Tag Archives: congress

Democrats call for disbanding Blackburn’s abortion panel

Democrats have ramped up their attacks on an investigation of abortion providers by a committee lead by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, reports Michael Collins.

In a letter, Democrats called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to disband the investigation committee. Blackburn insists there’s nothing partisan about the investigation and she’s pushing ahead.

“While the panel’s investigation has never been fair or fact-based, its pattern of reckless disregard for safety has escalated over the past few weeks,” said the letter, which was signed by 181 of 188 House Democrats.

The letter describes a litany of alleged abuses by Blackburn and GOP investigators, including misuse of subpoena power to intimidate scientific researchers, doctors, clinics, health-care providers, universities and others. The investigation reached “a new low” earlier this month, the letter says, when the panel issued a news release identifying an abortion provider and his clinic by name.

“The press release’s hyperbolic rhetoric and misleading allegations pose a real danger to the doctor, the staff at the clinic and the patients of the named clinic,” the letter says. “These recent steps are completely outside the bounds of acceptable congressional behavior. We disgrace ourselves by allowing this misconduct to continue.”

Blackburn defended the investigation and fired back at her Democratic critics.

“The question everyone should be asking,” the Brentwood Republican said, “is why are Democrats so afraid of letting the truth come out.”

Ryan didn’t set up the committee, which is formally known as the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. Former House Speaker John Boehner helped form the 14-member panel and named Blackburn as its chairwoman in one of his final acts before stepping down late last year.

But Ryan also has given his backing to the panel’s work.

Vandy Poll: Trump leads Clinton in TN, 44 percent to 35 percent

By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has a 9 percentage point lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton in Tennessee, according to a Vanderbilt University poll released Thursday.

The survey found Trump with support from 44 percent and Clinton with 35 percent of the 1,001 registered voters polled. Thirteen percent said they were either undecided or said they wouldn’t support either candidate.

Of those who said they didn’t plan to vote for either Trump or Clinton, 42 percent were Republicans and 22 percent were Democrats.

The survey also found that 48 percent of Tennessee voters oppose a temporary ban on all Muslims traveling to the United States that has been espoused by Trump, while about 40 percent would support one.
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Cohen bill calls for reporting all DUI arrests to NCIC

News release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) today introduced the bipartisan DUI Reporting Act of 2016. This bill would close a reporting loophole that inadvertently enables repeat DUI offenders to be tried more leniently as first time offenders. The DUI Reporting Act would require, as a condition of full Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) funding, that DUI arrests are reported to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the national crime database that is made instantly available to police right from their patrol cars, so repeat offenders can be charged appropriately.

“It is shameful that all DUI arrests are not reported to the national crime database,” said Congressman Cohen. “The consequences of this lack of reporting can prove life-threatening. Last year there was a tragic accident just outside of Memphis. Two teenage girls on their way to a vacation were killed around 6:30 a.m. when the car in which they were being driven was struck by a drunk driver who had accrued seven DUI charges since 2008 but had been allowed to plead guilty five times to a first-offense DUI. This story broke my heart, and I believe the hearts of everyone in the Mid-South. Police need access to this information to get drunk drivers off the road, and repeat offenders need to be charged appropriately.”
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Congressman Duncan diagnosed with prostate cancer

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., the senior member of Tennessee’s congressional delegation, said Tuesday he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Further from Michael Collins:

The Knoxville Republican said the cancer was discovered six or seven months ago during a routine medical exam. Follow-up tests showed the cancer is isolated, he said, and doctors have decided at this stage no treatment is necessary.

“I don’t feel sick,” he said.

The U.S. Capitol physician first noticed something was amiss when a test showed Duncan’s prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, was higher than usual, the congressman said. The doctor ordered a biopsy, which confirmed the cancer.

Duncan said he underwent an MRI and other follow-up tests at George Washington University Hospital, which indicated the cancer had not spread.

“I feel good,” he said. “I haven’t missed any work, other than to do the regular (medical) appointments.”

Still, Duncan said, he took the diagnosis seriously because his father, former U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Sr., died of prostate cancer in 1988. Duncan Sr. was 69 at the time of his death, just a year older than his son is now.

Duncan said he has to schedule a follow-up visit with his physician in a few months, “but all of the indications so far have been good.”

Duncan, who represents Tennessee’s 2nd Congressional District, was elected to succeed his father during a special election in 1988.

TN Republicans join in bashing Obama bathroom directive

Some Tennessee Republican politicians have joined other members of the party in bashing a directive from the Obama administration that calls on schools to allow use of bathrooms based on an individual’s “gender identity.”

Republican state Rep. Susan Lynn of Wilson County, who unsuccessfully sponsored a bill in the legislature this year mandating use of school bathrooms based on the gender designated on birth certificates, was focus of a Tennessean story after a Facebook post on the subject. Excerpt:

“Transgenderism is a mental disorder called gender identity disorder — no one should be forced to entertain another’s mental disorder and it is not healthy for the individual with the disorder,” Lynn said in a list of responses to the federal directive.

“We can and we will legistativly (sic) protect children from hormone abuse — a directive has no impact on that issue only the Orwellian redefinition of sex would do that.”

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander news release:
WASHINGTON, May 13 – Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on the Department of Education’s guidance to local school districts regarding transgender student’s use of public bathrooms:

“This is the kind of issue that parents, school boards, communities, students and teachers should be allowed to work out in a practical way with a maximum amount of respect for the individual rights of all students. Insofar as the federal government goes, it’s up to Congress to write the law, not the executive departments. And guidance issued by the departments does not amount to federal law and should not be treated as such.” Continue reading

DesJarlais helping Trump outreach to House Freedom Caucus

Start of a Politico report:

The Trump campaign has reached out to the House Freedom Caucus to schedule a meeting with the chamber’s most ardent conservatives — many of whom are also his biggest critics on the Hill.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais — one of the few Freedom Caucus members who has endorsed Trump — pitched the idea to the caucus board Tuesday night on behalf of the Trump campaign. The Tennessee Republican is working behind the scenes to coordinate Trump’s outreach to lawmakers.

The board members, led by Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), agreed to set-up the meeting, though nothing is has been formally scheduled.
Trump comes to Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the rest of GOP leadership. And while campaign surrogates on the Hill told POLITICO he plans to meet with bigger groups of lawmakers eventually, he doesn’t plan to do so this week.

His meeting with the Freedom Caucus is sure to be a tense one. Conservatives say his tone and comments suggest he doesn’t respect the constitution. They’re wary of his views of executive branch authority, and many have problems with Trump’s views on minimum wage and abortion.

AP report on U.S. Senate aging (Lamar, 75, younger than several)

By Richard Lardner, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Millennials have emerged as the nation’s largest living generation yet that demographic shift isn’t reflected in the upper reaches of the Republican-controlled Senate, where the body’s oldest members are the power brokers.

And several are asking voters for new six-year terms.

At 82, Chuck Grassley wants Iowans to send him back to the Senate for a seventh time. The Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee pitches his seniority as a plus, telling voters he gives them a “big voice at the policymaking tables” in Washington.

Arizona’s John McCain, the 79-year-old chairman of the Armed Services Committee, also is running for re-election. So are Richard Shelby of Alabama, the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee chairman who turned 82 on Friday, and 71-year-old Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who leads the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate’s ethics panel.

Other committees are controlled by senior Republicans whose terms don’t end for at least a few more years. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the chairman of the Finance Committee, is 82 and has been a senator since 1977 — the same year Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as president, Elvis Presley died and the first Stars Wars movie came out.
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More TN GOP congressmen climb aboard Trump train

U.S. Reps. Scott DesJarlais was the first Tennessee congressman to endorse Donald Trump for president, followed more recently by Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. After Trump’s win in Indiana Tuesday, other Republican congressmen are pledging their support.

From a Michael Collins report:

“It looks like the presumptive nominee of the party is going to be Donald Trump, and I think Republicans need to unify and get behind the Republican nominee,” said U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah.

Fleischmann, who initially backed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, had declined to endorse another candidate after Huckabee dropped out of the race.

…”I will back the Republican nominee for president 100 percent,” Fleischmann said. “If that is going to be Donald Trump, I will certainly get out and campaign for him and support him 100 percent.”

U.S. Reps. Phil Roe of Johnson City and Diane Black of Gallatin also pledged to support Trump.

“As I’ve said from the beginning, I will support our nominee,” Roe said. “It’s time for the Republicans to unite, and I am enthusiastically supporting Donald Trump. I look forward to helping him in any way that I can to take back the White House in November.”

Black said “the three scariest words in the English language today are ‘President Hillary Clinton.'”

“I will support our presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump, in the general election and call on Republicans across Tennessee to do the same,” she said. “After eight years of failed liberal policies, this is a time for our party to unite and put a conservative in the White House.”

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood didn’t mention Trump by name, but said, “I will support the Republican nominee, and I look forward to seeing a Republican in the White House.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, as quoted in the Kingsport Times-News: . “Donald Trump wasn’t my first choice, but the people have a right to their choice, and I will support the Republican nominee when we have one.”

Blackburn, other TN congressmen, push ban on robot ticketing

Computer hacking software that instantly gobbles up online tickets for live entertainment events would be a civil offense under bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, reports The Tennessean.

The Better Online Ticket Sales Act would make the use of so-called ticket bots an “unfair and deceptive act”, enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission. It also would allow individual ticket buyers to sue for damages if they’re frozen out because someone used a bot.

“It is time to end these anti-consumer tactics and level the online ticket playing field for fans of live entertainment,” Blackburn, R-Brentwood, said in prepared statement.

The proposal is co-sponsored by Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis; Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville; and Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg.

Scalpers have used bots to evade computer security and buy mass quantities of tickets to concerts and other live events immediately after the tickets go on sale.

Note: Rep. Blackburn’s press release is below.
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Effort to force Senate vote on U.S. judge nominations fails

Senate Democrats tried Tuesday to force a confirmation vote on nearly a dozen judicial nominees, including Edward Stanton III of Memphis, but Republicans quickly shut them down.

Further from Michael Collins:

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and other Senate Democrats called for a vote on 11 non-controversial nominees, including some who have been waiting for more than a year. Schumer charged the GOP has unnecessarily delayed the votes and has brought the judicial confirmation process to a standstill.

Twenty nominees, including Stanton, already have won the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee and are awaiting a final vote on the Senate floor.

“We are urging our colleagues to do their jobs,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, objected to giving the nominees a vote, thwarting the Democrats’ efforts.

…Stanton, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, was nominated last May by Obama for a U.S. District Court judgeship. He has the support of both of the state’s senators, Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last October.

Stanton is fourth in line for a confirmation vote, right behind nominees from Maryland, New Jersey and Nebraska. He is the last of three Tennessee nominees awaiting a vote.