Alexander says he’s not trying ‘something different’ (as in learning right to avoid tea party anger)

Sen. Lamar Alexander said he’s not going to try an end-run to the right to avoid an upset from a Tea Party movement challenger even though accused of not being conservative enough by some, reports the Johnson City Press.

“What I’ve tried to do is what I said I would do when I ran,” Alexander said Friday during a brief interview with the Johnson City Press’ editorial board before a jobs talk at Johnson City’s Carnegie Hotel. “The people of East Tennessee know me pretty well, so if I tried to be something different this year, they wouldn’t think much of me. I’ve got conservative principles and an independent attitude, and I spend my time trying to get results in Washington.”

…Although he is known for crossing the aisle in the Democratic-controlled Senate, Alexander portrayed himself as a pragmatist, who’s more concerned with enacting workable legislation than making political statements.

“I think most Tennesseeans know very well that I’m a conservative who tries to get results,” he said. “I’ve done my best on the major issues that come before the Senate, and I think it’s up to anyone else to say what they would do instead.”

Earlier this year, the weekly political magazine the National Journal named Alexander the eighth least-conservative Republican member of the Senate in 2012, based on his bipartisan voting record.

Recently, one of Alexander’s votes that brought him the most grief from more radical figures was his approval of a comprehensive immigration reform bill authored by eight of his fellow senators. He defended the position, saying the bill fixes an obviously broken system by increasing border security, while providing a legal source of seasonal labor that much of the country’s economy depends upon.

“If we don’t do anything, we’re just freezing in place amnesty for 11 million people who are illegally here,” he said. “The legislation we voted for identifies them and does what you usually do with people who break the law, you penalize them, you fine them and you put them on a probationary status.”

The senator also said the two-week government shutdown over defunding portions of the Affordable Care Act in October was an obvious mistake.“We had a disagreement over tactics on the government shutdown,” he said.

“I’m not in the shut-down-the-government crowd, I’m in the take-over-the-government crowd. I want to elect six more Republican senators and a Republican president and change the health care law and fix the debt and secure the border for immigration. You can’t do that unless you have a majority and persuade independent voters — of which there are a lot in East Tennessee — that they can trust you with government.”