my release including my floor speech here.
Today, I voted to pass the Pregnant Workers Protection Act, which will protect pregnant workers who have faced workplace discrimination based on pregnancy -- a story far too familiar to many workers in the Ninth District. As you may know, the XPO Logistics warehouse in Memphis denied minor and reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers, which resulted in several women suffering miscarriages. The current legal protections are insufficient. I continue to urge my colleagues to take decisive action, just as I did after the revelations of what happened at XPO Logistics. Last year, I testified in support of this bill. I am pleased the House has once more passed this historic bill and call on the Senate to take swift action so it can be signed into law. See my release including my floor statement here.
On Monday, I announced the Memphis International Airport will receive $15,000,000 from the Department of Transportation to support the ongoing construction of deicing pads. As you know, Memphis is one of the country’s most critical transportation and logistics hubs, so it’s critical for our community and for the country that it have the capacity to operate year-round. After the historic cold this winter, I was happy to write a letter of support for the project to ensure our airport operates safely year around. See my release here.
I’m closely monitoring last Friday’s shootings of an Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Office and a Memphis Police Officer in North Memphis. I am concerned about the officers injured in the incident but relieved at reports that their injuries were not life-threatening. Such incidents remind us of the risks our law enforcement officers confront every day when they go to work to protect and serve. I appreciate the sacrifices they make, and I wish these two officers a speedy recovery. See my statement here.
We are making progress against this pandemic, but it’s important for each of us to do our part to get life back to a semblance of normal. That means going to one of the free vaccination centers and rolling up your sleeves. The surge in vaccine distribution capacity created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has resulted in quick in-and-out appointments with no lines. Do it for yourself, your family, friends, and community. Please also note that teenagers aged 12 to 15 are now eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Walk-ins are welcome at the Pipkin Building at the old Mid-South Fairgrounds between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Appointments are available there between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Several community locations will be open for first or second doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the coming days. No appointments are necessary at these sites:
Everyone aged 12 and up can now get vaccinated, and I urge you to do so as soon as you can. To make an appointment at the Pipkin Building or other sites or to schedule an appointment for a homebound individual, go to https://covid19.memphistn.gov/ or call (901) 222-SHOT (7468).
"We must go forward based on truth. We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution... I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office." – Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) after being voted out of her leadership post by House Republicans
As always, I remain.