BioCongressman Steve Cohen is a fourth-generation Memphian who has dedicated his life to public service. As a child, he was stricken with polio, but through hard work, he was able to beat this debilitating disease. The challenges of living with polio as a youngster taught him early in life how to overcome obstacles through persistence and determination, values which would shape his career as a legislator. Filing to run for office on the same day he first registered to vote, Congressman Cohen stepped onto the path that has defined his life and affected the lives of people in Memphis, across Tennessee and now across America throughout his career in national, state and local politics.
During his term as a Shelby County Commissioner, Congressman Cohen cast one of the essential votes for the creation of The MED. This would be the first in a long line of votes during his career that would define his legislative philosophy- fighting to ensure the basic human rights of every American, such as access to health care.
During his 24 years in the Tennessee State Senate, Congressman Cohen amassed a strong record of passionate, honest and unselfish service. He consistently spurned special interests to stand up for the people’s interests. On issues ranging from women's rights to animal welfare, Congressman Cohen was a relentless advocate in the Tennessee State Senate even in the face of overwhelming opposition. Before he was elected to Congress, he became known throughout the state as the “Father of the Tennessee Lottery,” after leading the referendum effort that instituted arguably the most successful education initiative in Tennessee history.
Since the inception of the Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship program in 2004, over $1.5 billion has gone to students continuing their education at the college level. As a State Senator, Congressman Cohen fought for nearly twenty years before the State Lottery was established. Countless students have benefited from Congressman Cohen's tireless efforts to provide Tennesseans with access to affordable, quality, post-secondary education.
Upon election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006, Congressman Cohen immediately distinguished himself on the Hill for his thoughtful legislation and quick wit. His pointed questioning of Bush Administration officials like Alberto Gonzalez, David Addington, Monica Goodling and Michael Mukasey in the highly influential Judiciary Committee quickly earned Congressman Cohen the reputation as a champion of government accountability and a fierce interrogator. Speaker Nancy Pelosi even referred to him as the “conscience of the freshman class” in 2008. In August of 2008, he was instrumental in passing H.Res.194, a House resolution apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of African Americans. This historic legislation marked the first time the United States government has ever apologized for these past injustices. He has remained a steadfast leader on issues of importance to the people of the 9th District, leading the policy debate on issues like infant mortality, universal health care, the economy, crime and criminal rehabilitation, transportation and infrastructure, and of course, education.
Congressman Cohen has also dedicated himself to providing outstanding constituent service to the citizens of Memphis. The doors of his District Office in the Clifford Davis/Odell Horton Federal Building are always open for constituents, and Congressman Cohen held more than a dozen town halls around the city which often included visiting leaders such as Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (MI-14) and singer/activist Harry Belafonte. He has never faltered in fighting for those who do not have the power bestowed by wealth and advantage, and his goal is as it has always been- to ensure that everyone – regardless of race, class or creed – has the opportunity to achieve their American dream.