Questioning Experts on Voter Suppression and Voting Rights
This week, I questioned witnesses at a Judiciary Committee hearing about ongoing voter suppression efforts and the need to end them. I also was again awarded a “100+” score by the Humane Society of the United States for my legislative work preventing animal cruelty; cosponsored a bill to strengthen Social Security; cosponsored a bill to end the transfer of inappropriate military equipment to police departments; cosponsored a bill to improve K-12 civics instruction; voted to raise the pay of the federal civilian workforce; introduced a bill to treat private student loan debt like other debt in bankruptcy; attended an event with leading social media platforms; attended a mentor-mentee dinner; was selected as a member of two Science subcommittees; spoke from the House floor about a dear friend; and offered a tip about physical activity in honor of February being American Heart Month. Keep reading to learn more about my week and follow me on Twitter and Facebook to see more updates as they happen.
Questioning Experts on Voter Suppression and Voting Rights
Receiving Another “100+” Score from the Humane Society
Commemorating Black History Month
Cosponsoring the Social Security 2100 Act
Cosponsoring the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act
Cosponsoring Civic Learning Act
Voting for the Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act
Introducing the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act
Attending “Millennial Media Row” Event
Being Selected for Science Subcommittees
Attending a Mentorship Dinner
Speaking Fondly of a Courageous Friend
Offering U.S. Capitol Historical Society Calendars
Signing Up for “Congress On Your Corner” and this e-Newsletter
Weekly Health Tip
Quote of the Week
On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee on which I serve held a hearing on H.R. 1, the For the People Act. I asked the hearing witnesses about ongoing voter suppression activities and the need to end them. I said voter suppression is a vestige of the country’s original sin of slavery. See that exchange here.
On Monday, I learned that I have again received a “100+” score from the Humane Society of the United States for my legislative efforts to prevent animal cruelty. See my release about it here.
We begin February’s Black History Month remembering the loss of Sanitation Workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker who were crushed inside a garbage truck while trying to avoid a downpour, sparking the 1968 strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to town to be felled by an assassin’s bullet.
Black history in Memphis recalls giants of the Civil Rights movement such as Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) whose The Memphis Free Speech newspaper campaigned against lynching in the Jim Crow South, Tom Lee’s heroism in saving 32 drowning passengers of a sinking Mississippi River steamboat in 1925 and all those who fought for quality schools, voting rights and fair housing such as Maxine and Vasco Smith, Russell Sugarmon, Benjamin Hooks, Cleo Kirk, Walter Bailey, Jesse Turner Sr., and A.W. Willis, along with so many more.
Along the way, African Americans with ties to Memphis contributed to the history of American music with W.C. Handy, B.B. King, Phineas Newborn, Ma Rainey, Furry Lewis, Memphis Slim, Memphis Minnie, Little Laura Dukes, Ruby Wilson, Booker T. Jones, Carla and Rufus Thomas, Mavis Staples, Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Blind Mississippi Morris Cummings and all the artists who played Beale Street or the jukes around town. Memphian Robert R. Church was the first black millionaire in the South.
Memphis appears in chapter after chapter of American history, and I’m always pleased to celebrate Black History and its Memphis roots every February, and every other month.
President Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act
On Wednesday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday, I celebrated the man who signed the Social Security Act into law by cosponsoring the Social Security 2100 Act, which would assure that Social Security benefits will keep recipients out of poverty and raise benefits for 63 million beneficiaries. It would also tie future benefits to a more accurate cost of living index and subject the earnings of wealthy Americans to the Social Security payroll tax. Currently, earnings above $132,900 are not subject to the tax. See my comments on the importance of Social Security here.
I became a cosponsor this week of the bipartisan Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act which would end the transfer of certain inappropriate military equipment to local law enforcement and preserve the critical distinction between our military and our police.
I signed on to cosponsor the Civics Learning Act, bipartisan legislation that increases funding for innovative and evidence-based civics education programs for K-12 students and teachers. Too often, Americans have not had the opportunity to learn how government works at the local, state and federal level, and that has a negative impact on public policy. We can do better.
On Wednesday, I voted for, and the House passed, the Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act, to give 3 million civilians in the federal workforce the same 2.6 percent raise that military personnel will receive this year. Many of the Memphians I have the honor of representing in Congress are federal employees and all of my constituents benefit from the services provided by our federal employees. Especially after the disastrous 35-day government shutdown, it was right for Congress to send the message that we recognize the value of that service and the harm done to morale and recruitment by the pay freeze President Trump imposed on federal civilian employees last year.
On Wednesday, I joined my Congressional colleagues Danny Davis (D-Illinois) and Eric Swalwell (D-California) in introducing the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act. This legislation would restore fairness in student lending by treating privately issued student loans the same way other types of private debt are handled in bankruptcy court. Until 2005, this type of student loan debt was dischargeable in bankruptcy, but a change to the bankruptcy code that year removed that consumer protection. See my release here.
On Tuesday night, I attended the second annual “Millennial Media Row” hosted by Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, which brought together some of the top new media sites and bloggers for live and recorded interviews with members of Congress. I went on a livestreamed NowThis with host Zinhle Essamuah to talk about the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act (discussed above), the passage of which would be so advantageous to individuals with private student loan debt who have fallen on hard times. I also went on The Grio, a platform that focuses on issues important to the African American community, with host Natasha Alford, to talk about Black History Month and Memphis’ place in black history.
Last week, I was named to the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. On Wednesday, I was selected to serve on the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight and the Subcommittee on Research and Technology. See my release about those assignments here.
On Thursday evening, I was honored to attend a dinner hosted by Ridgeway High School graduate and former Archer Systems CEO Adam Hanover who considers me an early mentor. The dinner guests were all mentors and those they mentored, including Pitt and Barbara Hyde of Memphis; Adam’s father, Marc Hanover; Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and three of his former clerks; former British Foreign Minister David Milliband; CNN President Jeff Zucker; Kaywin Feldman, the incoming director of the National Gallery of Art and former director of the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis; Heidi Schreck, whose play “What the Constitution Means to Me” will open on Broadway later this year and actress Thursday Williams, who will star in the show; PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff and her husband, Al Hunt, the former Washington bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal; U.S. District Judge Richard Leon; and University of Pennsylvania Professor John Lapinski, who serves as the director of the elections unit for NBC News, with whom I had a good talk.
On Monday, I went to the well of the House to express my highest regard for my Congressional colleague and one of my favorite people, Walter Jones of North Carolina, who has entered hospice care and will not be returning to Washington. Jones, originally a Democrat, was one of many Republicans who recognized President Trump’s questionable conduct but the only one to put his name on bills, like the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, aimed at protecting the investigation of the 2016 presidential election by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. A man of profound integrity, he acknowledged his vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq was a mistake and wrote thousands of personal notes to the families of the war’s fallen. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Joe Anne, and his family and friends. See my remarks here.
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February is American Heart Month, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. This guidance provides evidence-based recommendations on levels of activity needed to stay heart healthy. You can read the Physical Activity Guidelines here.
“This brings me to the second big question we as a country have to answer: How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?
“Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. [Laughter] We didn’t argue about the science or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight. And 12 years later, we were walking on the Moon.”
– President Barack Obama’s Eighth State of the Union Address, delivered January 12, 2016.
As always, I remain
Member of Congress