Presiding at a Hearing on Voting Rights
This week, I presided at a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on oversight of the Voting Rights Act and possible legislative reforms. The following day, H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which I am co-sponsoring, was introduced. It is likely to be considered on the House floor when we return to Washington next week. All week, I have been monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and working with the U.S. State Department to help an Afghan translator who worked with one of my constituents in his effort to flee the country. Also this week, I have been monitoring the coronavirus spike in Memphis and urging my constituents to get vaccinated and to wear masks. I applaud the Shelby County Health Department for imposing the mask mandate that took effect this morning. I also announced a significant federal Assistance to Firefighters Program grant to the Memphis Fire Department and a prestigious National Science Foundation grant to a University of Memphis political science project, remembered the independent-minded former Michigan Congressman Paul Mitchell, made high school students aware of my role in nominating candidates for military service academies, and offered a health tip. Keep reading and follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see what I’m doing as it happens.
On Monday, as Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, I presided over a hearing on the Voting Rights Act and possible legislative reforms. See my release, including my opening statement and questions to two panels of witnesses, here. The following day, H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act which I co-sponsor, was introduced. Named for our esteemed colleague and my friend, the late Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader, H.R. 4 will protect access to the ballot box for every American and carry on the cause to which John Lewis devoted his life. It is imperative that we reverse the campaign of voter suppression that has produced 30 state laws in 18 states limiting access to the polls this year alone. The bill would also address the harms done by the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County (Alabama) v. Holder and the more recent Brnovich v. DNC. It appears the House will take up the measure when we return to Washington next week, and I look forward to voting for it.
Since Sunday’s collapse of Afghanistan’s security forces and the apparent victory of the Taliban, I have been carefully monitoring the situation, concerned for Americans and our allies on the ground and for the future of women and girls with the likely return of a repressive regime. As you are probably aware, the situation in Afghanistan has been quite dire these past few days. After the U.S.’s military withdrawal, the Taliban has taken control of the capital, Kabul. The U.S. currently has control of the airport and is working to get Americans and our allies out. I am happy to share the good news that a family stuck at the Kabul airport that one of my constituents called about and I was monitoring, was flown out of Afghanistan safely last night. My office was also contacted by a constituent who served in Afghanistan and is in contact with his translator who is still there. His translator was going through the process of obtaining a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) when Kabul fell. We have been in close contact with the State Department and the Majority Leader’s office for updates on the status of my constituent’s translator as well as the status of other SIV applicants in need of help. I will continue to monitor their situation closely as it develops. I encourage the Administration in its efforts to evacuate those seeking to escape and agree with President Biden’s decision to not impose August 31 as the deadline but completion of the mission as the deadline. President Biden is the fourth American president to preside over war in Afghanistan – two Democrats, two Republicans, and I believe this funding could be used for better purposes. Over four budget years, I joined with Texas Republican Congressman Ted Poe to propose reducing spending on the Afghanistan infrastructure program by $518 million and the House voted to pass reductions of $314 million.
The spike in coronavirus cases -- and the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant -- have public health officials deeply concerned. Nearly all of the ICU beds in the Memphis region are being used and hospital staff are being overwhelmed by the surge. This new wave continues to be a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” as most cases of the disease causing hospitalizations and deaths are in those who have not been vaccinated. I continue to consult with local and national experts and continue to urge all I can reach to get vaccinated and to wear masks while indoors. I applaud the Shelby County Health Department’s decision to impose a mask mandate beginning at 7 a.m. today. I join President Biden in telling those politicians who insist on politicizing mask wearing to help in this emergency or, as he says, “get out of the way.”
On Wednesday, I announced a $327,272 Assistance to Firefighters Program grant to the Memphis Fire Department. See that release here.
On Monday, I learned that my former colleague, Michigan Republican Congressman Paul Mitchell, had passed. I served with Congressman Mitchell on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and always admired his independence, especially when he showed real character in calling out President Trump and then leaving his party. See my statement on his passing here.
The University of Memphis will receive $450,000 to study the communication techniques of world leaders from the National Science Foundation. See my release congratulating those involved in the research here.
As I mentioned last week, far fewer people than normal were able to attend this year’s historic inauguration of a new President and Vice President. As a result, many of the printed programs, tickets, invitations and other memorabilia associated with the Biden-Harris inauguration are still available, and I would like to put them in good hands via a raffle. I ask constituents to make your request using the survey below and someone from my office will be in contact if you are a winner. If you previously submitted an entry, there is no need to or advantage in resubmitting.
Would you like to enter for an opportunity to receive inauguration memorabilia?
High school students who are interested in attending a military service academy can apply for a nomination through my office. The honor of attending a service academy comes with the obligation and commitment to serve in the military for a minimum of five years upon graduation. For more information, visit my website here: https://cohen.house.gov/services/military-academy-nominations
As I mentioned above, we seem to be losing ground on the coronavirus with public health officials asking everyone to wear masks indoors in order to give our hospitals and front-line health workers “a fighting chance.” Because the Delta variant is so transmissible, it is best to maintain social distancing, washing hands and, when possible, double-masking. This dire situation calls for action from you. If you or someone you know is not vaccinated, please address the issue today.
Vaccines are currently available for everyone 12 and older. If you need a ride to a vaccination site, you can call 901-RIDE901 (901-743-3901) to coordinate the best transportation option for you. The City of Memphis is also now coordinating with organizations, congregations, community groups, and businesses to host COVID-19 vaccinations. The Pipkin Building at the old Mid-South Fairgrounds is open and will remain open indefinitely. To find the latest information about vaccination sites, to request a vaccination appointment for a homebound individual, or to set up a community COVID vaccination event, visit https://covid19.memphistn.gov/.
“Can you dig it?” -- The late Memphis singer-songwriter Isaac Hayes, born on this date in 1942.
As always, I remain.
Member of Congress