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Public Statements

E-Newsletter - My Bill Goes to President Obama

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

As Congress wrapped up its summer session this week, several legislative measures that I have authored have made significant progress. This week the House approved legislation I authored to protect American authors from foreign libel lawsuits. It now heads to President Obama to be signed into law.

Libel Tourism
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Lorenzen Wright
Reducing the Deficit
Letter to the Editor
Foreclosures
NEWBORN Act
Federal Rulemaking
Livability
Fair Sentencing Act
Memphis City Schools
Veterans
Oil Spill
Horse Transportation Safety Act
CLEAR Act

Libel Tourism
On Tuesday I managed a collection of Judiciary bills on the House floor that included legislation I authored -- the Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage (SPEECH) Act -- to protect American authors, journalists and publishers from foreign defamation judgments that undermine the First Amendment and American due process standards. The Senate passed the SPEECH bill last week and, with House passage this week, the bill has now been presented to President Obama to be signed into law.

Libel tourism threatens to undermine the principles of free speech because foreign courts often don't place as difficult a burden on plaintiffs in libel cases. Our First Amendment rights are among the most fundamental principles laid out by our Founding Fathers. It is vital we ensure that these rights are never undermined by foreign judgments. I appreciate Senators Patrick Leahy and Jeff Sessions for their dedication and assistance on this important topic. Senator Leahy, who called to inform me of Senate passage, was personally helpful and has become a friend. The New York Times recently ran an editorial supporting the measure.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
I partnered with Congressman John Lewis of Georgia to co-sponsor a Resolution to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the sit-in movement it sparked. The SNCC was responsible for conceptualizing and implementing the sit-in movement. College students came together in the name of justice and equality to desegregate lunch counters and other public places through nonviolent demonstration. Their nonviolent protests helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Click here to see my remarks on the House floor.

Lorenzen Wright
Yesterday I paid tribute to the life and accomplishments of Memphian Lorenzen Wright on the House floor. Click here to see my remarks.

Reducing the Deficit
I also spoke on the House floor about tax cuts, reducing the deficit and balancing the federal budget. Click here to see my remarks.

Letter to the Editor
The New York Times published a letter to the editor I authored about removing barriers to employment for ex-offenders. I encourage you to read my letter.

Foreclosures
Last weekend the New York Times ran an article that noted how negative credit scores factor into banks underwriting mortgages. The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act President Obama recently signed into law includes modified language of a bill I authored -- Fair Access to Credit Scores -- that allows consumers free access to their credit score if it negatively affects them in a financial transaction. The measure also establishes an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion at federal banking and securities regulatory agencies that will address employment and contracting diversity matters.

NEWBORN Act
The Energy and Commerce Committee marked up legislation I authored -- the NEWBORN Act -- to address the growing problem of infant mortality through a national pilot program to promote pre-natal care, community outreach and youth education. I am pleased that this bill is moving through Congress because Memphis has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country.

Federal Rulemaking
I chaired a hearing on Federal Rulemaking and the Regulatory Process. The federal rulemaking and regulatory process plays an important role in our government. The hearing provided us with a wealth of knowledge and insight into how Congress can best facilitate the rulemaking process.

Livability
A House Appropriations Subcommittee approved legislation I authored -- the Enhancing Livability for All Americans Act of 2009 -- that would create an Office of Livability at the Department of Transportation. This office would work to ensure the nation's transportation system spurs economic development and enhances quality of life.

Fair Sentencing Act
On Wednesday I voted to support the bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act to reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and significantly increases criminal penalties for serious drug offenders. I have sponsored many bills in the House to eliminate this unfair disparity and am pleased this measure will now be sent to President Obama for his consideration. This bill would reduce that disparity while also significantly increasing criminal penalties for the serious drug offenders that prey on our neighborhoods.

Memphis City Schools
The U.S. Department of Education awarded Memphis City Schools $592,056 in new federal funds to recruit, train and mentor principals and assistant principals across our city.

Veterans
I voted to support our troops and veterans by ensuring critical funding for veterans health services and the construction of key facilities for training and housing our military. As our troops return home from Iraq, the Military Construction/VA budget includes a 7.4 percent increase over the previous year for veterans' health care and benefits and provides funding for more than 4,000 additional permanent claims processors. The funding also continues this Congress' first-ever advance appropriations, ensuring timely and reliable funding for veterans' services.

Oil Spill
The House passed a bill introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar to addresses many of the concerns surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The measure was based on legislation I crafted. My American Coastal Waters and Shorelines Protection Act would enhance offshore drilling safety by allowing only American flagged vessels to drill in U.S. coastal waters. In doing so, we ensure that offshore drilling is conducted with the highest level of safety and oversight. The legislation also creates jobs since American flagged vessels must be owned and crewed by Americans.

Horse Transportation Safety Act
Legislation I co-sponsored to prohibit the transportation of horses on double-deck trailers was marked up in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. This mode of transportation, a method the USDA says cannot be made safe or humane, has caused grisly accidents in recent years where horses have lost legs, broken necks or were crushed by horses on the upper level of the trailer. My bill prohibits any interstate transportation of horses in double-stacked trailers, regardless of the destination, or the segment in the transportation chain if the horses are bound for eventual slaughter. The bill also institutes civil penalties of at least $100, but not more than $500, for each violation.

CLEAR Act
Today the House approved two oil-spill related bills I supported -- the Consolidated Land, Energy and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act, and the Offshore Oil and Gas Worker Whistleblower Protection Act.

The CLEAR Act repeals the $75 million liability cap for offshore oil spills; abolishes the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and assigns its responsibilities to three new agencies; creates a number of safety regulations for leases for offshore oil and gas development; and ends "royalty relief" by requiring companies that hold oil and gas leases on which no royalties are paid to renegotiate those leases in order to obtain new leases, and by barring the transfer or sale of royalty-free leases unless the new leaseholder agrees to renegotiate the lease.

The second bill prohibits employers, including contractors and subcontractors, from discriminating against employees who work in offshore energy operations and report suspected safety violations, testify before Congress, or refuse to perform their duties because of safety concerns.

I am looking forward to returning home to Memphis for August recess, where I will continue to be active throughout the community.


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