Thursday, June 28, 2012

Conyers: Health Care Decision is a Historic Victory for the American People

(WASHINGTON)—Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released this statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius, which upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.   

“Today is a historic day.  The Affordable Care Act can now takes its rightful place among this nation’s other critical efforts to ensure that the basic human needs of all Americans are met.  Just as our Social Security and Medicaid systems provide a critical safety net to older Americans, the Affordable Care Act will help make health care more affordable and accessible for all.  This law ensures that health insurance bureaucrats can no longer deny a child health care because of a pre-existing condition and millions of young Americans can now receive coverage on their family plans until they are 26.  And longstanding disparities and discrimination in health care for women and minorities will come to an end.  I am also pleased that the Court upheld the law’s provisions expanding Medicaid to 15 million additional Americans.  The decision provides a strong incentive for states to comply with the law.   

“I am heartened that the Court upheld the rule of law and adhered to long-standing legal precedent.  I encourage individuals of all parties to seize this opportunity to set aside our differences and move forward together to implement this landmark achievement for the American people.”   

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why Is the Best Attorney General Receiving the Worst Treatment?

Why Is the Best Attorney General Receiving the Worst Treatment?

By U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Tomorrow, the House is expected to vote on whether to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over internal deliberative documents related to Operation Fast and Furious.
Last week, the attorney general -- who has testified on this matter on nine separate occasions and has provided more than 7,600 pages of documents already -- offered to resolve the dispute by turning over to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform internal deliberative documents responsive to the Committee's key question. The Department of Justice stood ready to brief the Committee and to answer any questions that might come up regarding the documents. Chairman Issa responded by saying, "I can't accept the [deal the attorney general offered]. No other chairman would."
I must beg to differ. As a former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I accepted a similar deal with the Bush administration. The issue arose in connection with my investigation into the involvement of the Justice Department and the White House into the peremptory firing of nine U.S. Attorneys in early 2007.
As a former chair of both the Committee on Government Operations and the House Judiciary Committee, I take a back seat to no one in the vigor and completeness of my investigations. At the same time, I appreciate the need for both Democratic and Republican administrations to have some breathing space when they respond to congressional oversight. In the U.S. Attorney firings investigation, we were interested in learning how the firings came about, who made the decisions, and why. We were less interested in obtaining documents detailing what members of the Bush administration thought about our efforts.
With regard to the Justice Department, we worked out an agreement to access certain internal deliberative documents that were created before the Judiciary Committee's oversight investigation began. These documents were germane to our efforts to learn why the United States Attorneys were fired and who was responsible for it.
Getting to the bottom of White House involvement in the scandal proved more difficult. President Bush made a blanket assertion of executive privilege, refusing to turn over any White House documents or make any key administration witnesses available for testimony. The Judiciary Committee successfully challenged President Bush's sweeping privilege assertion in court. In March 2009, after the administration changed, we negotiated an accommodation with representatives of the former president that met our needs and respected theirs.
Our Agreement of Accommodation provided that the Judiciary Committee would receive White House documents generated prior to the commencement of our investigation on March 8, 2007, but we were only able to review (without retaining copies) a very small subset of the White House documents generated after that date. In short, we were able to conduct legitimate oversight into the actual allegations regarding the U.S. Attorney firings while respecting the Administration's ability to deliberate in confidence over how to respond to my investigation.
This basic respect for confidential communications is well established. In the 1974 U.S. v. Nixondecision, the Supreme Court reasoned that compelled disclosure of deliberative material would discourage executive branch officials from giving candid advice, because "those who expect public dissemination of their remarks may temper candor with a concern for appearances and for their own interests to the detriment of the decision making process." From President Reagan to President Obama, every administration has sought to protect this material and, for the most part, Congress has balanced its oversight needs with the need of executive branch officials to advise the president in confidence.
There are two principal differences between my deal with the Bush administration and the deal Attorney General Holder has offered to the Oversight Committee. First, it took us far longer, and required far more legal process, to bring the Bush administration to the point where it would agree to the deal. Attorney General Holder has sought, in good faith, to head off this conflict for weeks now. Second, Attorney General Holder has offered to turn over outright (rather than just make available for review) some of the documents that were generated in the course of the Department's efforts to respond to the Oversight Committee's demands.
Attorney General Holder has made a compelling offer -- one that serves the needs of the investigation, and one that is quite similar to the deal I accepted last Congress.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Conyers: Supreme Court Ruling Affirms It’s the Federal Government’s Job to Fix Our Broken Immigration System

(WASHINGTON)—Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released this statement in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Arizona v. United States, which held unconstitutional several key provisions of Arizona’s immigration law S.B. 1070, and upheld the preeminence of the federal government in determining immigration law and policy.   

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling in Arizona v. U.S. strikes down all but one of the provisions in question in Arizona’s dangerous anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070,” said Conyers.  “The ruling re-affirms the preeminent role of the Federal government in immigration, and validates the Administration’s own efforts to set effective and humane immigration enforcement priorities.  Although the Court did not strike down the ‘show me your papers’ provision, which is an open invitation to racial profiling, the Court narrowly construed the provision and specifically left it open to further challenges.  This Supreme Court ruling makes clear that it is the federal government’s job to fix our broken immigration system, and I will continue to urge my colleagues in the House to take up comprehensive immigration reform.” 

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Conyers Announces Department of Justice Grants For New Police Hiring in Dearborn and Hamtramck

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement applauding the Department of Justice’s decision to award Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants to the City of Dearborn and the Hamtramck Police Department.  The City of Dearborn will receive a $1,125,000 grant and the Hamtramck Police Department will receive a $441,682 grant.

The COPS Program has funded the hiring of more than 123,000 state and local police officers and sheriff’s deputies in communities across America since its enactment under the Clinton Administration.  During a time of local budget shortfalls, the COPS program has helped stem the tide of officer layoffs by state and local law enforcement agencies and helped address the jobs crisis facing the U.S. today.
Studies have shown that the COPS program is a sound investment of taxpayer dollars.  A 2005 GAO Report found that for every dollar spent on COPS hiring per capita, there was a drop of 30 index crimes per 100,000 persons.  The program also provides resources to train police officers in community policing.  Community oriented policing helps law enforcement officers form vital partnerships with the local community, which stretches policing capabilities and improves the quality of policing services.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I am pleased to announce that, as a result of these grants, the citizens of Dearborn and Hamtramck will soon have additional officers on the streets to ensure that these communities remain safe and secure,” said Conyers. “The COPS program has been a successful nationwide effort to stem the loss of valuable police officers and jobs due to local budget shortfalls.

“In addition, by introducing H.R. 4098, the Shield Our Streets Act, I have proposed to do even more to fund state and local law enforcement, including hiring more police officers, particularly in areas facing high crime rates.” 

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Representative Conyers Hosts Bipartisan Event Honoring UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock

(WASHINGTON) — Last Tuesday, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (M-14) and Fred Upton (M-06), hosted an event for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  The event honored Grammy Award winning jazz pianist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue, Herbie Hancock.  Rep. Conyers released the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“As an avid supporter of the arts, I was delighted to host UNESCO and Herbie Hancock, an internationally recognized jazz artist, to speak on Capitol Hill about the work UNESCO is doing around the world to promote peace, education, and economic development.  Mr. Hancock’s speech and performance brilliantly demonstrated how music is an effective tool for crossing cultural boundaries to promote these important goals.     

“UNESCO carries out a critical part of the United Nation’s mission to promote peace and cooperation among nations.  It utilizes the arts and music to build cultural bridges, and promote genuine understanding between diverse groups and cultures.  In a world in which many armed conflicts are still fueled by petty differences, it is important that we recognize the efforts of UNESCO and artists like Herbie Hancock to promote education, peace, and understanding through cultural exchange.”

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bring immigrants out of the shadows

Bring immigrants out of the shadows

By John Conyers, Jr.
U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
Last Friday, President Obama courageously announced that it would no longer be the policy of the United States to deport young illegal immigrants who came to this country as children years ago through no fault of their own. This announcement brings some measure of justice to a deeply dysfunctional immigration system.
The president’s actions remind me of the letter Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sent from a Birmingham jail in 1963, when he wrote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” When I think of the immigration challenges facing our nation, I often think of these words and the lesser-known words that follow:  
“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea.”
The president recognizes that these young, undocumented students, as with so many immigrants, are already interwoven into the fabric of American life. These are not outsiders. They are our neighbors, our employees, our classmates and our veterans. It is not only inhumane but impractical to think we can simply deport our way to a solution. 
Those who oppose the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act and the president’s actions countenance an America where vast numbers live in the shadows, a permanent underclass of outsiders. Or they advocate laws that would make life in America so miserable for millions that they will just pack up and leave. They oppose efforts to reasonably deal with our immigration challenges, arguing instead for strict adherence to “the rule of law.” 
But we need to face facts. Our laws have been broken for decades, failing to meet the needs of American families and entire industries, particularly agriculture. As Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, put it two year ago at a House Judiciary ommittee hearing: “We have sent at best a mixed message to undocumented workers for more than two decades. At the border, we have had two signs posted: ‘No Trespassing’ and ‘Help Wanted.’ ” 
We need an immigration system that reflects the reality on the ground. It is time to bring those who have paid taxes and committed no crimes out of the shadows. It is time to ensure that undocumented workers are no longer exploited by unscrupulous employers. It is time to make sure that the laws we are so vigorously enforcing are designed to help move this country’s economy forward, not hold it back. The American people deserve a practical solution to the problem. And poll after poll shows that the overwhelming majority believe the answer lies in a comprehensive approach to immigration reform.  
But why does an issue where there is a clear path forward appear to be intractable? 
It’s small-minded thinking by those who believe that stoking nativist fears will lead to a short-term electoral advantage. 
We have a presumptive Republican presidential nominee who not only has vowed to veto the DREAM Act but has called the cruel Arizona immigration law a model for the country. We have state legislators who appeal to the lowest common denominator and would make criminals out of immigrants whose only offense is a desire to work for a better life for themselves and their families. 
I reject this. 
The anger and fear that has prevented us from rationalizing our immigration policy might be understandable; there is plenty of blame to go around. But those who aggravate this fear by scapegoating immigrants abdicate leadership. They ascribe to what Dr. King called
the “ ‘outside agitator’ idea.” 
The challenge posed by our broken immigration system requires an appeal to the better angels of our nature. To guide us, we have Dr. King’s enduring example of leadership, courage and inspiration. And like the civil-rights movement, the journey may be long and the path uneven, but the result will be a stronger and more just America.
Conyers is the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Conyers Applauds Agreement Paving Way for New Detroit-Windsor Bridge Conyers Applauds Agreement Paving Way for New Detroit-Windsor Bridge

(WASHINGTON)—Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) applauded the signing of an agreement that will allow the construction of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) between Detroit and Windsor to move forward.  The NITC will provide a modern, strategically located bridge that is vital to enhancing the $70 billion-a-year trade relationship between Michigan and Canada.  Rep. Conyers is a long-time proponent of constructing the NITC.  In January of this year, Rep. Conyers and the other Democratic Members of Michigan’s Delegation in the House of Representatives sent a letter to state leaders urging action on the project.  

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“This is an incredible moment for our city,” said Conyers. “This new investment in Detroit’s future will expand Southeast Michigan’s trade relationship with Canada, provide immediate economic benefits to the automotive industry, and ease traffic congestion.  As a long-time advocate for this bridge, it is rewarding to know that in the near future, thousands of Detroiters will be put to work building this critical new public resource.

“I am also pleased to see that this agreement will ensure that communities affected by the bridge’s construction on both sides of the border, including the Delray community, will receive benefits.  As this process moves forward, I look forward to working with the Governor and the Canadian Prime Minister to ensure that these benefits are provided to the citizens of Delray in a timely and equitable manner.”

The benefits of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) include:

·         The creation of 10,000 jobs related to the project.
·         A new direct connection between 1-75 in Michigan and Highway 401 in Canada that eases traffic congestion at the border and allows trucks to bypass residential communities.
·         Providing an alternative point of access to Canada in case one of the other border crossings sustains a lengthy shutdown.
·         The public-private partnership agreement and the request for proposals must contain provisions for community benefit plans and for the involvement of the impacted communities in Michigan and Canada.   

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Conyers Praises Obama Administration for Providing Relief to Immigrant Young People

(WASHINGTON)—Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) praised the policy announced by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano that grants immigration officials the discretion to defer deportation action against certain young undocumented immigrants.  These same individuals would also be allowed to apply for work permits.  Only individuals who meet certain criteria would be eligible for consideration under the announced policy.  Eligible individuals must show that they came to the U.S. as minors under the age of 16; lived here continuously for at least 5 years; are under the age of 30; are currently enrolled in school, graduated from high school or received an equivalent degree, or served in the military; and have clean criminal records and pose no threat to national security or public safety.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I applaud President Obama and Secretary Napolitano for their courageous leadership in making today’s announcement.  Thousands of undocumented young people, many of whom are students or military veterans, are forced to live in the shadows because they were brought here as minor children.  They are productive members of society who wish nothing more than to contribute to this country – the only one they have ever really known.       

“We call them DREAMers, based on proposed legislation—the DREAM Act—that enjoys the overwhelming support of Americans in poll after poll, was passed by the House of Representatives in 2010, and which would easily receive a majority in the Senate, if put to a vote.  But more than the name of the bill, it is a fitting way to refer to these young immigrants because their greatest wish is to have the opportunity to realize the American dream.

“This announcement builds on prior Administration efforts to prioritize enforcement efforts on the removal of dangerous criminals over DREAM Act students and others who pose no threat to our country.  Due to limited resources, the Department of Homeland Security must use its prosecutorial discretion authority under current law to set enforcement priorities, and it makes no sense to waste them on the detention and deportation of innocent young people.  The exercise of prosecutorial discretion on a case-by-case basis is a time-honored law enforcement practice that has been used for humanitarian immigration purposes by every Administration in recent memory.  Under the new policy, eligible young people will be afforded temporary protection but not a path to citizenship or even permanent green cards.  A real and lasting solution for them and millions of other immigrants requires Congressional action.     

“Unfortunately, immigration is an issue where elected officials often choose to stoke nativist fears, and we have seen this manifest itself over and over again with mean-spirited state and local laws.  Our immigration system is broken, and amidst today’s polarized political environment, the prospects for reform appear dim.  But with this announcement, President Obama has chosen reason, compassion, and hope over fear.  I am proud to stand with the president and the DREAMers today, and I will continue the fight for immigrants’ rights.”

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Congressman John Conyers - The People's Advocate Shares Some of His Vision

Congressman John Conyers - The People's Advocate Shares Some of His Vision

We have every reason to be outraged and disgusted with our corrupt, bought-off government and some of the people who make their living -- on our dime -- running it into the ground. The petty squabbles and abject failures of leadership in Washington are too numerous to count, and it is very hard to view anything that comes from Capitol Hill -- policy, rhetoric, solicitations for money -- without a heaping dose of cynicism and frustration.
U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
That said, we should also acknowledge that there are still some exemplary public servants out there who spend their political careers on the right side of issues, for their constituents and all Americans. These rare birds -- particularly those in Congress -- deserve our support and respect for actually writing and co-sponsoring significant, meaningful bills that affect our lives, unlike so many of their unproductive colleagues. At a time when "incumbent" has become a dirty word and many view D.C. as a private club for crooks and scoundrels with lifetime memberships, we must not lose sight of the real enemies within our government, and the fact that some of them only showed up a few years ago.
I felt that it would be worthwhile to contact one of the iconic Progressive legislators in the House -- someone with whom I have had a friendship for 10 years -- to find out what he thinks about the current state of our politics. He is Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI).
But first, some background information is warranted to fully appreciate the scope of this true advocate for the downtrodden and otherwise forgotten members of our society. This lifelong public servant began his journey when he graduated from law school in his hometown of Detroit in 1958 (his public service actually began in 1948 with service in the National Guard, the U.S. Army and the Army Reserve). He then went on to work as counsel to three local labor unions and provided legal services to civil rights leaders in Detroit. He became a board member on both theACLU and the NAACP, working in the South during the civil rights movement helping to register voters.
Mr. Conyers' career in Congress began in 1965, winning his seat by a razor thin 44-vote margin. In that election, a new resident of Detroit named Rosa Parks volunteered for his campaign and approached Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about this dynamic young candidate. Dr. King would go on to publicly endorse Mr. Conyers for office, one of the very rare political endorsements Dr. King made. Not long after that, Dr. King presented an award to Conyers for his leadership from theSouthern Christian Leadership Conference -- the first of many awards Mr. Conyers would receive in his illustrious career.
Mr. Conyers hired Ms. Parks as an aide, and she worked for him in his D.C. office for several years. His first year in Congress coincided with the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and he worked to pass the historic bill, his first major battle as a member of Congress. Ever since those early days, Rep. Conyers' efforts and interests have been about jobs, justice and peace, and those motivations have led him to focus on reforming our healthcare system, eventually spawning the Single Payer movement, which is where we connected.
I was an early recruit to his bold health reform ideas when I saw him host a teach-in about the merits of Single Payer and building a movement at St. Phillip's Church in New York. He arrived with his own four-piece jazz combo to set the mood for the event. How could you not be impressed with this man and his unique way of reaching out? We have kept in touch ever since, and I consider him a close friend. The result of his work (and that of so many others) is an invigorated and growing interest in Single Payer nationwide, due, in part, to the Affordable Care Act and the current debate in the Supreme Court over it's constitutionality. Of course, with Single Payer, the issue of a mandate would be irrelevant, as all Americans would automatically be covered in an Improved Medicare For All program that would provide better healthcare at lower costs.
Mr. Conyers' fan base among Single Payer advocates rivals that of a rock star, and he has no doubt that as a result of this community's hard work, America will have a Single Payer system. He's definitely made a believer out of me. With the beginning of each new Congress, Mr. Conyers reintroduces his Single Payer bill, H.R. 676. If only there were a House full of Conyers, we would have a much better world.
In 1975, Mr. Conyers was a member of the House Judiciary Committee that launched hearings onWatergate, a tumultuous, defining period in our history. In 1994, Mr. Conyers was the lead sponsor of the, signed into law by Bill Clinton and reauthorized in 2001. Providing funding for federal, local and state programs to combat domestic violence and sexual assault, it was recently under siege by GOP members in the Senate until April 26th, when it was passed overwhelmingly by 68 to 31, with all of the "nays" coming from GOP men, including Marco Rubio, who may be on the ticket with Mitt Romney as V.P. The bill, which had always been reauthorized on a bipartisan basis before the invasion of the Tea Party loons, has now moved on to the House, where the "debate" will be even more contentious as the House's GOP "leadership" works to come up with their own version that will pass. There will be attempts to remove protections for LGBT Americans, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants, according to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Chair of the DNC. This Act has helped to reduce violence against women by 53 percent since it was first enacted, saving thousands of lives, which speaks to its enormous success. Why there should be a debate at all over its renewal is absurd.
Mr. Conyers was also the lead author of the End Racial Profiling Act, introduced in 2011, which was co-sponsored in the Senate by Ben Cardin (D-MD). Conyers also introduced the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 1999 and reintroduced it again in 2009 as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. It was finally passed towards the end of that year.
So respected by his colleagues, Mr. Conyers was chosen more recently to sit on the Conference committee of the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform And Consumer Protection Act of 2011. During those fierce negotiations, Mr. Conyers fought to ensure that the bill protected consumers while maintaining anti-trust powers of the Justice Department. He is also the founder of the Out of Afghanistan Caucus and co-founder of the Out of Iraq Caucus, and, last but certainly not least, Mr. Conyers also gave us Martin Luther King Day, a day of national respect and recognition of a great American who makes us all reflect on who and what we are -- at least one day a year.
These are just some of the highlights from a distinguished career that will hopefully continue as he seeks to return to Congress in 2013. His name will always be connected to some of our most significant legislation, a shining example of what every member of Congress should emulate. How does your Representative stack up?
To gain a more personal perspective on this man, I asked Mr. Conyers some questions about his work and vision for creating a better America:

Pearl Korn: As a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus -- which is the largest caucus, with 76 members -- how can they become a more relevant force with more political capital? And how can they build on their innovative People's Budget?

Mr. Conyers: As a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I am always looking for ways to expand the influence of Progressives within the Democratic Caucus and the Congress as a whole. In recent months, the CPC has raised important issues that would otherwise receive little attention on the Hill. For instance, the CPC recently pressed New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, through his role as a co-chair of the President's Residential Mortgage Backed Security (RMBS) working group, to move forward with cases against the financial institutions that brought about the collapse of the housing market. Progressives also played a leading role in ensuring that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform legislation included billions of dollars for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), which provides tangible assistance for homeowners and neighborhoods that have been hit the hardest by the foreclosure crisis. Progressives have also played a leading role in pressing for an end to the war in Afghanistan. 

It is critical that Progressives continue to push the envelope on the issues that matter to 99 percent of Americans. As we consider the fate of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy later this year, Progressives will ensure that any discussion of tax policy involves Progressive priorities like a Wall Street speculation tax and the Buffett Rule.

PK: How can the Democratic Party unite to help pass an amendment overturning the Citizens United decision? The public would embrace the party and support it. There is support currently in the House by a few dozen members with additional support from almost two dozen senators, and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is also calling for a Constitutional amendment. Our president has also said he supports such an amendment. Shouldn't public funding of campaigns be included in any such efforts by members of Congress? The president should join in and take this towering issue to the campaign trail, for this would help to restore control of Congress and the White House to the Democratic Party in November. Is this a strategy you could support?

Mr. Conyers: Citizens United has weakened the integrity of our elections by opening the floodgates on unlimited campaign spending by super PACs. This new spending highlights the corrosive influence of corporate money in our democratic process. As members of Congress, we need to remember that we are here to protect the rights of the American people and to restore the American people's faith in honest and fair elections. I have pledged to work with my colleagues to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and I am encouraged that President Obama supports such an effort. We are dedicating ourselves to protecting the rights of our fellow Americans, and hope that our Republican colleagues will join us.

PK: How can we end voter disenfranchisement, inequality and disparities targeting minority communities?

Mr. Conyers: These laws -- whether directly or indirectly -- target vulnerable voting populations, such as young, elderly, minority and poor voters. While voter identification is not a new concept, the forms of identification now required by some states result in disproportionate consequences, largely along racial lines. For example: In Texas, a citizen may not use a student ID as a proper form of identification to vote, however, a concealed carry gun license is a proper form of identification.

Congress needs to enact prohibitions against practices that intimidate voters with misinformation designed to abridge their right to vote. That is why I re-introduced the Caging Prohibition Act and the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Act that would prevent challenges to registration to vote and prohibit intimidating practices. 

I also believe that our women and men in uniform deserve full access to the ballot. If our service members and overseas voters protect our freedoms abroad, then Congress must work to protect their right to vote back home. Absent uniformed service voters and overseas voters have faced discrimination in their ability to vote in general elections. Thus, we need to review proposals to strengthen the Military Overseas Voter Empowerment Act so that military and overseas voters receive absentee ballots within the laws timeframe.

In addition, we need to declare that every citizen -- even a citizen that has been convicted of a criminal offense -- should not be denied or abridged because that individual has been convicted of a criminal offense. That is why I introduced the Democracy Restoration Act, an Act that creates a right to vote for all persons with felony convictions who are not incarcerated at the time of the election. The Act would establish a uniform national standard for voting by ex-offenders in federal elections.
I would like to thank Congressman Conyers for taking the time to answer these questions, and I would like to thank him for the tremendously important work he does for our country.
- with Jonathan Stone

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Conyers Praises Attorney General Holder’s Record on Voting and Civil Rights

(WASHINGTON)—Today, Attorney General Eric Holder testified at a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department of Justice.  Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) released this statement following the hearing.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I applaud Attorney General Holder and the Department of Justice for its aggressive enforcement of voting and civil rights laws,” said Conyers.  “Conservatives on this committee have characterized the Department of Justice’s challenge to state voter laws as ‘politically motivated.’  But under the Voting Rights Act, prescribed states and jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory practices towards protected classes must obtain preclearance before voting and redistricting changes can be implemented.  The Department of Justice is correct to use its enforcement authority to address these attacks on voting rights and other ongoing civil rights issues. 

·         Enforcing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  The Department has aggressively enforced Section 5, which ensures that states with a history of discrimination cannot create additional barriers to minority access to the ballot box.  The Department has already blocked discriminatory voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina.

·         Stopping illegal “purges” of the voting rolls.  Last week, the Voting Section wrote to the State of Florida demanding that they cease and desist from “purging” voters from the rolls.  The practice was not submitted to the Department under Section 5, and would not have been approved if it had been.

·         Protecting the voting rights of members of the Armed Services.  The Department has secured court orders and consent decrees in 14 jurisdictions to better enforce the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act. 

·         Restoring the integrity of the Civil Rights Division.  After the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility completed their review of illegal, partisan hiring practices under the last Administration, their final report included recommendations for improved, transparent hiring process at the Civil Rights Division.  Under the leadership of AssistantAttorney General Tom Perez, the Division has fully adopted each of those recommendations—and is now predominantly staffed by attorneys with actual experience in the field of civil rights law.

·         Enforcing the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.  The Department’s $335 million settlement with Countrywide Financial Corporation last December compensated families who were charged higher fees and interest rates because of their race or national origin.  This enforcement action makes clear that the Department will not hesitate to hold financial institutions accountable for lending discrimination.

“Lastly, it is unfortunate that some conservative members chose to spend their allotted time criticizing the attorney general, rather than listening to the facts regarding Operation Fast and Furious, a failed ‘gun walking’ operation conceived by agents assigned to a local ATF field office and individuals in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona.  Perhaps if they took the time to listen to Mr. Holder’s response, they would realize the attorney general has been exceedingly accommodating to requests for information by this and other congressional committees.  To date, the Department of Justice has provided over 7,600 pages of documents to Congress.  It has made additional law enforcement sensitive materials available to Congress in dozens of briefings.  Senior Department officials have been questioned in hearings and transcribed interviews.  The attorney general has testified before multiple congressional committees about this issue.  In fact, today marks his eighth appearance before a congressional committee this Congress.  I find it hard to characterize his and the Department of Justice’s actions as ‘stonewalling.’”

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Conyers Joins Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. in introducing Bill to Raise Federal Minimum Wage to $10.00

U.S. Representatives John Conyers, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Jr.,
Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader announcing federal
minimum wage bill

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) joined Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), consumer advocate Ralph Nader, and the president of Public Citizen Robert Weissman at a press conference to announce the introduction of the “Catching Up To 1968 Act of 2012”, which would raise the current federal minimum wage to $10.00 per hour and require an annual increase to the minimum wage indexed to inflation.  Should the federal minimum wage be raised to $10.00, it would still be less than the minimum wage in 1968 adjusted for inflation.  The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. 

“I am pleased to join my fellow Members of Congress to advocate for the passage of Representative Jackson’s bill to raise Americans’ wages,” said Conyers.  “This legislation is long-overdue and sorely needed.  More than 30 million Americans would see their wages increased which would provide an immediate boost to the economy.  And if you look at today’s levels of inflation, average wages, and productivity, the data clearly shows that today’s minimum wage provides far less for American families than it has historically.  In fact, as the bill’s name suggests, even if raised to $10.00 per hour, the rate would still be lower than in 1968 if adjusted for inflation.  This bill is a good starting point for reversing this unacceptable historical trend in working and middle class wages.   

“The minimum wage was originally created to ensure that workers were able to secure a decent and dignified life for themselves and their families through their labor.  As the years have passed and the purchasing power provided by the minimum wage has waned, this social contract has been broken and the exploitation of low-income workers has increased at a disturbing rate.  So, I call on Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi to take up this bill with all deliberate haste, so that Congress can reverse this troublesome trend and put our country back on the path of having an economy that works for everyone, employee and employer alike.”

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Our First Black President is a Great One

Our First Black President is a Great One

President Barack Obama
and U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
President Barack Obama is unquestionably committed to improving the lives of African Americans across this country.
But, unfortunately, Frederick Harris’ recent column in The Washington Post titled “Still Waiting for our First Black President” completely dismisses all that President Obama has achieved.  Nevertheless, Harris is sadly mistaken if he believes that one column can overshadow all that President Obama has accomplished as our first great Black president.
Watching President Obama take the oath of office was a proud moment for me and all African Americans in this country.  But President Obama has served African Americans more than just by holding the title as our first Black president, and he has worked tirelessly everyday on behalf of our community.  Any attempt to discredit his achievements an attempt to set us back and all that we have fought for to get to this point.
African Americans know how hard President Obama is working for them, and for all Americans: to create an economy that’s built to last; to provide our children access to affordable education; and to ensure that every American has affordable health care.  President Obama took office at a time when our country was teetering on the edge of economic collapse.
President Obama didn’t have time to pat himself on the back for being the nation’s first African American president; he had to get to work.  And work he did.  Although he faced a Do Nothing Congress, President Obama averted a second Great Depression, passed health care reform, reformed education, increased access to higher education, and passed landmark drug sentencing reform – all policies that have undoubtedly had a positive effect on the African American community.
Every day for the past three and a half years, President Obama has worked tirelessly to put African Americans, and all Americans, back to work, and we have begun to see the fruits of that labor.  Over the past 27 consecutive months, our country has seen positive private sector job growth for a total of 4.3 million new jobs.
When the auto industry was against the ropes, President Obama stepped in and saved the industry that was once called “an engine for the African American middle class.”  Had President Obama “let Detroit go bankrupt” it would have been catastrophic for the African American community.
Instead, one million jobs were saved up and down the supply chain. Today Chrysler, Ford, and GM are all making record profits and hiring thousands of new workers across the country, many of them African Americans.
And President Obama could not forget what led in large part to the economic recession and had disproportionately affected many of our communities.  To ensure that big banks, credit card companies, and payday lenders could not unfairly victimize our communities anymore, President Obama passed Wall Street reform.  And because so many of our cities were hit hardest by the recession President Obama made large investments in our urban communities, including investments to increase public housing funds, keep rental assistance properties affordable, purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed homes, and prevent against homelessness.
Additionally, President Obama understands that education is the best investment we can make, and, unfortunately, African American kids are more likely to attend crumbling schools and receive a lower quality education.  To level the playing field, President Obama created Race to the Top, expanded educational opportunities for low-income students in urban areas by providing more funding for K-12 education in disadvantaged schools, and provided more funding to jobs training programs to ensure workers have the technical skills they need to remain competitive in an advancing economy.
Harris forgot to give President Obama credit for these initiatives, and he left out even more.  Like the fact that the Affordable Care Act will provide more than 7 million previously uninsured African Americans access to affordable health insurance and quality care.  Or that President Obama has worked to eliminate discrimination in our criminal justice system by signing the Fair Sentencing Act into law, narrowing the disparity between those convicted of possessing crack cocaine and powdered cocaine from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1.
Or that The Obama Administration settled the longstanding Pigford II litigation and that the President signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, which strengthens the protections against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, the place of your birth, or the person you love.  Or that the Department of Justice directed an investigation into the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Frederick Harris may be completely blind to all that the President and his administration have accomplished for African Americans, but I assure you that it has not gone unnoticed in the African American community.  It is clear.  When African Americans look for themselves all that President Obama has achieved in his first term, they know that he is not only a great president, but a great Black president.
The choice facing African Americans in this election could not be more clear:  they can choose a candidate who would turn back the hands of time on much of what we have fought to achieve, or they can choose a president who has fought on their behalf, has improved their lives, and will continue to move this country forward to a better tomorrow.  A grossly misleading column based on fiction will not distract us.  We know that our first Black president is truly a great one.

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