Saturday, May 02, 2009

Congressman Cohen: Engaging Obama And The H1N1 Virus

Dear Friends,

On Tuesday, my fellow members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and I met with President Obama in the East Room at the White House to discuss some of the most important items on our legislative agenda: health care and the continuing wars in the Middle East. The meeting was a good opportunity to convey our key concerns on the critical issues that will loom large during President Obama’s next 100 days and throughout his first term as Commander in Chief. It was my second visit to the White House in less than a week, and once again, I found the President’s candor and spirit of cooperation both refreshing and exciting. It was a serious, fast-paced meeting in which President Obama repeatedly assured Caucus members that they had “an ally” in the Oval Office, but put the onus on us to deliver to him legislation which could advance our agenda.

I am very hopeful about President Obama’s vision for the future of our health care system, and I believe it is possible that we’ll be able to enact real, significant health care reform sooner rather than later. While I and fellow Progressive Caucus members like my friend Chairman John Conyers (MI-14) favor a universal, single-payer health care system, the President’s plan for a public insurance plan is certainly a step in the right direction.

We also engaged in a spirited discussion regarding the $83 billion war supplemental, which the CPC has stated is misallocated. Last week, the CPC held a hearing in which we presented our own “counterinsurgency strategy,” which calls for 80 percent of the resources in future war supplemental bills to be devoted to non-military/political solutions, and 20 percent to the military. Currently, the supplemental devotes $76 billion for the military and approximately $7 billion for diplomatic efforts and foreign aid. President Obama ably explained that he was trying to clean up the mess he inherited from the previous Administration, and promised that our fighting men and women would not be caught in a quagmire in the Middle East under his watch.

I was happy for the opportunity once again to engage directly with our President. As most of you saw on Wednesday night, the President possesses a remarkable ability to handle tough questions with an unparalleled eloquence and thoughtfulness, and we had our fair share ready for him on Tuesday. There was mutual respect and the meeting helped solidify the relationship between the CPC and the White House. As we marked President Obama’s first 100 days this week, it was a time of both reflection and a time to look to the future. I believe that President Obama has come out of the gate as strongly as any president since Roosevelt, and in my two opportunities to meet with him over the past two weeks, I am confident that he can maintain his stride.

Obviously, the major story this week has been concerns about the spread of the H1N1 virus, commonly referred to as “swine flu.” Like all of you, I heard the media reports on Thursday out of Memphis that there was an unconfirmed case of H1N1 flu in Shelby County. Understandably, this has raised some deep concerns in our community; however, this is not the time to panic. Right now, the experienced scientists at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital are working on a vaccine to combat the spread of H1N1 Flu.

I have been in touch with officials in the Obama Administration and I am keeping in close contact with the Administration to monitor the situation. I am also working with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that the 9th District has the resources and funding needed to deal with this situation.

I have been an outspoken proponent of expanding National Institute of Health (NIH) funding for medical research because this research is critical to the lives of our nation. For the latest information on the H1N1 Flu virus, please visit the Center for Disease Control’s website HERE.

Yesterday, I voted to bring common sense reform and consumer protections to our financial system. H.R. 627, The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights, will end the unfair practices of the credit card industry and protect consumers from the abusive tactics that continue to drive so many Americans deeper and deeper into debt. The bill passed by an overwhelming vote of 357 to 70. When so many American families are struggling to make ends meet, consumers who play by the rules deserve to be treated fairly by their credit card companies. That’s what the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights is all about: fairness.

Specifically, the bill protects cardholders against arbitrary interest rate increases, empowers them to set limits on their credit and requires card companies to fairly credit and allocate payments. It also prohibits charging fees just to pay a bill by phone, charging over-the-limit fees unless a consumer opts-in in advance or issuing credits cards to minors.

On Tuesday, I introduced an amendment to this legislation that would have prohibited solicitations of credit card applications to college students on campus with gifts and incentives. Unfortunately, the amendment was not adopted, but I feel that this is an important issue that is too often overlooked. Credit card marketing on college campuses should be more responsible and less predatory. College students typically operate on tight budgets and are financially dependent on their parents. These students should not be targeted by unscrupulous credit card companies trolling for easy marks. I believe that a sound financial education must be part of a comprehensive college curriculum, and the Congress should partner with universities to craft sound policy that prevents credit card companies from predatory marketing on their campuses. Currently, too many college students fall into the credit card trap, and I will continue to fight for legislation to help control this problem.

On Wednesday, I was proud to vote with the majority in favor of H.R. 1913, Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This important, bipartisan bill focuses on providing new resources to help state and local law enforcement agencies prevent and prosecute hate crimes, and closes the gaps in current federal hate crimes laws. I cosponsored this bill and I spoke in support of it during Floor Debate. Part of my speech was excerpted on National Public Radio, but you can view it in its entirety HERE.

For more than four decades, Americans have had protections from hate crimes through a federal hate crimes statute. This bill is focused on giving state and local law enforcement the tools and resources they need to prevent and prosecute hate crimes. Furthermore, H.R. 1913 also extends protections to more Americans. The current federal hate crimes law authorizes federal aid in cases of hate crimes committed because of a person’s race, color, religion, or national origin. This bill closes gaps in federal law to also help combat hate crimes committed because of a person’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

The bill does not limit First Amendment rights of free speech and religious expression. The bill only applies to bias-motivated crimes of violence and does not impinge freedom of speech or religious expression in any way. Some churches have stated that with passage of this bill, ministers may be arrested for speech and words said in the pulpit. This is false. This bill is about violent crime. It is not about and does not prohibit thought, speech or expression protected by the First Amendment.

Finally, on Monday, I introduced H.R. 2141, The Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH) Reform Act of 2009, landmark legislation intended to address our nation’s homelessness crisis.

This bill renews our country’s commitment to ending homelessness in America. In Memphis, I have seen the toll that homelessness takes on individuals, families and communities, and it is absolutely essential that we redouble our efforts to deter homelessness now. My bill will strengthen the ICH and give it the resources and authority to help homeless individuals turn their lives around and change communities across the country for the better. I urge my colleagues to join me in this fight.”

This bill clarifies the mission of the ICH to 1) coordinate the federal response to homelessness; 2) to create a national partnership at every level of government and with the private sector to reduce and; 3) end homelessness in the nation while maximizing the effectiveness of the federal government in contributing to the end of homelessness.

As always, I remain,

Most sincerely,

Steve Cohen
Member of Congress

Progressive U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen(Tennessee District 9-D) Is A Fan Of Tha Artivist ...

See Also...

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special:Reflections On The 2009 Inauguration Part One:

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special: Yes He Did...So Now What??? Defining The Obama Presidency...

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special:O Yes We Did!!! The Barack Obama Tribute...

W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Special: Barack Obama & The Hip Hop Effect On American Politics:


Get The Barack Obama Holiday Inaugural Gift Package By R2C2H2 Tha Artivist!!!

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