Category Archives: Tea Party

Tea Party moves to oppose TN gas tax hike before it’s proposed

News release from Nashville Tea Party:
NASHVILLE: The Nashville Tea Party, a Tennessee non-profit group, today expressed strong opposition to an increase in the Tennessee Gas Tax and said over 5,000 Tennesseans have expressed their opposition by signing the petition at “Tennesseans are already paying 40 cents in federal and states gas taxes for every gallon they purchase and that is enough. We welcome an election year discussion of a gas tax increase,” said Ben Cunningham, President of the Nashville Tea Party.

“This petition has grown to 5,000 plus names with very little publicity because Tennesseans are fed up with politicians who refuse to make hard decisions. Many politicians are content to force hardworking taxpayers to cut their family budgets by raising taxes instead of prioritizing state government spending. We expect many more Tennesseans will sign the petition between now and the next legislative session. We will be prepared to contact the signers, so they can be part of the election year discussion of gas taxes during next year’s legislative session.”

Coalitions of road builders and other “stake holders” who want more taxpayer money are lobbying for a gas tax increase next year. And yet CNBC, in their annual ranking of “Top States for Business” ranked Tennessee 4th and 2nd in “Infrastructure and Transportation” in 2014 and 2013. “If Tennessee will continue to spend gas tax money on roads and focus on that priority, our legislators can protect taxpayer’s family budgets from a gas tax hike. Environmental and mass transit advocacy groups always have a long laundry list of projects which require more tax money, but most of them are not directly related to roads,” said Cunningham.

“Our pay as you go approach and our emphasis on roads has resulted in a state road system that is among the best in the U.S. While other states have sunk billions in bullet trains and other mass transit boondoggles, Tennessee has remained focused on roads. If we retain our focus on roads we can keep a top ranked road system and still have the low taxes which continue to be our biggest advantage in attracting businesses and families from across the US,” Cunningham concluded.

On killing Insure TN: Mistrust, disinformation, lack of legislative leadership

Excerpts from Richard Locker’s review of the failure of Insure Tennessee, appearing online under the headline, “Mistrust, disinformation, lack of legislative leadership, outside groups sank governor’s health plan.”
“The opponents labeled the governor’s plan Obamacare. It wasn’t, but in the end, I don’t think we could get beyond the label the opponents put on it,” said Sen. Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, who sponsored the governor’s plan in the Senate.

…Several Republican lawmakers clearly gave the Beacon Center’s claims before legislative committees more credence than those of Haslam and Republican State Atty. Gen. Herbert Slatery. Both tried to assure them — Slatery in a 14-page formal legal opinion — that the state could halt the health plan whenever it wanted. It was a two-year “pilot” program.

Americans for Prosperity also put on a full-court press, calling in 200 “grassroots” opponents, giving them red T-shirts and planting them in the Senate committee room where the hearings occurred. It ran a radio ad in the district of Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, accusing him of “betraying” a campaign pledge against Obamacare because he said he was open to considering the governor’s plan, and threatened similar election-time retaliation against others.

Both groups took credit for killing the plan. Overbey said “they played a significant role in its defeat and in continuing, incorrectly, to call this a Medicaid expansion.”

Legislators said privately that those groups and others fed them a steady flow of claims, that Tennessee couldn’t end the program without federal approval, that it would increase the federal deficit and that only 16 percent of the estimated 280,000 people who would be eligible work full-time year round. The University of Tennessee Center for Business and Economic Research said most of those who would be helped are employed but can’t afford health coverage.

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said the “absence of a clear, written agreement between the federal government and the State of Tennessee made passage impossible. We could not in good conscience put our stamp of approval on a mere verbal agreement with the Obama administration.”

But there was a written agreement: the proposed amendment to Tennessee’s 22-year-old waiver from the federal Medicaid program that enables the state to operate Medicaid as an alternative called TennCare. Haslam gave lawmakers the 20-page waiver proposal that spelled out the plan’s details.

It wasn’t final, opponents countered.

It couldn’t be, under the terms of a law the legislature enacted last year forbidding the governor from signing any Medicaid expansion agreement under the ACA without prior legislative approval.

“With the legislation that we passed last year, the General Assembly basically dictated this sequencing and the governor was caught in a ‘Catch 22’,” Overbey said.

…Some legislators said privately they resented the hospital administrators who flooded the hallways Tuesday and Wednesday. After Memphis-area hospital CEOs hosted Shelby County legislators at a Memphis steak house the previous week, opposition groups told legislators the hospital CEOs collectively are paid millions of dollars, which reverberated around the halls.

Protest against Insure TN planned at legislature

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Opponents of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to extend health coverage to 280,000 low-income Tennesseans are planning to protest at the legislative office complex on Tuesday.

Tea party groups, the Tennessee Firearms Association and the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity are urging their members to arrive early enough to clear security and gain seats in legislative committee rooms.

Haslam insists his Insure Tennessee proposal is different than straight Medicaid expansion because it would offer vouchers to buy private insurance and require co-pays for services. But opponents note that the program is funded through federal dollars available under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Haslam introduced his plan to a joint session of the General Assembly on Monday evening, and legislative committees are scheduled to hold their first hearings Tuesday.

Republicans welcome Obama in Knoxville; tea party folk hold a ‘laugh-in’

President Obama will have three Tennessee Republican congressmen with him on Air Force One when he flies to Knoxville today – U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. along with Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

Others will be welcoming him on the ground, ranging from Gov. Bill Haslam to recently-elected state Rep. Eddie Smith, reports the News Sentinel under the headline “Partisan posturing not making the trip with Obama.”

“Any time you get a president that comes to town, it’s great because it puts a spotlight on the community,” Smith said.

In a district that flipped parties, Smith sees the value of reaching across party lines to get things done. That’s one reason, according to Smith, that he’s going to see the Democratic president in person.

“We can disagree on how we get there and some politics,” Smith said. “At some point you have to sit down and work together.”

Granted, a state legislator may not work with the leader of the free world on much legislation, but Smith does recognize common bonds.

“There is a lot more that unites us than divides us,” he said.

…For those not pleased with Obama’s visit, limited roadside access to the presidential motorcade is a problem.

Instead of standing along Pellissippi Parkway in protest, the Knoxville Tea Party has asked its members to stage a “laugh in.”

Details came in an email to members Thursday.

“With security not allowing people on the near roads or overpasses — and no release of what time his majesty will decide to grace us — we’re taking another tack. If there’s one thing dictators hate — it’s being made fun of. So — we’re going to unleash a media ‘Laugh In protest,’ ” the email advised readers.

Members were encouraged to inundate websites of local media, including the News Sentinel, with posts about Obama, “to protest with humor.”

So what are the appropriate terms to use in reporting on GOP wing wars?

Excerpt from a Jack McElroy column on the labels appropriate for reporting on the Republican wing wars:

Clearly the GOP is divided, but what do we call the two sides of the divide?

“Liberal” and “conservative” are out of the question. There’s no such thing as a liberal Republican in 2014. Even “moderate” is considered pejorative.

Are they just conservatives and really conservatives?

Vanderbilt political science professor John Geer has made reference to the Bill Haslam and Ron Ramsey wings of the party, the followers of the business-first governor and “Red to the Roots” Senate leader. I guess we could refer to the Haslamians and Ramseyites, though those sound more like Old Testament tribes than new millennium voting blocs.

The term that is used widely for the loyal opposition is, of course, tea party Republicans. But that’s where I’ve been taking heat. For months, state Rep. Bill Dunn has questioned the News Sentinel’s imprecise use of that term, most recently last week:

“Today’s editorial once again mentions tea party Republicans,” he wrote. “I still don’t know what that means or how you determine who is in that camp. … I really wish you would stop using the term. It makes you seem really biased, especially when you don’t use similar monikers for Democrats.”

I’ve admitted to Dunn, a thoughtful and hard-to-pigeonhole conservative, that we shouldn’t throw the term around willy-nilly. However, the comparison to Democrats isn’t particularly relevant. There are not enough of them left to divide. And in the face of the GOP’s super-duper majority, who cares what they’re called anyway?

As to determining who is in “that camp?” Womick got 15 votes in his race against Harwell. Balloting in caucuses is secret. But I suspect those 15 would be happy to be called tea party Republicans.

Joe Carr still balks at backing Alexander; Ditto for tea party leader

Joe Carr still won’t endorse Lamar Alexander, who beat him in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, and neither will a Nashville tea party leader, according to The Tennessean.

“I told him I would welcome his endorsement and would like to have it,” Alexander said. “I gave him my personal email and my personal telephone number.”

…“I’m still waiting for Lamar’s senior staff to get back in touch with me so that we can continue that conversation,” Carr said.

Carr said he doesn’t believe his endorsement is as important as some might think. But after months of hammering the senator for being part of the problem in Washington, he’s not quite ready to help send him back.

“We don’t need to be sitting it out, but what I’m hearing from people potentially sitting it out is because of the frustration that the more things change, the more things stay the same.”

For months, Alexander has had to explain his position on Common Core and his vote last year for a comprehensive immigration bill that offered a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Now Ball, in an unlikely move for a Democrat, is trying to exploit both in the general election.

Carr said he wants Alexander to publicly oppose Common Core and to take a stand against allowing the nation’s undocumented immigrants to become citizens.

Alexander has said he wants states to make all decisions regarding Common Core. Alexander has said his approach to citizenship would penalize illegal immigrants and not let them get any benefits.

… Ben Cunningham, president of the Nashville Tea Party, which endorsed Carr, said Alexander’s campaign has reached out to several Tennessee tea party organizations. His declined to meet, he said, and the group has opted not to back Alexander for the general election.

He said tea party backers who do vote for Alexander will do so reluctantly.

“Realistically, Lamar Alexander is going to win. He’s going to come out ahead, and we’ll have six more years of what we’ve had for the last 12 years.”

Tea party people take heart in Carr’s showing against Alexander

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, the elder statesman of Tennessee politics, a primary challenge by a little-known tea party opponent was supposed to be little more than a glorified victory lap around the state.

Instead, the former governor and two-time presidential candidate had to crank up the campaign machinery in the closing weeks of the Republican primary to fend off state Rep. Joe Carr.

And while Alexander ultimately won, it was by just 9 percentage points — a far smaller margin than his campaign and most political observers had expected. The result is giving hope to tea party supporters they could be poised to break the moderate wing of the state Republican Party’s decades-long grip on statewide races.

“It is another step in the maturation of the tea party movement,” said Ben Cunningham, the president of the Nashville Tea Party. “After the disappointment of losing, I wouldn’t call it a euphoria, but lots of confidence about the possibilities for the future.”

Cunningham said the results reflected greater coordination between disparate tea party groups, giving activists valuable on-the-ground experience in trying to support a statewide effort.

“A lot was learned just in terms of the nuts and bolts of elections,” he said. “That will certainly help going forward.”
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Womick bashes Haslam, Cate for ‘treasonous targeting’ of conservative GOP legislators

In a Thursday letter addressed to Mark Cate, chief of staff for Gov. Bill Haslam, Republican state Rep. Rick Womick says the governor is guility of “treasonous targeting” of Republican legislators in the August primary election campaign.

The letter further accuses Attorney General Bob Cooper and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman of “Clitonesque spin” in defending the delay in releasing student testing scores earlier this year and in granting waivers to school systems.

Here are the two concluding paragraphs:

In summary, the purpose of this letter is twofold. First, is the necessity to respond to the untruthful spin you profess regarding the success of Commissioner Huffman and CCSS. Secondly, this letter is the result of multiple requests by my fellow representatives who want to express their dissatisfaction with Commissioner Huffman, the Administration’s implementation of Common Core State Standards, and the political retribution imposed by the governor upon representatives of the TGA who openly oppose his education policies. Because of the latter, the names and signatures of other State Senators and State Representatives will not be placed upon this letter. As duly elected representatives we serve and answer only to those citizens who elected us. Rest assured, we will continue to represent and listen to them!

Allow me to close with a bit of advice for the future; be careful with whom you choose to pick a fight. For those of us who are military officers, our Oath of office is for life; it has no statute of limitations. We are loyal, we are dedicated, we are unwavering, and we are willing to die upholding that oath. But more specifically, as an old Air Force fighter pilot, we may live in fame, or we may go down in flames, but we will always stand firm and fight! There are always consequences for decisions we make in life; but woe to those are the repercussions for betrayal and disloyalty.

Note: Post Politics has the full letter HERE.

Washington Post: In TN, it’s tea party versus Howard Baker’s legacy

The Washington Post has an interesting (and lengthy) look at Tennessee’s ongoing U.S. Senate campaign and the state’s voting traditions. An excerpt:

(In Tennessee,) the tea party activists are competing against more than just one sitting senator and a Republican establishment lined up behind him. They are running against Baker’s legacy — a culture of Republican politics that has married conservative principles with pragmatic attitudes about governing.

For half a century, Tennessee voters have elected a succession of Republicans to statewide office who are more problem-solvers than ideologues, consensus-seekers rather than rabble-rousers. The current trio — Alexander, Sen. Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam — all embody in one way or another the Baker tradition.

“They don’t want big government, but they do want government to work,” said John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University.

… Chip Saltsman, a GOP strategist and former Tennessee Republican Party chairman, said of the three, “There’s not a hard edge to them.”

… Carr, in a telephone interview, said Alexander is insufficiently conservative, wrong for having supported an overhaul of immigration law and far too willing to work with Democrats, and even President Obama. He called Baker a “great statesman” but said this of Baker and Alexander’s style of politics: “I don’t believe it’s suited to the times we’re in.”

Alexander believes Baker’s approach is as vital today as ever. Every Republican in the Senate, he said, is a conservative. “It’s like saying, ‘Who’s the skinniest offensive tackle?’ They’re all over 300 pounds, so what’s the difference?”

He argued that governing a complex country in difficult times requires developing relationships and finding consensus across party lines. The real conflict inside the Republican Party is not conservatives vs. moderates, he said, but rather “between conservatives who think their job is finished when they make a speech and conservatives who want to govern.”

… Over many years, Tennessee has produced a striking number of senators from both parties who have achieved national prominence. Many ran for the presidency or were considered presidential material — Democratic senators such as Al Gore (and before him Estes Kefauver and Albert Gore Sr.) and Republicans such as Fred Thompson and Bill Frist, who rose to majority leader (and before them Bill Brock). Past governors have been cut from the same cloth — Republican Don Sundquist and or Democrats Ned McWherter and Phil Bredesen.

“What there is [in Tennessee] is a tradition of electing honorable, capable, thoughtful leaders,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster who is working for Alexander and Haslam this year. “It happens in Tennessee in a way that it hasn’t in almost any other state, and it’s been going on for decades.”

Why are conservative national Super PACs not backing Carr? Maybe because of Flinn

Within a general review of the Republican U.S. Senate primary, Andy Sher has some commentary on why Joe Carr has been able to get “celebrity conservatives” (i.e., Laura Ingraham and Sarah Palin) to endorse him but not the arch-conservative national Super PACS with big money.

“We don’t have any intention of being involved in the Senate Republican primary in the state of Tennessee,” said Barney Keller, spokesman for the Club for Growth, which has backed any number of challengers to GOP incumbents.

Asked why, Keller would only say, “Sometimes we get involved in races and sometimes you don’t.”

The Senate Conservatives Fund did not respond to an email request for comment.

Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the Washington-based nonpartisan newsletter The Rothenberg Political Report, said these days one has to “pause before assuming that a sitting senator is just going to win a primary.

“But,” he added, “I’ll have to say it doesn’t look like there’s been the same consolidation of the support against the senator that we’ve kind of seen take place in the other races.”

Gonzales’ take is that Flinn’s being in the race has caused the largest groups “to pause about getting in” because they may perceive a “lack of consensus on the ground.”

Moreover, he said, “it is extremely difficult to beat an incumbent, particularly in a winner-take-all situation where you need to have everything to go right to thread the needle.”

In Tennessee, candidates don’t need a majority — 50 percent plus one person — to win an election. They can — and have — won with pluralities well below 50 percent. Outside groups’ calculation may be they “not only have to beat Lamar, but we have to beat Flinn, too,” Gonzales said.