Category Archives: Lamar Alexander

Lamar: TNReady troubles are Obama’s fault

OK, so the headline is a somewhat an exaggeration. Here’s the WPLN report:

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says federal interference could be at fault for the state’s continued delays in standardized testing. He spoke at Belmont University Monday about passing his fix to the No Child Left Behind law. He also addressed Tennessee’s problems moving to a new test.

TNReady wasn’t the original plan. Tennessee was supposed to use the PARCC test that goes along with Common Core classroom standards. But when lawmakers decided to back away from Common Core, they also decided to go with a new test — even though that meant hiring a company for $107 million to design a new one.

Senator Alexander chairs the education committee and previously served as the country’s top education official. But he blames the feds.

“You had the backlash to Common Core, so you had to change Common Core,” he said during a presentation to students and education officials. “Then you had to change the assessment. Well you can’t just do that overnight, and it costs a lot of money. And a lot of that was because people felt like Washington was telling Tennessee what its standards and tests ought to be.”

At the moment, state education officials are primarily pointing fingers at the company hired to create TNReady. This week, Measurement Inc. said it could not guarantee that the paper tests would be delivered in time for students to take them by the state’s deadline of May 10.

Note: Alexander’s press release on his Belmont speech is below. Continue reading

Senate votes to place James K. Polk home in national park system

From Michael Collins:
On the same day the U.S. Treasury announced that Andrew Jackson’s image would be removed from the front of the $20 bill, Congress moved a step closer toward declaring James K. Polk’s Tennessee childhood home a national treasure.

A bill that passed the U.S. Senate last Wednesday contains a provision directing the Interior Secretary to study the feasibility of preserving the 11th president’s home in Columbia, just southwest of Nashville, as part of the national park system.

The two-story, brick structure, built in 1816 by Polk’s father while the future president was attending the University of North Carolina, is where Polk returned after graduation and where he began his legal and political career. The house contains more than 1,300 objects and original items from Polk’s years in Tennessee and Washington, including furniture, White House artifacts and political memorabilia.

Getting the house added to the national park system not only would make sense from a historical perspective, said U.S. Sen Lamar Alexander, a Maryville Republican.

It also would bring Polk’s legacy full circle. His last act as president was to sign the legislation that created the Interior Department, the agency that includes the National Park Service.

“Tennessee is full of history, and the presidency of James K. Polk is one of our state’s great contributions to our nation’s history,” Alexander said. “Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for the presidential home of the president who created the Department of Interior, the home of the National Park Service, to be managed by the National Park Service? I sure think so.”

Lamar accuses U.S. education secretary of ignoring law

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander angrily accused the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday of blatantly ignoring part of the new school reform law that Congress passed last year, reports the News Sentinel.

In an unusual public scolding, Alexander told Education Secretary John B. King Jr. the department is not adhering to a key section of the law that relates to funding for low-income schools.

“Not only is what you’re doing against the law,” Alexander said during a Senate committee hearing, “the way you’re trying to do it is against another provision in the law.”

King tried to assure Alexander the Education Department is not circumventing the law, but is merely proposing regulations to give guidance to states and local school districts. But Alexander was not convinced.

“I can read,” he said bluntly.

The law in question is the Every Student Succeeds Act, which Congress passed last year to replace the No Child Left Behind school-reform law put in place more than a decade earlier.

Alexander, a Maryville Republican, was one of the primary architects of the new law in his role as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The committee is holding a series of hearings on how the Obama administration is implementing the law.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Alexander accused the Department of Education of overstepping its authority and trying to work around a provision that says federal funding must be used to supplement state and local spending on education.

Another section of the law requires comparable spending between Title I schools — those with large numbers of disadvantaged students — and schools that are not Title I.The “comparability” provision has been in federal law since 1970, and Congress did not change it when the new school reform law passed last year.

But Alexander charged the department is trying to implement new regulations that would require equal, not comparable, spending per pupil. He also accused the department of trying to dictate the methodology that local school districts must use when calculating whether funding between schools is comparable — a move he said is not allowed under the law.

King disputed that. The department is not requiring any particular methodology, he said, but is simply trying to give schools the flexibility to measure the goal of comparable funding.

“How can you sit there and say that?” an exasperated Alexander asked, arguing that the proposed regulations clearly dictate how states must go about measuring comparability.

Alexander warned he would use “every power of Congress” to make sure the law is implemented the way it was written.

Alexander: ‘Sam Houston is my hero’

A statue of Sam Houston was dedicated over the weekend at Maryville, where the former governor of Tennessee and Texas spent some time during his boyhood. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, also a former Tennessee governor who claims Maryville as his hometown, was on hand and made a speech.

From the News Sentinel account:

“As a boy, I was fascinated with this man,” Alexander said. “Whether he had grown up in Maryville or not, Sam Houston is my hero.”

Alexander, who said his son and grandson are named after Houston, also showed off Houston’s former walking stick.

Born in Virginia, Houston moved in the early 1800s with his widowed mother and siblings to a family farm his father had purchased in the Bear’s Creek and Morganton communities near Maryville.

He lived there for a while, as well as with the Cherokees at Hiwassee Island between Knoxville and Chattanooga. About 1812 at the age of 19, Houston taught school in Blount County before embarking on a career that saw him become a military hero as well as governor of Tennessee and later Texas. As Texas governor, he opposed secession from the Union at the time of the Civil War.

Houston’s great-great-granddaughter, Madge Thornall Roberts, said while Houston’s time in the Maryville area was short, it made a major impact on his life due to the positive influence of his mother there and his association with the Cherokees.

…The statue was constructed by sculptor Wayne Hyde of Pennsylvania in collaboration with noted Gallatin, Tenn., historical painter David Wright… The sculpture shows Houston wearing a hunting shirt and carrying a pouch and powder horn, as well as a pipe, tomahawk and beaded sachet to show the Cherokee influence. A rifle belonging to Davy Crockett was used as the model for Houston’s gun, Wright said.

House votes thanks to Alexander, Corker for SCOTUS stance

A partisan debate topic on the House floor Thursday was a resolution by state Rep. Andy Holt offering thanks to Tennessee’s two U.S. senators for declaring they will not vote for anyone nominated by President Barack Obama as a U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

“We hereby thank Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker for their position to not move forward on a nomination to the Supreme Court by the current administration and expect their decision to refrain from entertaining a nomination by the current administration be sustained regardless of any conditions,” declares HR178.

“It looks like to me like we’ve got more important things to do than compliment senators on not doing the job they’re supposed to do … or for doing the job they’re supposed to do, for that matter,” said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley.

But Holt said it was appropriate for legislators to back Alexander and Corker in refusing to consider Obama nominees when “his presidency is coming to a close, thank goodness.” Other Republicans, including Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin and Rep. William Lamberth of Gallatin, rallied to the cause in speeches.

Casada read quotations from Vice President Joe Biden, speaking when he was a Democratic U.S. senator, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York in opposition to Republican presidents submitting nominees to the Supreme Court late in their terms.

Lamberth noted the Legislature regularly passes resolutions honoring sports teams, couples celebrating wedding anniversaries, students chosen as class valedictorian and the like.

“We should recognize people when they’ve done something good,” he said, and the senators’ stance meets that standard.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, quoted the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose death created the court vacancy at issue in Washington, as declaring senators should act promptly on court nominees and “would have been in opposition to what we’re complementing our senators for doing.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart of Nashville complained about “engaging in these partisan games” and supporting U.S. Senate Republicans in “obstructionism that the public finds so abhorrent.”

The resolution was approved on a 70-24 vote. Only one Democrat, Rep. John Mark Windle of Livingston, voted for it and no Republican voted against it, though four did not vote.

Holt filed the measure as a House-only resolution, so it does not go to the Senate and a copy will now be officially sent to Alexander and Corker.

Alexander, Corker hopeful TN judge will be confirmed

U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker say they’re still hopefully that Nashville lawyer Waverly Crenshaw will be confirmed as a U.S. District Court judge in Nashville, even though an effort to schedule a vote this week was derailed by Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

Further from The Tennessean:

Obama nominated Crenshaw in February 2015 with support from Tennessee Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. Once confirmed, Crenshaw would replace U.S. District Judge William Joseph Haynes Jr., who took senior status in December 2014.

“Obviously around here, until something’s done, it’s not,” Corker said Thursday. “I know there is a tremendous load of work in the Nashville office that needs to get done, and we’ve talked a great deal with the other judges there and know this position needs to be confirmed.”

The federal court system considers the Nashville vacancy a judicial emergency because of the number of major cases filed there.

Asked about the oddity of a Republican senator blocking a nominee supported by both Republican home-state senators, Corker said, “Around here you learn to take things in stride and keep moving ahead.”

…Alexander said he’s asked Republican leaders to bring Crenshaw’s nomination up for a confirmation vote.

“I think he would make an excellent federal district judge,” Alexander said.

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, said Crenshaw deserves to be confirmed.

“He has done everything right — endorsement by both our senators and unanimous vote from committee — only to be torpedoed by Texas Senator Cornyn,” Cooper said. “I hope Cornyn reconsiders his stance because we desperately need another judge in Middle Tennessee.”

Also awaiting a confirmation vote is Edward Stanton, nominated to fill a U.S. District Court vacancy in Tennessee’s Western District. Obama nominated Stanton last May and he was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in October.

Note: For more, see Politico’s report, HERE.

Recalling ‘no chance’ Trump vs. ‘ineffectiveness’ Alexander

From the News Sentinel:
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander didn’t think much of Donald Trump’s chances when the New York billionaire was making noise about running for president in 2012.

“There’s always someone like Donald Trump who has absolutely no chance of winning,” Alexander said at the time during an appearance on CNN. “He’s famous for being famous.”

Angered, Trump shot back that he didn’t know Alexander and had “heard very little about him over the years, perhaps because of a certain ineffectiveness.”

Trump decided to sit out the race that year. But fast-forward to 2016, and Trump is not only running, he has won 10 of 15 states that already have held primaries or caucuses and is the front-runner for the GOP nomination.

Alexander declined Friday to say whether he would vote for Trump if he’s the party’s nominee this fall.

“Look, the Super Bowl belongs at the end of the season, not a third of the way through,” the Maryville Republican said in statement, issued by his office in response to questions from the News Sentinel.

“There are a lot of states and a convention left to go,” Alexander said. “I have always supported the Republican ticket, but ask me that question when we have a nominee.”

Alexander has endorsed Marco Rubio of Florida, saying the Florida senator would help Republicans take back the White House and that he would be “a strong and effective” leader. Alexander appeared with Rubio at a campaign rally in Knoxville on Monday.

…In his clash with Alexander before the last presidential race, Trump said of the state’s senior senator, “As a Republican, I will not be looking for his support but think that, if I run, I will do very well in the state of Tennessee.”

Trump carried Tennessee by 14 points in the Super Tuesday election earlier this week.

Rubio campaigns with Alexander, Haslam; bashes Trump

Republican presidential aspirant Marco Rubio made an election eve visit to Knoxville Monday, joined by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and Gov. Bill Haslam at a rally where he criticized both Republican frontrunner Donald Trump and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Further from the News Sentinel:

The U.S. senator from Florida presented himself as an alternative to frontrunner Donald Trump — whom he said has spent his life “cheating the little guy” — that can defeat presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“We can’t allow Hillary Clinton to be elected,” he said, drawing a rousing “No” from the crowd of about 1,300 in a hangar at TAC Air Knoxville at McGhee Tyson Airport a day before Tennessee holds its primary as part of Super Tuesday.

…”She lied to families of the victims in Benghazi,” he said, referencing the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Libya in which four Americans were killed, including the U.S. ambassador.

…The crowd greeted Rubio with shouts of “Rocky Top” a couple of times and then yelling out his name as he entered the hanger after his plane touched down at the airport. Former Congressman Zach Wamp, Rubio’s Tennessee chairman, prepped the crowd in advance.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who endorsed Rubio on Sunday, said he would vote for him on Tuesday.

“He’s a conservative who can inspire us,” Alexander said.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Republicans “only can win if we have the right person” who knows what he wants to do as president. Trump is malleable and indicates he’ll work things out as needed, the former Knoxville mayor said.

“It will be too late,” Haslam said.

Haslam also noted that Rubio had served in state government.

“He understands powers (of government) are to be led by the state,” Haslam said.

Rubio picked up on that theme and said if elected president he will embrace the U.S. Constitution and its amendments, particularly the 10th, which provides “that government has power at the state level, not in Washington.”

Rubio spent much of his talk Monday saying Trump’s candidacy was taking advantage of people’s fears, anger and anxieties and questioned how the New York billionaire could blame “an earpiece” for not understanding questions about white nationalist David Duke’s support. This was a reference to Trump’s explanation Monday on misunderstanding questions on CNN over the weekend about who was supporting him.

“He refuses to criticize the Ku Klux Klan,” Rubio said, asking rhetorically how could someone like that become the Republican standard bearer in November.

AP’s election day story on TN presidential primary

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee voters are heading to the polls to make their choices in the state’s Super Tuesday presidential primary.

The primary comes after several days of spirited campaigning around the state by all five candidates seeking the Republican nomination and by one of the two Democrats remaining in the race.

Sixty-seven delegates are up from grabs in the Democratic primary, while 58 Republican delegates will be split up among any candidates that reach a threshold of 20 percent of the vote.

While Tennessee Republicans have given the nod to religious conservatives in the last two presidential primaries, Donald Trump has drawn huge crowds and widespread support in this year’s campaign.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has built a strong campaign structure in Tennessee and has held several rallies around the state.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Lamar Alexander have endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who made the final candidate visit to the state Monday.

“This is an election that we can and should win, but we only win if we nominate the right person,” Haslam told the crowd at the Knoxville airport.

Alexander said he endorsed Rubio because “the stakes are high” in the general election this fall.

“If our nominee does not win the election in November, Hillary Clinton’s justices will control the Supreme Court for the next 30 years, and we’ll have Obamacare forever,” he said.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker is alone among Tennessee’s three statewide elected officials to decline to endorse a presidential candidate.

“I certainly plan to support the Republican nominee and believe the American voters will choose who they think is the best person to lead our country,” Corker said in an emailed statement.

Rubio and Cruz have stepped up their criticism of Donald Trump in advance of Super Tuesday. Trump held a large rally outside Memphis on Saturday, predicting big wins in Tennessee and other states.

“We’re going to win Tennessee,” he said. “We’re going to win everything.”

Ben Carson also campaigned in Nashville and Memphis over the weekend, and Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich held a series of town halls in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville, complaining about the tenor of the debate among GOP candidates.

“Enough of this trash!” Kasich said at his Nashville event Saturday.

On the Democratic side, Clinton held a rally at Meharry Medical College in Nashville on Sunday, where she lamented the failure of efforts to expand Medicaid in Tennessee.

“I’m really sorry that your state did not extend Medicaid to 200,000 working Tennesseans,” she said. “I’m going to do whatever I can as president to convince governors and state legislatures.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” she said.

The only presidential candidate not to make an appearance in Tennessee before the primary was Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

On Kasich campaign stops in Nashville, Knoxville

In a Nashville campaign stop Saturday, Ohio Gov. John Kasich blasted the name-calling that has ricocheted between his opponents throughout the campaign, according to the Tennessean.

“Enough of this trash,” he said repeatedly as a crowd of supporters rose for a standing ovation. “Be better than that. We’re America.”

Kasich got a boost before his speech from Alberto Gonzales, the dean of Belmont University’s law school and former U.S. Attorney General, who introduced him to a crowd of hundreds at Rocketown. Gonzales reflected on his experiences working with President George W. Bush and said Kasich had the right temperament for the job.

During a question-and-answer session after a brief speech, Kasich supporters in the audience seemed frustrated by the tenor of the presidential debate so far. One supporter urged Kasich to run as a third-party candidate, a request he denied even as he admitted his party had problems.

“We’re not the party of ideas as much as we should. And we need to be,” he said. “You know why we got Obamacare? Because Republicans didn’t do anything.”

While he didn’t mention Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Ted Cruz by name, he repeatedly referenced their verbal sparring. Kasich said his opponents were “yelling and wrestling on the floor” during the latest debate.

At a Knox County Republican Party gathering, reports the News Sentinel, Kasich talked balanced budgets and job creation.
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