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Congressman Steve Cohen is a fourth-generation Memphian who has dedicated his life to public service. As a child, the challenges of living with polio taught him how to overcome obstacles through persistence and determination, values which would shape his career as a legislator. Filing to run for office on the same day he first registered to vote, Congressman Cohen stepped onto the path that has defined his life and affected the lives of people in Memphis, across Tennessee and now across America throughout his career in national, state and local politics.
During his term as a Shelby County Commissioner, Congressman Cohen cast the deciding vote for the creation of The MED which today, as Regional One Health, has one of the finest trauma care and burn center units in the Mid-South. This would be the first in a long line of votes during his career that would define his legislative philosophy: fighting to ensure the basic human rights of every American, such as access to health care.
During his 24 years in the Tennessee State Senate, Congressman Cohen amassed a strong record of passionate, honest and unselfish service. He consistently spurned special interests to stand up for the people’s interests. In 1984, he drafted and passed a resolution creating one of the first state Holocaust Commissions in America to educate others about and to commemorate the Holocaust. On issues ranging from civil rights to funding for the arts to women’s rights to animal welfare, Congressman Cohen was a relentless advocate in the Tennessee State Senate even in the face of overwhelming opposition. Before he was elected to Congress, he became known throughout the state as the “Father of the Tennessee Lottery,” after leading the referendum effort that instituted arguably the most successful education initiative in Tennessee history.
Since the inception of the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship program in 2004, over $6 billion has gone to students continuing their education at the college level. As a State Senator, Congressman Cohen fought for nearly twenty years before the State Lottery was established. Countless students have benefited from Congressman Cohen’s tireless efforts to provide Tennesseans with access to affordable, quality, post-secondary education.
Upon election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006, Congressman Cohen immediately distinguished himself on the Hill for his thoughtful legislation and quick wit. He also quickly earned a reputation as a champion of civil rights and justice on the highly influential Judiciary Committee, with then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi referring to him as the “conscience of the freshman class” in 2008. That same year, he was instrumental in passing the first-of-its-kind House resolution apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of African Americans.
Congressman Cohen has remained a steadfast leader on issues of importance to the people of the 9th District, working closely with former President Barack Obama and leading the policy debate on issues like infant mortality, universal health care, the economy, crime and criminal rehabilitation, veterans issues, transportation and infrastructure, and of course, education. His persistence and hard work has paid off with a $30 million Choice Neighborhood grant to redevelop and revitalize Foote Homes and surrounding areas, a $15 million TIGER grant to create jobs and fund the Main Street to Main Street Connector Project to make major improvements to the Main Street corridor as well as connect to West Memphis with the Big River Crossing pedestrian and bike trail along the Harahan Bridge, an additional $9 million in the federal budget and a $2 million dollar federal grant to the city of Memphis to help reduce the backlog of untested sexual assault kits that could catch predators and prevent crime, and many other projects and policies. Congressman Cohen also lead the effort in Congress for the state of Tennessee to receive a guarantee disproportionate share hospital (DSH) allotment totaling more than $530 million over the next 10 years to help the state’s hospitals and community health centers recoup expenses incurred caring for those who cannot afford to pay.
In November of 2015, Congressman Cohen was named a member of the Highway Bill Conference Committee where he worked with his colleagues from the House and Senate to craft the first bipartisan, long-term surface transportation bill in a decade to improve our nation’s infrastructure. In May 2016, Congressman Cohen was named a member of the Opioids Package Conference Committee where he worked to address the opioids crisis in the United States. In January of 2017, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi appointed Congressman Cohen to serve on the powerful House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee to set the Democratic policy agenda and nominate Democratic Members for committee assignments. In February 2017, Leader Pelosi appointed Congressman Cohen to serve on the House Ethics Committee.
President Obama nominated several of Congressman Cohen’s recommendations for federal positions, including Judges John Fowlkes, Sheryl Lipman and Bernice Donald, U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton III, and TVA Board Members V. Lynn Evans, Ron Walter and Bishop William Graves, who have all been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Congressman Cohen has been named the 35th most effective Democratic lawmaker by the Center for Effective Lawmaking at the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University. In 2019 Congressman Cohen was named Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s influential Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties. He was also selected to join the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and serve as Vice-Chair of the newly formed Medicare for All Caucus.
Congressman Cohen has also dedicated himself to providing outstanding constituent service to the citizens of Memphis. The doors of his District Office in the Clifford Davis/Odell Horton Federal Building are always open for constituents, and Congressman Cohen has hosted more than a hundred district events around the city. His town halls often include visiting leaders such as the late Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (MI-14) and singer/activist Harry Belafonte. He has never faltered in fighting for those who do not have the power bestowed by wealth and advantage, and his goal is as it has always been: to ensure that everyone – regardless of race, class or creed – has the opportunity to achieve their American dream.
Children and Families
It is important to provide all children and families access to a quality, affordable education and healthcare to help them secure a prosperous future. As a member of Congress, I have championed for legislation that makes it easier for Americans to balance work and family responsibilities, expands support for foster youth care, and serves the needs of children with special behavioral health needs and/or medical disabilities. I also firmly believe that assisting families in their pursuit of higher education is critical for our nation’s growth and success.
With the 164th Airlift Wing and the Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Millington both within Tennessee’s Ninth Congressional District, defense and military policy play a significant role in our community. We need to support our troops with sufficient funding so that they have access to adequate equipment and receive necessary training.
Education is a priority for families in the Ninth District. I am honored to represent the district’s many schools, enrichment centers, and institutions of higher education. Education has been one of the focal points of my career, and I believe everyone should have access to a quality education.
In February 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international network of scientists, for the first time concluded that global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activity is the main driver of it, causing most of the rise in temperatures since 1950. Specifically, deforestation and an overdependence on fossil fuels have played a large part in the decline of our atmosphere and the loss of numerous natural resources. The Nature Conservancy reports that deforestation is responsible for 20-25 percent of all carbon emissions.
Regardless of personal background or political leanings, we all share a concern for access to health care for ourselves and our families. Congressman Cohen is committed to making quality and comprehensive health care more affordable and more accessible.
It is important that we sufficiently protect our citizens within our borders and keep out those that would do us harm. Homeland Security is not just protecting our borders and screening the cargo that comes through our ports. It also includes providing adequate training and equipment for our first responders – police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel. These courageous people work on the front lines, often entering into dangerous and uncertain situations.
I am proud to have the honor of representing Memphis, the transportation capitol of the United States and the world, on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. When it comes to transportation assets, no place in the world can rival Memphis.
The bravery and devotion veterans have shown throughout our history have helped build this great country, and each of us owes them—and their families—a debt of gratitude.
Congressman Cohen believes the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that veterans receive all of the benefits they have earned.
As a lifelong patron of the arts, I have made it a priority to assist the arts community both locally and nationally throughout my legislative career. The arts play a vital role in our community’s economic growth and in providing cultural and educational benefits as well. I am pleased to have received an A+ on the Americans for the Arts Action Fund Congressional Scorecard.
One of the main responsibilities of Congress is to determine how taxpayer dollars are distributed throughout the nation. I work hard to make sure that programs that will help the Ninth District receive adequate funding. It is important that we ensure economic security for hard-working American families and small businesses by providing adequate funding for our nation’s transportation projects, Social Security and Medicare, and medical research.
Throughout my career in public service, I have been a strong proponent of efforts to lower energy costs, invest in renewable energy resources, promote energy independence and create a stronger more secure economy. Increasing the nation’s overall energy efficiency requires a multifaceted approach. The National Resources Defense Council reports that America’s energy bill will increase by $420 billion annually within the next five years if we do nothing to reduce our dependence on oil and fossil fuels. That amounts to $3,500 annually for every family in the nation.
Economy and Jobs
Generating jobs and strengthening the economy is one of Congressman Cohen’s top priorities in Congress.
There are some in Congress who want to repeal the last 50 years’ worth of advances in reproductive rights for women, whether it’s through legislation or by cutting funding for vital women’s health services such as Planned Parenthood. I will continue to stand with women and make sure that their right to reproductive choice is protected.
Throughout my career, I have fought for the civil rights of all Americans. We have made great progress as a nation, but we still have to work at making this the “more perfect union” our founders envisioned.
Financial Services and Banking
In light of the Great Recession of 2008, during which Memphis and the nation suffered an unprecedented foreclosure crisis in large part due to unfair, under-regulated and predatory mortgage lending practices, Congressman Cohen strongly supports efforts to prevent future foreclosure crises and dangerous housing market practices.
In 2015, the City of Memphis was selected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as one of nine finalists for this grant after a multi-year effort by myself, Mayor Wharton and others in the city, to encourage the Obama administration to designate Memphis as a Choice Neighborhood.
Small businesses are the heart of the American economy. Our country’s small businesses employ half of the nation’s private sector workforce and create a large portion of America’s new jobs. It is critical that small businesses play a significant role in our efforts to restore America’s economic strength and the growth of Memphis.
Congressman Cohen serves on the House Judiciary Committee,and is the Chairman of the Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Criminal Justice Reform
As the Chairman on the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, Congressman Cohen is working to protect civil rights as well as reform the criminal justice system to make it more fair.
Congressman Cohen has worked to strengthen Medicare and Social Security and has consistently voted against measures that would be detrimental to their security and solvency. Hard working Americans pay into Social Security and Medicare throughout most of their lives and he believes that Congress has a duty to ensure their retirement security.