Friday, December 9, 2016

CONYERS Says 'Goodbye' To His Friend & Colleague Charlie Rangel From Congress

Yesterday, I spoke to my colleague, my dear friend, my brother Charles Rangel off the House floor as we said our goodbyes. This was truly a bittersweet moment. Charlie and I began our careers in public service as veterans of the Korean War, fighting to defend democracy. After serving in the first truly integrated armed forces, we began on this journey tackling the injustice and inequality plaguing Detroit and New York City. For the last four decades, we have worked together in the U.S. House of Representatives.

As the last two founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus serving in Congress, we have seen our world change, we have seen our country change. I don't want to see him go, but I am encouraged knowing that he will be leaving behind a lasting legacy, decades of great memories, and will be embarking on a new journey in life. Charlie, my friend, your dedication and service to NYC and to this country is unwavering and I will miss you dearly.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

CONYERS: Donald Trump Is the Next Richard Nixon

By John Conyers, Jr.

'Democrats must publicly push for accountability'
Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Nearly four decades ago, former President Nixon told us that “when the President does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Recently, President-elect Donald Trump echoed those comments when he declared, “The president can’t have a conflict of interest,” a statement that disregards all customs and norms of the modern presidency. As someone who has endured numerous undeclared wars, two presidential impeachments, the attacks of 9/11 and passage of the PATRIOT Act, this mindset causes me to fear that our nation may again be veering towards a constitutional crisis, but with far fewer safeguards than we have had in the past.
As one who experienced the toxic politics of Vietnam and the riots of the 1960’s, I have never witnessed mindless name-calling, insults or demagoguery on the scale or scope of the Trump campaign. Among other things, Trump accused Democrats of “try[ing to] rig the election at the polling booths, where so many cities are corrupt and voter fraud is all too common.” He has intermittently called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” and sought to intimidate the media, promising to “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” During the presidential debates, he told Secretary Hillary Clinton that if he wins “you’d be in jail.”
Not only does such “loose cannon” rhetoric divide our nation, but if acted upon is flatly inconsistent with our Constitution and our values. Throwing around reckless and unsubstantiated accusations of election fraud undermines our democracy, the Voting Rights Act and the 15th Amendment. Banning Muslim entry or creating a registry would violate First Amendment freedom of religion. Legislatively targeting news outlets based on their views would abrogate freedom of press. Promising to lock up political opponents upends long-held notions of fairness and due process. And changing your mind about prosecution after the election does not make things better—it just illustrates a continued misunderstanding of the proper role of federal law enforcement.
The potential threat to our democracy comes at a time when our incoming president will have lost the popular vote by more than 2 million votes and many of the controls and safeguards that allowed our nation to weather prior constitutional storms have been severely weakened. One-party control of Washington means tepid oversight of a Republican President. Our independent judiciary is seen as increasingly politicized in the aftermath of Bush v. Gore and the determination by Senate Republicans to deny President Obama the opportunity to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. The media may well be compromised due to President-elect Trump’s continuing efforts to attack, undermine and humiliate his critics.
This set of circumstances means that if and when we face a constitutional crisis—perhaps Trump’s Administration will have taken actions with respect to a foreign government to benefit his financial interests; or his Attorney General will have secretly authorized unlawful torture or surveillance—we will be operating without our usual institutional or structural safety nets.
There will be no Sam Ervin or Peter Rodino to investigate executive misconduct as there was during Watergate. Nor can we expect a Republican in the mold of Howard Baker to step forward (risking a Tea Party primary challenge the next election), or an Attorney General such as Elliot Richardson to resign rather than participate in a White House cover up. And we can only wonder whether there are any more Woodwards or Bernsteins willing to risk their careers or the solvency of their employer by challenging a Trump Administration.
In the absence of subpoena authority, Democrats must publicly push for accountability. We still have the authority to pursue independent investigations by the GAO and Agency Inspectors General. And we will need to hold our own informal forums and issue minority reports documenting the inevitable abuses. Even if we cannot prevent excesses, our job will be to make sure our citizens are fully aware of what is happening and why.
Of course, in the end, it’s the people themselves who have the most important role in safeguarding our constitutional form of government. I witnessed firsthand how the 1963 March on Washington galvanized the civil rights movement and led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With the party in power typically losing 30 House seats or more during midterm elections, we can’t lose sight of the fact that a more meaningful legislative check may not be that far away.
I truly hope that we can avoid the constitutional abyss. After all, it was Gerald Ford who appointed the esteemed jurist Edward Levi as Attorney General, helping to restore faith in the Justice Department after the stain of Watergate. And it was George H.W. Bush who began his campaign with race baiting against Willie Horton before eventually signing legislation reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act.
Unfortunately, as of yet, we have seen no such meaningful olive branch from Trump—only more angry and unpresidential tweets, more attacks on the press, appointments of divisive figures such as Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and Michael Flynn, and an ongoing risk to our nation’s values.

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CONYERS & GOODLATTE Release First Policy Proposal of Copyright Review Proposal on Copyright Office Reform

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released the first policy proposal to come out of the Committee’s review of U.S. Copyright law.  This first proposal identifies important reforms to help ensure the Copyright Office keeps pace in the digital age.  With the release of this document, the Committee requests written comments from interested stakeholders by January 31, 2017.  These comments will be shared with members of the House Judiciary Committee as they come in and the Committee intends to make comments publicly available after the comment period closes.

Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers released the following statement via video:

“We would like to take a few minutes to share with you our plan for the next stage of the House Judiciary Committee’s review of our nation’s copyright laws. For years now, we have deliberately listened – through hearings, listening sessions, and site visits – to the views and concerns of stakeholders from all sides of the copyright debate.

“Now, it is time to move forward into the next stage.  We intend to periodically release policy proposals on select, individual issue areas within the larger copyright system that are in need of reform where there is a potential for consensus.  These policy proposals are not meant to be the final word on reform in these individual issue areas, but rather a starting point for further discussion by all stakeholders, with the goal of producing legislative text within each issue area.

“Today, we are releasing our first policy proposal, which identifies reforms to modernize the Copyright Office so that it can meet the challenges of the 21st Century.  Among the reforms in this document are granting the Copyright Office autonomy with respect to the Library of Congress, requiring the Copyright Office to maintain an up-to-date digital, searchable database of all copyrighted works and associated copyright ownership information, and many others reforms. 

“Nothing should be read into the fact that we are only releasing a policy proposal on one topic today. This is just the beginning of this stage of the copyright review, and we intend to release policy proposals on music licensing issues and other individual issue areas in time.

“But this is not a one way street.  We need your help to turn these policy proposals into legislation.  It is only through the input of all interested parties that agreements can be successfully achieved. 

“Thank you to everyone who has participated in the copyright review, and we look forward to continuing to work with you to improve our nation’s copyright system.”

Background: As part of the copyright review, the House Judiciary Committee has held 20 hearings which included testimony from 100 witnesses.  Following these hearings, Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers invited all prior witnesses of the Committee’s copyright review hearings and other interested stakeholders to meet with Committee staff and provide additional input on copyright policy issues.  In addition, the House Judiciary Committee conducted a listening tour with stops in Nashville, Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles where they heard from a wide range of creators, innovators, technology professionals, and users of copyrighted works.  More information on the House Judiciary Committee’s comprehensive copyright review can be found here

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

CONYERS, LEWIS & SENSENBRENNER Applaud House Passage of Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 2854/ H.R. 5067, the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act. The Till bill's primary purpose is to provide federal resources to local jurisdictions in the resolution of civil rights era cold cases.  This reauthorization represents a recommitment to the original goals of the bill as well as the strengthening and clarification of the law, as called for by interested civil rights groups and families. 

The lead House sponsors of the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act released the following statements after House passage of the legislation:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“We must never forget our nation’s dark past and should be mindful of our history and why so many in the African-American community raise the issue of whether black lives matter.  Many civil rights era crimes were barely noted or investigated, and I believe the perpetrators of those crimes should be brought to justice, even 50 years later. We passed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act in 2007 to help bring these cases to light and seek justice for victims and their families. The Till Reauthorization Act will further empower the Department of Justice and cold case advocates to share information and review the status and closure of cases through 1980.  I applaud House passage of this legislation and urge my Senate colleagues to quickly pass the legislation, so that it can be signed into law.”  ORIGINAL CO-SPONSOR - Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI)

“When this bill was signed into law, family members, academics, historians, lawyers, advocates began working to develop a full accounting for these long-standing, gross human and civil rights atrocities.  The reauthorization that the House passed this evening is a response to their appeals to make the law a better tool in their quest for justice. We took the time to research and study what happened after the original bill was signed into law.  We listened to and were guided by the advocates, by law professors, by families, and by the press.  We worked across the aisle and across the Dome to develop a bill that fulfills our promise to never give up on this effort – to never abandon the pursuit of truth.  I am very pleased by House passage tonight and look forward to passage in the Senate and the signature of President Barack Obama.” ORIGINAL CO-SPONSOR - Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

“As an original cosponsor of the Emmett Till Reauthorization Act, I’m pleased to see my colleagues came together and supported this important bill. This bipartisan legislation will provide for a sustained, well-coordinated effort to investigate and prosecute unsolved civil rights-era crimes. There are hundreds of cold cases from the civil rights era that have never been solved, and it is my hope that we are able to bring justice to the victims’ families.”  ORIGINAL CO-SPONSOR -  Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)

Senate action on the amended bill is anticipated before the end of the 114th Congress, and sponsors are hoping it will be signed into law in 2016. 

  • This bill requires the Department of Justice and FBI to consult with civil rights organizations, universities, and other entities that have also been gathering evidence in these cold cases;  
  • Provides clearer direction and improved coordination between federal, state, and local law enforcement and the activists, advocates, and academics working on these issues;  
  • Strengthens the Department of Justice’s reporting requirements;
  • Expands the time span of cases to be considered by ten years, to include all cases that occurred not later than December 31, 1979;
  • Encourages the Department of Justice to review specific closed cases that warrant further investigation; 
  • Maintains the previous investigation structure and funding levels; and
  • Clarifies the law’s intent.

Conyers' floor statement video can be watched here.

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Mr. Speaker, in June of 2007, this body passed and the President subsequently signed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act.  Since that time, the Department of Justice and cold case advocates have reviewed hundreds of cases in a search for justice and a sense of closure for the families of those who fell victim to racial violence in one of the most tumultuous periods of this nation’s history.  

For those who did not live through the civil rights era, it is difficult to understand the combined climate of excitement for change that co-existed with one of fear and violence.  Simply for acting on their ideals of racial equality, innocent people – young and old, black and white  – were struck down.  

In some cases, state and local law enforcement colluded with the perpetrators of anti-civil rights violence.  And attempts at justice often proved to be a charade - ending with jury nullification or tampering by racist citizens’ councils. 

The civil rights community has reported that for every infamous killing that tore at the South in the 1950s and ’60s, there were many more that were barely noted or investigated. We passed the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act in 2007 to help bring these cases to light and seek justice for victims and their families.

Even after nearly a decade of effort by advocates and the Justice Department, it remains clear that much work remains to heal the wounds of this period of history.  To that end, the Till Reauthorization Act will create a formal framework for public engagement between the Department of Justice and cold case advocates to share information and review the status and closure of cases through 1980. 

The legislation further authorizes appropriations and tasks the Department’s Community Relations Service with bringing together law enforcement agencies and communities to address the tensions raised by Civil Rights Era crimes.

The title of this bill serves as a reminder of one of the many lives that was cut much too short as a result of racially motivated hate and violence. Emmett Till was a 14-year-old African American young man from Chicago who allegedly whistled at a white woman.  Shortly thereafter he was found murdered and tortured. 

Though his accused killers were tried, they were acquitted by an all-white jury.  Despite attempts at gaining a Federal indictment in the case, his torture and murder remain unpunished.  While his family still grieves, they have channeled their sorrow into activism for those victims still seeking justice.    

I believe that it remains important that the perpetrators of civil rights era crimes be brought to justice, even 50 years later.  While justice has been delayed for the victims of these crimes, the fact that we are raising these cold cases breathes new life into our justice system.  Ultimately, that commitment bodes well for our collective future and reconciliation within these communities. 

Accordingly, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation and I reserve the balance of my time.

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CONYERS and LOFGREN Statement on Nomination of Gen. John Kelly for Secretary of Homeland Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, issued the following statement today regarding President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Marine Gen. John Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security:

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“The Department of Homeland Security has a wide-array of responsibilities, from providing humanitarian relief for asylum-seekers to protecting our nation’s borders to assisting communities after natural disasters. The individual charged with leading this multi-faceted agency will face enormous challenges – including administration of the Department itself.

“While Marine General John Kelly apparently has little experience with immigration, President-elect Trump has used vitriolic rhetoric to describe immigrants, promised to deport millions, and bar Muslims from entering the country.

“Concerns have been raised that General Kelly’s appointment could contribute to a militarization of our nation’s immigration system. Immigrants are not the enemy. Rather, for generations, immigrants have flocked to our shores to build their dreams, and in turn they have grown our economy and enriched our country in numerous ways. I hope General Kelly understands this, and will take this opportunity to enforce immigration laws in a practical, humane way that makes sense for America – for our families, businesses and entrepreneurs, and our values as a nation.”

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Washington, D.C. – Members of the Michigan Congressional delegation introduced H.Res. 946, a resolution in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to commemorate 15 years since the opening of the International Underground Railroad Memorial Monument (IURMM). 

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Led in the House of Representatives by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13), Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Rep. Sandy Levin (MI-9), and Rep. Dan Kildee (MI-5); and the Senate by Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, the resolution honors Detroit’s role as a crossing point into Canada for those traveling the Underground Railroad.  Comprised of the Gateway to Freedom Monument in Detroit, Michigan, and the Tower of Freedom Monument in Windsor, Ontario, the IURMM opened in October 2001 as a way for the region to honor the sacrifices and the courage of those who fought to secure freedom for themselves, their families, and others.

“These two monuments—in Detroit and Windsor—stand as reminders of what we have been through, the obstacles we’ve overcome, and the strength we have to address present injustices,” said Rep. Conyers.  “Americans must never forget the parts of our history that we regret, or the heroic actions of those who fought to change the future. The International Underground Railroad Memorial Monument plays an important part in that, here in Detroit.”

“The City of Detroit played a critical role in the Underground Railroad, serving as the doorway to freedom for African Americans seeking refuge in Canada,” said Senator Peters. “I’m honored to join my Michigan colleagues to recognize these monuments that stand as a symbol of the people who fought for their own freedom and the freedom of others during a dark chapter in our nation’s history.”

The International Underground Railroad Memorial Monument represents a cross-border partnership that seeks to educate the next generation about our history, and help the current generation remember the sacrifices others have made to provide us the opportunities we need to succeed.

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