Presiding at a Helsinki Commission Hearing on Anti-Doping Efforts
July 23, 2021
Congressman Cohen, Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, on Wednesday.
This week, as the newly named Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, I presided at a hearing focused on discouraging the use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes just as the Olympic Games in Tokyo get under way. I also voted to advance the EQUAL Act, which would end the sentencing disparity between offenses involving powder and crack cocaine, to the House floor, and spoke about the need to federally decriminalize marijuana. I also introduced, with my Helsinki Commission colleagues, the REVEAL Act which would authorize the Secretary of State to reveal the names of certain human rights abusers and kleptocrats who have been denied visas to enter the U.S. I also questioned expert witnesses at a hearing on the need to promote diversity in the aviation workforce, cheered removal of the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the State Capitol this morning, 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 Wednesday, as the new Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), also known as the Helsinki Commission, I presided at a hearing on preventing the use of performance-enhancing drugs at the Olympics. During the hearing I raised the issue of sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson’s disqualification from the U.S. Olympic Track and Field roster because of marijuana use and made the case that cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug that should be banned. See my release and questioning of witnesses, including Olympic Gold Medal hurdler Edwin Moses, here.
Also Wednesday, as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, I voted to advance the Eliminating the Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act from the Committee to a House floor vote. The bipartisan sentencing reform measure would finally end the disparity between crack and powder cocaine offences. I took the occasion to note how slowly Congress responds to social progress and made the case for decriminalizing marijuana. See my release on the vote and my speech here.
On Tuesday, I joined Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, Commissioner Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Commissioner and Congressman Steve Chabot of Ohio in introducing the Revealing and Explaining Visa Exclusions for Accountability and Legitimacy (REVEAL) Act. The bill would allow the Secretary of State to publish the names of human rights abusers, like those responsible for the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and kleptocrats barred from entry into the United States as a result of visa bans. Currently, the executive branch is required to keep the identities of these individuals confidential, preventing public “naming and shaming” that would increase the deterrent effect of visa sanctions. See our release on the measure here.
As a member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Aviation, I questioned expert witnesses at a hearing Tuesday on the need to promote diversity in the aviation workforce. One witness from the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, which operates the Lt. Col. Luke Weathers Jr. Flight Academy in Olive Branch, Mississippi, spoke about its importance in producing Black pilots from Memphis-area schools. I noted that the academy is named for a member of the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen and the first African American air traffic controller at Memphis International Airport, who is honored with a plaque at the Memphis International Airport and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. See that release here.
This morning, I am pleased that, after a long and sustained effort, the bust of Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest has been removed from the Tennessee State Capitol. I know the pain and offense the statue has caused visitors to our Capitol, particularly African Americans. I have been urging its removal since I was a state Senator. Last year, I encouraged Governor Lee to have it removed and commended the State Capitol Commission for its vote to send it to the Tennessee State Museum. While long overdue, this is a positive development. The next step: Renaming the Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park.
On Monday, I announced a major research grant for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital from one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). See that release here.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle P. Walensky this week reiterated that Covid-19 is becoming “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” In many areas of the country where vaccination rates are low, the coronavirus, and particularly its virulent Delta variant, is surging. Unfortunately, parts of Memphis have low vaccination rates, and cases and hospitalizations are rising. I urge you and all your friends and neighbors to get the shot.
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. 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/.
“Politicians in my home state and all across America, in their craven lust for power, have launched a full-fledged assault on voting rights. They are focused on winning at any cost, even the cost of the democracy itself. I submit that it is the job of each citizen to stand up for the voting rights of every citizen. And it is the job of this body to do all that it can to defend the viability of our democracy.” -- Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock in his first Senate floor speech, March 16, 2021, born on this date in 1969.
As always, I remain.