April 29th will mark the 100th day of President Obama’s tenure in office, and for the first time in years, more Americans than not say that the country is on the right track. Of course, the “first hundred days” is an artificial line of demarcation in the life of an Administration, and it’s impractical to judge the government on the basis of public opinion polls, but this is a remarkable turnaround in just over three months.
During this time, we in Congress in conjunction with the White House have been able to celebrate some extraordinary accomplishments, most notably the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The ARRA continues to funnel funds into the 9th District, helping Shelby County and the City of Memphis recover from the economic crisis. Additionally, we passed a budget that lays the groundwork for long-term prosperity by dealing with our most pressing needs: the development of alternative energy and the jobs and security a clean energy economy will bring; health care reform to reduce costs and assure quality, affordable health care for all Americans; and unprecedented education investments and reforms aimed at ensuring that, in this global economy, our children are once again the best-educated in the world.
Of course, this is no time to rest on our laurels, and there are many miles to go. However, even in these most challenging times, President Obama and the 111th Congress have charted a bold new direction for our country that gives us great hope for a more prosperous and secure future.
Last night, I was invited along with a select group of Congresspeople to attend an informal social gathering at the White House with President Obama and the First Lady. I had the opportunity to speak with the President and I extended an open invitation to come visit us in Memphis, and he expressed interest in possibly coming down to the Mid-South in conjunction with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4th Memorial events in the future. We also took a moment to talk about the Memphis Tigers basketball team and his beloved Chicago Bulls’ new Rookie of the Year, Derrick Rose.
I also got the chance to speak with First Lady Michelle Obama for the first time last night, and I took the opportunity to tell her about the devastating problem of infant mortality in Memphis. I have sent her office materials in the past detailing the problem in Memphis, and I was glad for the chance to talk to her directly about it. Afterwards, I spoke at length with one of her key legislative aides, and we made arrangements to discuss this issue further. I’m hoping that the First Lady will come to Memphis to see the problem first-hand. Additionally, I visited with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, and we talked about our shared experiences starting our political careers as county commissioners.
I’m happy to report that the President and the First Lady were gracious hosts of the highest order, and it was a truly memorable evening. Having the opportunity to get face-to-face time with the President and discuss issues of importance to Memphis with him is invaluable for the 9th District. It goes to show that being an early Obama supporter and an Obama delegate definitely has its benefits – both for me and for Memphis.
Last week, I participated in a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) mission to Eastern Europe as part of the 64th Annual Transatlantic Dialogue with European Parliamentarians in Prague following up on President Obama’s trip to the G20 Economic Summit. During the conference, Members of Congress, the European Union (EU), and the European Commission discussed recent political changes that have occurred across both sides of the Atlantic over the past year. I was proud to participate in this dialogue and I believe it was helpful following on the heels of President Obama’s visit to Prague. EU Parliamentarians and our Congressional Delegation discussed pressing issues of concern ranging from global warming to the problems in the Middle East. Many of the European leaders voiced their concerns of a growing Russian influence in the region which they say is hampering economic growth. Eastern Europe, in my experience, is very pro-America, and many of these countries have expressed a desire to join NATO. I will call on President Obama to remain supportive of these emerging democracies.
Among the topics discussed was the dispute between the EU (and other territories) and the United States regarding enforcement activity in the area of Internet Gambling. Despite the US losing a series of decisions on the matter at the World Trade Organization, US authorities have continued to enforce against non-US interests in this sector, including public EU licensed and regulated companies. Members of the EU Parliament and I agreed on the need for a speedy solution for the sake of the Transatlantic relationship and for the integrity of the systems that govern international trade and justice. I believe this is an unnecessary dispute that should be avoided through sensible negotiation. There is no reason for the current US administration to compound policy decisions that were made in the last one.
The CODEL traveled to Estonia, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania, where from my grandparents emigrated to the United States in the late 19th Century. Through my travels, I have been reminded of the many challenges that remain for the Jews in this part of the world. In our dialogue, we discussed issues ranging from the restitution of Jewish communal property lost during the Holocaust to the preservation of Jewish cemetery land and the prosecution of Nazi collaborators.
Yesterday, I proudly voted with the majority in the House to pass H.R. 1139, the COPS Improvement Act, which will help reduce crime by putting an additional 50,000 police officers on the beat across the country, including 111 new officers in the 9th District. I cosponsored the legislation which passed by a vote of 342-78, and I spoke in support of the bill during Floor debate on Wednesday.
Watch Congressman Cohen’s speech HERE
Under the COPS program, our nation has experienced a significant drop in crime rates, and independent studies confirm that COPS hiring grants helped contribute to this reduction in crime. I cosponsored this bill because it strengthens a program with a proven track record of success and puts more police officers on the streets of Memphis, reduces crime and protects families. Keeping families in the 9th District safe has always been my highest priority in Congress, and this bill renews this commitment. Passing this bill was especially important in light of the economic crisis as state and local governments grapple with increasing crime rates and decreased revenue for hiring additional officers.
Finally, I’ve glad to announce that over the last two weeks, St. Jude has received more than $4 million in funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The National Cancer Institute, a division of HHS, awarded a grant in the amount of $2,200,000 to Dr. James M. Boyett, a Member of the St. Jude Faculty and the Endowed Chair of Biostatistics. The funding will be used for cancer treatment research by the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium (PBTC), of which Dr. Boyett serves as the Executive Director of the Operations and Biostatistics Center. The National Cancer Institute also awarded a grant worth $1,953,065 to Dr. Suzanne J. Baker, an Associate Member in the Department of Developmental Neurobiology at St. Jude. Dr. Baker’s laboratory is focused on understanding the molecular basis of human cancer, and this grant will fund research related to the cause and prevention of brain tumors.
St. Jude is home to some of the finest medical researchers in the world, and grants like these ensure that, even in this tough economic climate, they have the resources necessary to continue their important work. Being home to St. Jude and their premier staff of scientists is a big reason why the 9th District is one of the fastest growing biomedical centers in the country. I congratulate Drs. Baker and Boyett on this recognition, and I applaud HHS for rewarding the excellent work being done at St. Jude.
As always, I remain,
Member of Congress
*Check Out U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen Interview On W.E. A.L.L. B.E News & Radio:
W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special: Barack Obama & The Hip Hop Effect On American Politics: