Both of Tennessee’s senators broke with their party to approve the President’s choice for head of the Environmental Protection Agency, reports WPLN. The bulk of the Senate’s Republicans worked to block Gina McCarthy at every stop along the nomination process, including an attempted filibuster. Only six GOP Senators voted in her favor.
While he deviated from the party’s efforts, Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander cited the GOP as the reason why he voted for McCarthy. In a statement, Alexander pointed out that she has worked for five Republican governors and likely has better conservative credentials than anyone else President Obama would be likely to appoint.
…Tennessee’s other Senator, Bob Corker, was heavily involved in efforts to broker a deal with Democrats, heading off their use of the so-called “nuclear option” to ensure approval of the President’s nominees.
After striking that deal, Corker voted for Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
He and Alexander also helped Democrats ensure a vote on the nominee to the Labor Department by blocking any Republican chance at a filibuster. However, they did go on to vote against Thomas Perez’s confirmation, along with every other Republican.
A bill proposed by East Tennessee Republicans calls for U.S. Senate candidates to be nominated by the Legislature’s partisan caucuses rather than in contested primary elections.
Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, proposes that the new system take effect on Nov. 30, 2014. That effectively “grandfathers in” incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s re-election under the present system “because he’s doing such a good job,” said Niceley.
The new system would be valid under the U.S. Constitution, which courts have held grants wide latitude to states in deciding how political parties nominate candidates for the U.S. Senate, Niceley said.
He noted that Utah does not have contested primaries, instead having each party pick a nominee at a party caucus meeting.
Until 1913, senators were directly chosen by state legislators. In that year, the 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution changed that system to provide for popular election. But the amendment is silent on how candidates are nominated for the election.
“We’ve tried it this way (contested primaries) for 100 years,” said Niceley. “It’s time to try something different.”
Under the bill (SB471), the House and Senate Republican Caucuses would jointly choose the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate at an open meeting while the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses would choose the Democratic nominee.
Such a system would avoid the huge fundraising and spending in primary elections and open the door for more qualified candidates with fewer financial resources to seek the nomination, Niceley said.
In last year’s Democratic U.S. Senate primary, the party was “embarrassed” by the nomination of Mark Clayton, Nicely said, and the new system would avoid such situations. Clayton, who was officially disavowed by the state Democratic Party for what party officials called “extremist views, got about 30 percent of the vote in losing to Republican Sen. Bob Corker.
Niceley said he has discussed the proposal with legislative leaders and believes the idea has considerable support. He said Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, will sponsor the bill in the House.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, said he had discussed the proposal with Niceley and thought it “an interesting idea,” though he would defer to former Sen. Roy Herron, recently elected chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party. Herron said letting legislators pick Senate nominees would “turn back the clock a century or two.”
“I have great respect for Sen. Niceley, but Democrats believe in democracy and trust the people over the politicians,” Herron said. “I’m thankful to represent the Democratic party, not the dinosaur party.”
State Republican Chairman Chris Devaney, on the other hand, said this in an email after a conversation with Niceley Wednesday:
“You can always can count on Sen. Nicely to come up with innovative proposals conservatives can be proud of. This is another step in that direction and I certainly think it is an interesting idea.”
Jim Jefferies, spokesman for Alexander said the senator hasn’t seen the bill and has no comment at this time, though “I know he will appreciate Mr. Niceley’s compliment” about Alexander doing a “good job.”
“Sen. Corker hasn’t seen the bill and isn’t in the habit of weighing in on state legislation,” said Laura Herzog, spokeswoman for Corker.
Mark Clayton’s victory in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary and his subsequent disavowal by party headquarters because of reported “hate group” inclinations has inspired considerable commentary, most from Democrats perhaps best summarized in this line from Trace Sharp: Oh, Tennessee, we just haven’t given The Daily Show and the Colbert Report enough fodder recently, have we, so we had to do it again. Sigh..
See also, Larry Crim’s idea of having another primary so he will be first on the ballot. And Southern Beale observes: Clayton wasn’t the only wackadoodle on the list. The Tennessean, meanwhile, has comments from Clayton himself as part of a story on Democratic party disarray. Some of Clayton’s views do make him sound like a tea party conservative — and a paranoid one, at that. He calls himself a constitutionalist and a “Committed Christian and a Proud Patriot.” He writes about his fears of America turning into an “ORWELLIAN SUPER STATE,” elements of which include a federal mandate forcing Tennessee to turn “all driver’s licenses into National ID cards with a secret electronic tag inside.”
In other words, he’s a long way from former Vice President Al Gore and the late Gov. Ned Ray McWherter.
But Clayton said he shouldn’t be pigeonholed politically. He described himself as a social conservative with strong views against abortion and same-sex marriage. But he said he was “actively against” the last Republican president, George W. Bush, who supported the “liberalization” of global trade and “took us to war in Iraq without a cause and under a false premise.”
For that reason, “it’s hard for me to embrace the word ‘conservative’ as a candidate,” Clayton said. He said he reads the work of “leftist” scholars like William Greider as well as conservatives like William Gill.
“A lot of the people I’m going to be around would never vote for Republicans because they look out for big business only at the expense of the working person,” he said.
He also took a shot at state Democratic Party officials, saying he’s more in touch with voters than they are.
“I’ve knocked on more doors than I bet anyone at Democratic headquarters has.”
News release from Tennessee Democratic Party:
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Democratic Party released the following statement in response to Mark Clayton receiving the most votes in the Democratic Primary for US Senate.
“The only time that Clayton has voted in a Democratic primary was when he was voting for himself. Many Democrats in Tennessee knew nothing about any of the candidates in the race, so they voted for the person at the top of the ticket. Unfortunately, none of the other Democratic candidates were able to run the race needed to gain statewide visibility or support.
“Mark Clayton is associated with a known hate group in Washington, D.C., and the Tennessee Democratic Party disavows his candidacy, will not do anything to promote or support him in any way, and urges Democrats to write-in a candidate of their choice in November.”
Mark Clayton believes the federal government is building a massive, four-football-field wide superhighway from Mexico City to Toronto as part of a secret plot to establish a new North American Union that will bring an end to America as we know it. On Thursday, he became the Tennessee Democrats’ nominee for US Senate.
Continues Mother Jones: Clayton, an anti-gay marriage activist and flooring installer with a penchant for fringe conspiracy theories, finished on top of a crowded primary field in the race to take on GOP Sen. Bob Corker this fall. He earned 26 percent of the vote despite raising no money and listing the wrong opponent on his campaign website. The site still reads, “DEDICATED TO THE DEFEAT OF NEO-CONSERVATIVE LAMAR ALEXANDER,” whom Clayton tried to challenge in 2008. (That year, he didn’t earn the Democratic nomination.)
On his issues page, Clayton sounds more like a member of the John Birch society than a rank-and-file Democrat. He says he’s against national ID cards, the North American Union, and the “NAFTA superhighway,” a non-existent proposal that’s become a rallying cry in the far-right fever swamps. Elsewhere, he warns of an encroaching “godless new world order” and suggests that Americans who speak out against government policies could some day be placed in “a bone-crushing prison camp similar to the one Alexander Solzhenitsyn was sent or to one of FEMA’s prison camps.” (There are no FEMA prison camps.)
U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are under pressure from the White House to vote to confirm Richard Cordray as the director of a new federal agency responsible for protecting consumers who deal with the financial industry, reports Michael Collins. The Obama administration said Monday it intends to wage an aggressive public relations campaign to persuade the two Tennessee Republicans and GOP senators from six other states to confirm Cordray as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The agency was created under the Wall Street reforms that President Barack Obama signed into law last year. Obama nominated Cordray, a former Ohio attorney general, to head the agency back in June.
But Alexander, Corker and most other Republicans have said they won’t vote to confirm anybody for the position until changes are made in the way the agency operates.
President Obama’s latest nominee to the TVA board, Richard Howorth, has an approach to energy policy that appears to span the entire spectrum, according to Bill Theobald.. That may explain why Howorth, who supports nuclear and solar energy as well as stepped-up conservation efforts, seemed to please both Democratic and Republican lawmakers during a Senate hearing last week on his nomination to serve as a Tennessee Valley Authority board member.
Howorth, a bookstore owner and former mayor of Oxford, Miss., appeared to choose his words carefully in responding to questions from Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander about nuclear power.
TVA’s strategic plan, which includes expanding use of nuclear power, is “well-considered,” Howorth testified during the hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Something must replace coal, and “it seems nuclear is where that should be,” he said.
He told Alexander he agreed with TVA’s decision to reduce emissions from its coal-fired plants and eventually shut some down to settle a lawsuit filed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Howorth also expressed a commitment to boost conservation