Category Archives: Lamar Alexander

Alexander endorses Rubio

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander formally endorsed Marco Rubio for president Sunday, saying he’s convinced the Florida senator would help Republicans take back the White House and that he would be “a strong and effective” leader.

Further from Michael Collins:

“Marco Rubio is the conservative candidate who can inspire us, win the election and lead our country,” the Maryville Republican said. “The stakes are high. If our nominee does not win, Hillary Clinton’s justices will control the Supreme Court for 30 years, and we’ll be stuck with Obamacare forever.”

Alexander has said for weeks that he did not plan to endorse any candidate in Tuesday’s primary election. He did not say why he decided to publicly throw his support to Rubio just two days before voters head to the polls.

In his statement, Alexander said he has watched Rubio “up close” and seen him take on a number of issues.

“I have seen him take the lead in passing new laws to impose tough new sanctions on Hezbollah terrorists and to get rid of incompetent managers who weren’t doing their jobs to help veterans,” Alexander said.

He also praised Rubio for proposing “good new ideas for giving students more options for college.”

“I am convinced he would be a strong and effective president of the United States,” he said.

Note: The press release is below.
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Alexander, Corker join GOP calls to leave Scalia’s seat empty til next year

Echoing other Republican congressmen, U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker suggested Monday that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s successor should be chosen by the next president and not by President Barack Obama, reports Michael Collins.

Both of the Tennessee Republican senators have argued in the past that a president’s Supreme Court nominees should receive an up-or-down confirmation vote in the Senate and should not be subject to a filibuster, except in extraordinary circumstances.

But in statements released Monday by their offices, Alexander and Corker sided with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said the Senate should not consider a replacement for Scalia until after the November presidential election, even though Obama has said he intends to nominate someone to fill the vacancy.

“I believe it is reasonable to give the American people a voice by allowing the next president to fill this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” said Alexander, a Maryville Republican. “Under our Constitution, the president has the right to nominate, but the Senate has the right to decide whether to consent at this point in a presidential election year.”

Corker, a Chattanooga Republican, made the same argument.

“The president has the right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and the Constitution gives the Senate the power to decide whether to confirm the nominee,” he said. “But at this point I believe it would be more prudent to have the American people express their voice in deciding the future direction of our country.”

Alexander, Corker could lose chairs in 2016 elections

Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander’s powerful chairmanships depend on outcome of Senate races with numbers stacked against GOP, observes Jack McElroy.

U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander ascended to power two years ago when the Republicans took control of the Senate. Corker became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Alexander moved into the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee.

The Democrats were especially vulnerable in the Senate in 2014, having to defend 21 of the 35 seats up for election. Seven of those were in states that had gone for Mitt Romney in 2012. So it wasn’t too surprising that the GOP came away with 54 votes in the Upper Chamber.

This year, the situation is flipped. Of the 34 seats up for election, Republicans hold 24, and seven are in states President Barack Obama carried in the last election. To retake the Senate, the Democrats need to gain five seats — four if they also win the White House and the vice president’s tie-breaking vote.

Three states are ripe for the picking: Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin. They’ve gone Democratic in recent elections even when Republicans have won the White House. Since Democratic turnout tends to increase in presidential elections more than GOP turnout does, there’s a good chance all three will drop into the Democratic column.

Control of the Senate then boils down to just a couple of states, such as Ohio and Florida, which — as usual — will be battlegrounds in the presidential election.

Note: In a perhaps related story, The Hill reports that veteran Republican senators (speaking anonymously) think chances for holding the GOP Senate majority would be better with Donald Trump as the presidential nominee than Ted Cruz.

Alexander leads talk on changing filibuster rules

Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander will lead a discussion among Republican U.S. senators next week on an effort to reform the Senate’s arcane rulebook – perhaps with new restrictions on filibusters – with the goal of approving all federal appropriations bills this year, according to Politico.

On Wednesday, shortly before heading to Baltimore for a joint retreat with House Republicans, the Senate GOP will huddle over strategies to speed the passage of spending legislation, according to a notice given to chiefs of staff obtained by POLITICO.

The discussion, led by Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, will focus on a proposal to potentially eliminate an individual senator’s power to filibuster a spending bill before it’s even debated on the Senate floor.

…Alexander said no formal proposal will be unveiled on Wednesday during the Senate GOP conference, but time is urgent as he believes such reforms are only possible many months in advance of the election.

Instead, Alexander and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), along with four Senate freshmen, will hash out what they studied over the past month under the direction of McConnell: How to get the Senate’s long, stalled appropriations process unstuck.

“We’ve talked a lot. The concern that has come out most often is about the standing around and waiting, that there’s too much time when nothing is going on,” Alexander said in a telephone interview. “We feel like we’ve had a fairly productive year, except for the appropriations process.”

… Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is deeply skeptical of any move to gut the legislative filibuster, as are a number of Senate conservatives. Those members of the GOP conference’s right flank believe that giving appropriations bills special status and eliminating a procedural leverage point for individual members serves only to further empower Reid, McConnell and their successors.

… Alexander and other Senate Republicans say they won’t use the Senate’s “nuclear option,” which requires just a slight majority to change the Senate rules and was famously used by Reid to gut the filibuster on all nominations but those to the Supreme Court in 2013.

So Republican leaders would need 67 votes to pass a rules change, a tall order in the divided Senate.

… Alexander said he would move quickly to brief Reid and other Democratic leaders, perhaps as soon as next week.

“There are a number of Democrats, including the Democratic leaders … who’ve expressed an interest in this. And we’re going to meet with them about what we’ve talked about because our goal is to something by consensus, which requires 67 votes,” Alexander said.

TN senators turn their offices into mini-museums

Lamar Alexander’s U.S. Senate office is filled with artifacts on loan from Museum of Appalachia whilestepping into U.S. Sen. Bob Corker’s office is like wandering through a modern gallery of art, according to Michael Collins.

“If you go to most senators’ offices, mostly what you see is photos of themselves with other important people,” said Corker, a Chattanooga Republican. “We try to not do that. We really are proud of our Tennessee artists, and we really love it when people come in and make comments about them.”

The distinctly Tennessee motif sets the senators’ workspace apart from other Congress members’ offices, where the wall art is more often than not limited to a state map, a few pieces of memorabilia from back home and framed grip-and-grin photos with presidents and other prominent politicians.

…One of the prized possessions Alexander keeps next to his desk is a walking stick once owned by Sam Houston. Houston reportedly left behind the mulberry-wood stick with a gold-embossed cap when he and his son visited a dying Andrew Jackson. Alexander bought it in the 1980s.

…But it’s the Appalachian artifacts on display that cause passers-by to stop in their tracks and come in for a closer look.

The display showcases roughly 100 collectibles from rural life in Tennessee.

There’s something called a flax hackle — basically a board with spikes used to comb the fine fibers from flax stalks that would be made into linen cloth. Among the other contraptions in the exhibit are a fox-skin scarf, a wooden rope, a gourd dipper, a prisoner-made guitar fashioned out of matchsticks, a wooden snake carving and a fly shoo made out of strips of newspaper.
…The artwork in Corker’s office draws its own share of compliments.

Some 42 pieces — 32 of them by Tennessee artists — are scattered throughout the senator’s suite of offices.

A sunset-over-the-river piece by Memphis artist Kurt Meer hangs in a passageway connecting the offices. Another painting depicting the lush green mountains of Sevier County adorns the office of Corker’s chief of staff.

…No taxpayer money is spent on the art. Thirteen of the pieces are on loan from Tennessee galleries. The rest are part of the personal collection belonging to the senator and his wife, Elizabeth, an interior decorator. All of the art is insured, and Corker pays the cost out of his own pocket.

Former presidential candidate Lamar! on current ‘reality show’

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander
NASHVILLE, Dec. 20—U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said this morning on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” Sunday show that most voters in New Hampshire and Iowa “have not yet finally made their minds up.” Alexander reminded viewers that his own experience twenty years ago showed that early presidential primaries can quickly reshape poll figures.

Alexander told the show’s cohosts, reporters Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call and Alyson Klein of Education Week, that he was at 1 percent in national polls eight weeks before the New Hampshire 1996 primary – but after a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses was leading in Sen. Bob Dole’s New Hampshire polls the weekend before that state’s primary.

“They hadn’t [finally decided yet at this time] 20 years ago … And I think [voters are] going to go from looking at a reality show — which is what this has been this year — to saying, ‘Who is going to deal with Putin? Who is going to help me get a better job? Who really can make a sensible decision about ISIS and the fear we have from attacks we have in our own country?’”
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Alexander, Corker vote for fed budget deal

Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker both voted in favor of a $1.1 trillion federal spending package as it cleared the Senate 65-33 today.

The House had approved earlier and the measure now goes to President Obama for his anticipated signature. Only one Republican member of Tennessee’s House delegation, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, voted for the bill. (Previous post on TN House vote HERE.)

Alexander’s press release — including a listing of Tennessee-specific items in the legislation — is below. The full Senate roll call vote is HERE.
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Alexander’s ‘Christmas present’ education bill clears Congress

By Jennifer C. Kerr, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The way the nation’s public schools are evaluated — teachers, students and the schools themselves — is headed for a major makeover, with a sweeping shift from federal to state control over school accountability and student testing.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 85-12 to approve legislation rewriting the landmark No Child Left Behind education law of 2002, now widely unpopular and criticized as unworkable and unrealistic. The White House said President Barack Obama would sign it Thursday.

The bill would keep a key feature of No Child: the federally mandated statewide reading and math exams in grades three to eight and one such test in high school. But it would encourage states to limit the time students spend on testing, and it would diminish the high stakes associated with these exams for underperforming schools.

The measure would substantially limit the federal government’s role, barring the Education Department from telling states and local districts how to assess school and teacher performance.

There was strong bipartisan support for the bill, which had been endorsed by the nation’s governors, teachers’ unions, chief school officers and administrators.

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who leads the Senate Education Committee, called it a “Christmas present” to 50 million children across the country.
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Alexander yes; Corker no on new fed highway bill

Sen. Lamar Alexander voted yes on the new highway funding bill and praised it. Sen. Bob Corker voted no on the “gimmick-laden” bill. It passed and goes now to President Obama for his expected signature.

Here are the press releases:

News release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement after voting against the conference report on the Senate and House of Representatives highway bills.

“I am extremely disappointed that both Republicans and Democrats have passed this gimmick-laden piece of legislation that weakens our nation and in no way pays for our country’s important infrastructure in real time,” said Corker. “Yet again, Congress has pulled a fast one on the American people by painting a rosy picture so that they can feel good now but in reality Washington is throwing future generations under the bus by failing to put in place a long-term funding mechanism for the Highway Trust Fund.”

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), if the legislation is enacted, ‎the Highway Trust Fund will run a nearly $100 billion shortfall between 2021 and 2025.

“This legislation does not solve the real problem. It simply kicks the can down the road,” added Corker. “Both parties should be embarrassed that they have allowed the Highway Trust Fund to become one of the largest budgeting failures in the federal government. In coming years, Congress still will be faced with the challenge of putting in place a long-term funding mechanism for these important programs.”
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Former Gibson County sheriff and employees indicted

News release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
JACKSON – A joint investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and investigators with the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury has resulted in the indictment and arrest of the former Gibson County Sheriff and several of his former employees on charges including theft and official misconduct.

At the request of 28th District Attorney General Pro Tem Rachel Sobrero, on January 28th, TBI Special Agents joined investigators with the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury to investigate a report that when current Sheriff Paul Thomas took office in September 2014, items were missing from the Sheriff’s Department. During the course of the investigation, an audit was performed and the results showed several discrepancies between the dates of July 2013 through September 2014, in the areas of employee pay compensation, drug fund accounting, and distribution of prescriptions made out in inmates’ names.

Through the investigation, TBI Agents learned that former Sheriff Chuck Arnold and former Chief Deputy Jeff Maitland allowed employees to be paid for regular and/or overtime hours they didn’t work. Special Agents also developed information that Arnold, Maitland and Renea Terrell, a nurse practitioner who contracted with the Sheriff’s Department, were involved in writing and filling prescriptions for controlled substances in the names of inmates who never received the medication. The investigation further revealed that Arnold removed money from the drug fund for his personal use, and forged documents using another individual’s name.

On Monday, the Gibson County Grand Jury returned indictments charging 12 individuals on a variety of charges. This evening, those individuals were arrested, and at the time of this release, were being booked into the Gibson County Correctional Complex.

The list of those charged is as follows:
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