Representative Steve Cohen
Democrat of Tennessee District 9

Phone: 225-3265
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Progressive Action Score: 95

A score of 95 means that Rep. Cohen has acted to support 95% of a slate of progressive policies in the 110th Congress.
Productive and forward-looking actions Representative Cohen has taken to merit a Progressive Action Score of 95:
  • On June 20 2008, Representative Steve Cohen kept faith with the Congressional Oath of Office, in which every member of Congress solemnly swears to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Rep. Cohen kept that oath by voting against H.R. 6304, the FISA Amendments Act. The FISA Amendments Act not only makes the misnamed Protect America Act permanent, but even expands upon it in its gutting of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. H.R. 6304 sets up a system:

    * For the federal government to spy on you electronically
    * Reading your email
    * Listening to your telephone calls
    * Watching what web pages you visit
    * Following your financial transactions
    * More than that, for the federal government to engage in physical searches
    * Of your home
    * Of your office
    * Of your car
    * Without any explanation of why they are doing it
    * Without the ability of a judge to even stop it
    * Without oversight by Congress
    * Letting the government use information it obtains illegally
    * Giving telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for helping the government do this, even when it was expressly against the law to do so

    When a President of the United States has this kind of power at his disposal, she or he cannot be stopped. The power of the president becomes total and the president becomes a totalitarian. By opposing this bill, Representative Steve Cohen stood in the way of the advent of American totalitarianism.

  • Rep. Steve Cohen cast a vote against the ironically named Protect America Act. The Protect America Act is a law now passed by both houses of Congress which replaces judicial warrants with executive prerogative and substitutes blank checks for reasons. The Protect America Act gives the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence the power to spy on your emails, your web surfing, your telephone calls and other electronic communications. All this is carried out without a warrant, which is required by the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    There is no supervision of the spy programs put in place by Gonzales and McConnell, except by Gonzales and McConnell. No one has the power to stop them any more. They can search your records, sift through your private messages, watch you go from web page to web page, on the pretext of protecting America from terrorists, all without a search warrant. No one has the power to tell them no.

    Gonzales and McConnell have the power under the Protect America Act to order any American to help them conduct their electronic spying against other Americans. Under the new law, if they order you to take part in their spying operations, and you say no, they can throw you in prison. If you do not keep their spying on other Americans a secret, even from your family, they can throw you in prison.

    The Protect America Act institutes Big Brother government in the United States. It betrays American liberty. It is a shame that the Act passed. But at least we can thank Representative Cohen for voting against it.

  • When the Head Start program of early childhood education came up for reauthorization in May of 2007, Rep. Howard McKeon tried to offer an amendment that would provide special permission for religious organizations to engage in employment discrimination when using government-provided funds to hire Head Start Workers. That sounds complicated, but what it boils down to is that the McKeon amendment would have let churches take government money to hire workers for the government-funded Head Start program, and yet refuse to hire particular workers because they were from the "wrong" religion.

    The Head Start program is not a religious program in its content, so there is no substantive reason for this discrimination to occur. If churches want to run a preschool and discriminate on the basis of religion, they can already do so -- they just have to pay for it themselves. If churches want to grab government money to run a government program, on the other hand, then the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is perfectly clear -- government resources can't be used to establish advantages for a religion or its adherents.

    The McKeon amendment would have let government resources be used to discriminate against people who were not religiously correct. It fortunately was rejected in a roll-call vote, thanks in part to Rep. Steve Cohen, who cast a vote against the McKeon amendment. In that vote, Rep. Cohen demonstrated respect for the constitutional basis of American government.

  • For more than three decades, the United States has been a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, better known as the Non-Proliferation treaty. This treaty requires the United States to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament." George W. Bush has been fond of using images of mushroom clouds and nuclear proliferation to push the country into war. Yet under George W. Bush, the United States has failed to pursue negotiations in good, middling or even bad faith on nuclear arms or nuclear disarmament, marking a violation of this treaty which is essential to international peace.

    H.Res. 68 is a bill that calls on President Bush to issue a report indicating the means by which the United States will meet its numerous, legally-binding treaty obligations. Asking the president to obey the law seems like a no-brainer, right? Steve Cohen seems to agree. Thanks are due to Rep. Cohen for supporting what should be an obvious element of our foreign policy.

  • World Water Day, celebrated on March 22, has a simple point: People ought to have sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation. This means that water pollution, through poor infrastructure as well as through disgusting policies like the Bush White Houseďż˝s promotion of blending undertreated sewage into sources of drinking water, needs to brought under control.

    It has been 14 years since World Water Day was begun, but sadly, the environmentalist holiday is not yet being widely observed. In all the United States, there are only eight officially scheduled World Water Day events. Canada beats us, with eleven events.

    H.Res. 196 tries to turn this trajectory of indifference around, declaring support for the goals and ideals of World Water Day. Representative Cohen has added one more measure of personal momentum to the movement by voting for this legislation.

  • H.R. 2620, The Child Soldier Prevention Act, prohibits the government of the United States of America from providing military aid to any foreign government that uses child soldiers in its military, paramilitary forces, or other official or sanctioned armed groups. The Child Soldier Prevention Act also requires the Executive Branch to research and publish reports on the use of child soldiers around the world, providing important information that can be used to more effectively counter the use child soldiers.

    There are some clauses that make the bill less strong than it could be. One gives the President of the United States to issue a waiver to the law when he decides that giving military aid to a government that uses child soldiers is in the interest of the United States. However, the President is required to register every such waiver, and report on the justifications for each waiver to the Senate and to the House of Representatives. Another clause permits support for armies that recruit volunteer child soldiers as young as 16 -- because that's what the U.S. Military currently does.

    These clauses make the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2007 an imperfect piece of legislation, but it's pretty darned good, and it's the only legislation to even address the issue. It is therefore a piece of legislation that all decent Americans ought to be willing to support, regardless of political party affiliation. Representative Steve Cohen has shown that basic sort of decency by signing name in official, public support of this bill.

  • Rep. Steve Cohen voted YES for H.R. 2, a bill to increase the minimum wage, which is currently at its lowest point since the 1950s. The bill was not dedicated to raising the the minimum wage to new highs. It would only have returned the minimum wage to a level comparable to that of the 1980s, which is in turn much lower than the minimum wage level of the late 1960s. Thanks to Representative Cohen for at least giving America's workers the respect that they deserved 20 years ago.

  • We are surrounded... surrounded! There is no way to escape. I am not talking about terrorists here. I am talking about the oceans. The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans together provide our longest borders, and what happens to them rains down on us sooner or later. But despite our dependence on the good nature of our oceans, our nation is by action or lack of action allowing great disturbances to be wreaked upon them. Fisheries are being depleted. Algal blooms from our national runoff result in huge dead zones. And we remain trapped in impotent hope, year after year, as we wait to see which of our overpopulated floodplains will be battered by ocean storms next. In the face of these threats, our ocean policy remains fragmented and uncoordinated. That is what real Homeland Insecurity looks like, and that is what H.R. 21 attempts to ameliorate, by increasing coordination of agencies on policy issues related to our oceans and initiating research and action programs to learn more about our most porous border regions and reduce our collective vulnerability to biological, meteorological and military threats from them. Fortunately, Steve Cohen is on board, recognizing the looming threats to our well-being based in oceanic neglect. Read H.R. 21 for yourself, then contact Rep. Cohen with thanks for getting on top of the situation.

  • There are valid disagreements reasonable people might have about the moral and mental status of living things. Some vegans, on the one hand, might argue against harming any animal. Others of us do not feel much bother about slipping a hook into a worm for a bit of fishing. But it is clear that birds have a high degree of awareness and can feel great pain. You might argue that some pain among birds is necessary for the generation of food. But when that pain is wholly unnecessary, who can support its continuation?

    H.R. 137 was a bill put before the Congress which declared it "unlawful for any person to knowingly sell, buy, transport, or deliver in interstate or foreign commerce a knife, a gaff, or any other sharp instrument attached, or designed or intended to be attached, to the leg of a bird for use in an animal fighting venture." In more brief terms, it outlawed the tools used solely for cockfighting, the ritual mutilation of birds for sport.

    H.R. 137 passed on a 368-39 vote, with the vast majority of members of Congress recognizing the needlessness of this particular brand of animal torture. Steve Cohen cast a YES vote, making a reasonable stand on the side of mercy.

  • Some bills really are no-brainers. In April 2006, the U.S. Senate ratified the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, which requires the emissions of some ozone-depleting greenhouse gases from oceangoing ships to be limited through regulation. H.R. 802 is a bill that would simply enact the changes necessary for the United States to live up to this treaty and reduce maritime pollution. What could be simpler and more sensible? Representative Cohen agreed and cast a responsible YES vote on this bill.

  • Any reasonable person who believes that trust in America's democratic institutions is important can see the value in being able to determine with assurance how a person has voted. It should be a matter of common sense, for instance, that when an electronic voting machine malfunctions and loses votes (as has happened in the past), a backup paper record of the actions of the machine would help elections officials set things right and make sure that every person's vote has been counted. Yet today, despite a history of malfunctioning electronic voting machines, there is no requirement for a backup paper trail. It's as easy as attaching a printer to a voting machine. Thanks to Congressperson Cohen for supporting H.R. 811, a bill which would require the establishment of such a paper trail.

  • H.R. 897 is a bill before the House of Representatives that would "require the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Interior, and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to provide to Congress copies and descriptions of contracts and task orders in excess of $5,000,000 for work to be performed in Iraq and Afghanistan." When Republicans controlled the Congress, they killed efforts to uncover corporate corruption and war profiteering. If there is really nothing going on with the contracts, then why is there a problem with looking at those contracts? Only those who think there is a problem and want to hide the problem could be opposed to Congressional oversight. Thanks are due to Steve Cohen for helping to press the issue by cosponsoring this sunshine legislation.

  • The Farallon Islands are an uninhabited group of islands -- uninhabited by humans, that is. The Gulf of the Farralones is a sanctuary for marine birds, is a gathering point for marine mammals, and is host to a wide variety of ocean life due to the shallow depth of the water immediately surrounding it.

    In short, the Farallon Island area is a biological treasure. It has value beyond its stark beauty as a biological bank, maintaining fisheries that sustain commerce as well. H.R. 1187 is a bill before the Congress that would expand the boundaries of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary to more fully protect this area. Steve Cohen has cosponsored this bill, showing a commitment to our national biological health in the long-term.

  • H.R. 1255, a bill that passed the house on a vote of 333-93 in the House of Representatives, was the work of a large congressional majority which believes that White House records belong ultimately to the people of the United States. When he entered office, George W. Bush issued an edict which assigned past presidents and their heirs the right to do with presidential records what they personally saw fit. This is a recipe for historically disastrous revisionism. H.R. 1255 reverses the Bush edict, returning the ownership of presidential records to the people of the United States and making them available (after a period of time) for complete and accurate, not gauzily redacted, historical research. Representative Cohen voted for this bill, prioritizing the historical value of accuracy and the political value of openness above the prerogatives of those in power.

  • H.R. 1257 is a bill that, if signed into law, would simply permit shareholders in a public corporation -- aka the owners -- to cast an advisory, non-binding vote approving or disapproving of executive pay packages. H.R. 1257 would also allow shareholders to vote their non-binding approval or disapproval of Golden Parachutes, the gigantic settlements corporate executives often give themselves as a condition of being fired for poor performance. Who would not support the idea of the owners of a corporation being able to publicly express their position on executive pay and severance packages? Thanks to Representative Cohen for casting a YES vote on this bill when it came up for a roll-call vote, and acting to bring executive pay to the light of day.

  • H.R. 1309, a bill that has passed the House on a vote of 308-117, removes the authoritarian stain placed on the government of the United States shortly after George W. Bush took office -- well, at least one of them. It used to be that citizens could access government documents through the Freedom of Information Act unless the government could affirmatively demonstrate the need for the document to remain private. George W. Bush changed that with an executive order in 2001, mandating that unless a citizen affirmatively demonstrated a lack of national security reasons for the disclosure of a document, the government could keep its documents off-limits. This is another authoritarian step in a nation founded on principles of openness and liberty. Steve Cohen cast a YES vote for this bill, helping to return America from Orwellian darkness back to the light.

  • H.R. 1415 is a bill proposed in the House of Representatives to repeal many of the most onerous features of the Military Commissions Act. If passed, some of its main acts would be to:
    • Restore the right of habeas corpus for people detained by the U.S.
    • Narrow the definition of the MCA term "unlawful enemy combatant" to individuals who directly participate in attacks against the United States.
    • Let United States detainees invoke the ethical codes of the Geneva Conventions again.
    • Let U.S. detainees obtain a civilian lawyer for their defense.
    • Prohibit the use of evidence garnered through torture.
    • Prohibit the use of hearsay, upon the discretion of a judge.
    • Let juries know how statements were obtained from detainees.
    • Permit federal appeals courts to review the decisions of military commissions.


    In short, H.R. 1415 would restore respect for the Constitution and a modicum of humanity to the government of the United States. Representative Cohen has recognized how important the restoration of constitutional standards are to our country. One can only hope that enough members of the Congress will follow suit and help bring this bill toward passage.

  • In late March of 2007, Representative James McGovern of Massachussets introduced H.R. 1755, the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007, to the United States Senate. The law forbids the United States government from spending money to use, sell or transfer cluster bombs unless the following requirements are met:

    1. The cluster bombs are proven to have a 1 percent or lower rate of malfunction

    2. The cluster bombs will not be used against anything but a clearly defined military target, in an area where there are no civilians and in places where civilians do not ordinarily live

    3. A plan is submitted, with the costs included, for cleaning up all the undetonated explosives that come from cluster bombs, whether they are used by the US military, or by other countries to whom the United States has supplied the cluster bombs

    There is a waiver in the law for the first requirement (for the malfunctioning rate of 1 percent or lower), in cases in which it is "vital" to use cluster bombs in order to protect the security of the United States. However, even in such cases, the President is required to submit a report to Congress which explains how civilians will be protected from the cluster bombs, and revealing the failure rate of the cluster bombs, as well as whether the cluster bombs are equipped with self-destruct functions.

    The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act is not a perfect law. We are not too fond of that waiver. However, the law is a big improvement over the status quo. Right now, there's nothing to stop the United States from using cluster bombs, as it did during the invasion of Iraq, or selling them for other countries to use, as was done last year with the cluster bombs that Israel used against the civilian population of Lebanon.

    The thing that makes cluster bombs so much worse than ordinary bombs is that they have a high failure rate, combined with a high number of small bombs that are spread over large areas of land by the larger bombs in which they are originally obtained. Cluster bombs are designed to kill people, not to damage buildings or roads. Like land mines, they continue to kill people long after the battle in which they were used. It is typical for a large number of these smaller bombs to remain undetonated, waiting to explode, after their initial deployment. The Federation of American Scientists reports: "Studies that show 40 percent of the duds on the ground are hazardous and for each encounter with an unexploded submunition there is a 13 percent probability of detonation. Thus, even though an unexploded submunition is run over, kicked, stepped on, or otherwise disturbed, and did not detonate, it is not safe. Handling the unexploded submunition may eventually result in arming and subsequent detonation."

    Cluster bombs kill civilians when they are used. Our government knows this, and yet our government continues to manufacture, use and sell cluster bombs to foreign countries.

    Representative McGovern deserves our thanks for introducing the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act to the House of Representatives. Rep. Steve Cohen deserves our thanks for supporting this bill and the effort behind it.

  • One of the historic firsts of the United States was the rejection of taxation without representation. Indeed, that is one of the reasons why the USA is independent of Great Britain today. H.R. 1905, a bill that has passed on a vote of 241-177 in the House of Representatives, fits in that historical context. If signed by George W. Bush, the bill will provide for congressional representation to the residents of the District of Columbia, who pay taxes just like you and me but who have no voting voice in Congress. Steve Cohen casted a YES vote for this bill, helping to redress a long-standing wrong.

  • A bedrock principle of American progressivism is the right of the individual to self-determination. A person should be able to choose how to govern their own body, not some Big Daddy government. H.R. 1964 defends individual autonomy with the declaration that "It is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman," and with the institution of a variety of policies to ensure this policy is enacted. Steve Cohen has formally supported this bill through the act of cosponsorship, taking an affirmative stand to protect the individual against government intrustion.


The record of Steve Cohen is hardly perfect. Instances in which Rep. Cohen failed to live up to progressive standards in politics include the following:
  • Back in February, Congressman Tom Lantos introduced a bill to the US House of Representatives called the Advance Democracy Act of 2007. It is registered by the Library of Congress as H.R. 982. The legislation would:
    1. Establish a Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor within the Department of State
    2. Create positions for Democracy Liaison Officers in the Department of State
    3. Require the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, the Directory of National Intelligence to monitor and document the flow of money within the United States from foreign nondemocratic governments
    4. Establish a Democracy Fellowship Program to encourage coordination between Congress and the Department of State on matters related to the promotion of democratic institutions around the world
    5. Create two studies by the Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion to evaluate the ways in which organizations are working around the world to promote democracy, and understand how the Department of State can better help these organizations
    6. Create a government web site dedicated to global democracy and human rights
    7. Develop pro-democratic programs by the United States missions in nondemocratic nations and nations transitioning to democracy
    8. Provide funds for an International Center for Democratic Transition, dedicated to helping nations move from dictatorship to democracy. The center has already been proposed by the government of Hungary, and has the support of other European nations
    9. Strengthen the Human Rights and Democracy Fund, already in place
    10. Give new energy to the effort to create a Democracy Caucus within the General Assembly of the United Nations
    11. Require the White House to use the Department of State and the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues to investigate violations of international humanitarian law by the leaders of other nations


    Promoting democracy around the world without dropping bombs on anybody. What a radical idea.

    The Advance Democracy Act of 2007 has a number of co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, but unfortunately Steve Cohen is not among them. Please make a call and ask Representative Cohen to co-sponsor of the Advance Democracy Act of 2007.

Right Wing Index Score: 0

A score of 0 means that Representative Cohen has acted to support 0% of a slate of conservative, wrongheaded policies in the 110th Congress.

We are happy to report that among the political decisions by Representative Cohen that we have tracked to date, not one qualifies as regressively conservative.