Tag Archives: Senate

GOP consensus forms around McNally as Lt. Gov.

Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, has by all appearances lined up support to assure his electiontion as speaker of the Senate and lieutenant governor of Tennessee.

McNally took the Senate floor near the end of Thursday’s session to pay tribute to retiring Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and officially announce his candidacy for the office.

He said he had spoken with each of his colleagues who had also considered running — Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris of Collierville, Speaker Pro Tem Bo Watson, R-Chattanooga, Sens. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville and Jack Johnson, R-Franklin — and afterward told reporters all had indicated they would back him.

…Norris said Monday that he was working to put together an agreement in which McNally would be the consensus candidate within the Republican Caucus to avoid a divisive distraction during this year’s elections. Watson had said last week he wouldn’t run for speaker if McNally did and would support him if he did.

Ramsey said later Thursday that he believes McNally will succeed him.

McNally, 72, is in the middle of a four-year Senate term and isn’t up for re-election this year, as half of his Senate colleagues are. He said last week when he told reporters he would run for speaker that he will likely run for another Senate term in 2018 but that would probably be his last.

Norris backs McNally as Senate speaker

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris today backed Senate Finance Chairman Randy McNally as successor to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey as Senate speaker… and Ramsey said he’s neutral, but McNally certainly is qualified.

From Nashville Post Politics:

“I want to stay out of this, I really do. I don’t get a vote, but Randy McNally has been here for 38 years and he won’t be here much longer. I’ve had several members talk to me about that and I can see why people might think Randy should be the one. But again, I don’t get a vote,” Ramsey told reporters.

…“I haven’t counted votes, I haven’t done that,” Ramsey said about support for McNally, a member with 38 years experience in the legislature who said he would want to serve a transitionary role for two years or so. “He seems to have some momentum now just talking to my fellow members, but I don’t know.

“There’s one thing I don’t want, and that’s a blood bath as soon as I leave. I don’t want that. Hopefully there could be some kind of consensus candidate out there,” Ramsey said.

Norris, who met with Ramsey moments before reporters, said he would support a McNally speakership, telling media he “made a lot of calls” in the last few days pitching him as a man with a “storied career and reputation here, is the dean of the Senate in terms of time here and steady at the helm.”

Note: Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, who has been mentioned as a prospective Ramsey successor along with Norris, previously announced support for McNally, post HERE.

McNally emerging as likely Ramsey successor?

Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, previously named as a prospective successor to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey as Senate speaker, tells Andrea Zelinski he would step aside in favor of Sen. Randy McNally, the legislature’s most senior member. And McNally is definitely running.

With a 38-year tenure in the legislature, McNally, 72, doesn’t face re-election until 2018. His longevity is a stat political insiders say could make his ascent to the Senate speakership a smooth transition following Ramsey’s expected departure next year.

“I know I’m not a Ron Ramsey. He’s a good friend. I probably see myself as more of a transition-type person. This will probably be the last thing I do in politics,” he told the Post. “I’m not going to be running for anything else. This is sort of the last hurrah.”

At max, McNally said he has one more term in him, “not a couple. Maybe one more.” His short tenure would pave the way for a replacement in a few years.

“Sen. McNally is our longest-serving member,” said Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, the Senate speaker pro tempore and another hopeful for the speaker’s gavel. “He’s played a multiple number of roles for our caucus, and in many ways, he’s earned what I would consider to be the right of first refusal.”

Watson is one of several expected contenders for the prestigious top job. Others include Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Commerce and Insurance Committee Chairman Jack Johnson, R-Franklin.

…McNally’s election to Senate speaker would open up a powerful position on the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee. Watson, first vice chair of the committee, could then slide over to the chairman’s position and potentially ready himself for a future run for speaker, sources say.

Asked about the strategy, Watson laughed. “I don’t know about a plan,” he said.

“In terms of what that would mean to everybody else, I don’t know. What I will say is, if Chairman McNally chooses to run for speaker, I would support that effort because he’s earned it. He’s earned that right,” said Watson.

…Ketron, a recent cancer survivor, said he’s also interested in the post. “Between now and December there will be a lot of — let the games begin, a lot of jockeying for position.”

He added: “I’ve had some encouragement, texts already today, so we’ll consider it… I’ve been through a journey these last few months. I know God got me through that for a purpose, so we’ll see what he has in store for me. I’ll let him lead me.”

Other potential candidates have declined to say whether they planned to contend for the speakership, saying it was too soon to begin talking about that prospect. However, none would rule it out.

Five prospective Ramsey successors quickly emerge

Speculation has begun on who will succeed the retiring Ron Ramsey as speaker of the state Senate and lieutenant governor, a position filled by a vote among state senators after the November election.

From the Times-Free Press:

One lobbyist said it could become a “bloody” fight as would-be successors vie for the post and various GOP factions and possibly even regional loyalties come into play.

Among those whose names are being bandied about are Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, a close and trusted friend of the speaker, whom Ramsey appointed to the post.

Also mentioned are Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collerville; Senate Commerce Chairman Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and Finance Chairman Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge.

Asked whether he would run, Watson demurred, saying Ramsey is “still speaker. He’s still speaker until we adjourn.”

Norris told reporters, “I want to make sure there’s a smooth transition and a continuation of strong leadership. I’m thinking about it, sure, but Ron Ramsey is the lieutenant governor and speaker until he’s not.”

McNally, like Watson, said he preferred to talk about Ramsey and not a potential bid to replace him. But some Republicans are quietly talking up McNally as a potential candidate who might serve as a transitional figure and serve one two-year term as speaker.

The Tennessean adds one name to the above list — Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro — and has “bio box” profiles of the five men HERE.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey won’t seek reelection

News release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey
NASHVILLE — Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today announced his decision not to seek re-election to another four-year term in the state Senate this November. Lt. Governor Ramsey’s term as Speaker of the Senate will expire on the second Tuesday in January 2017.

Ramsey made the following remarks from the Senate floor regarding his decision this morning:
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Some grumbling over Senate schedule change

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Some state Senate Republicans are grumbling about an effort to have the upper chamber’s committees meet on an additional day during the upcoming legislative session, saying the change would allow less time to attend receptions and to prepare for other meetings.

Under the proposed changes, the full Senate would meet earlier on Mondays to allow some committees to meet later that day. In exchange, the chamber would not meet on Thursday mornings for much of the session. (Note: The new schedule posted HERE.)

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said in a memo obtained by The Associated Press that the changes are designed to relive the time pressure of all nine standing committees meeting on two days. The changes would allow members to spend two full days home in their districts and help avoid committee meetings running deep into the evenings, he said.

“The goal of these modifications is not to speed up session, but rather to be more efficient with existing time,” Norris said in the memo.

While Norris said that each member had been briefed the Senate clerk’s office, two senators sent emails raising concerns about the new schedule on Monday.
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On Alexander and Corker relating to Obama

Tennessee’s U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, discuss their relationship with President Obama in a report by Michael Collins. In the past it’s included dining and golfing together as well are strident criticism – and the senators’ new committee chairmanships add a new dimension in the coming year.

The new roles will require the senators to work more closely with Obama’s aides and cabinet secretaries — and possibly Obama himself — further testing a relationship that both sides say must include frank talk and mutual respect, the essential elements of policymaking in Washington.

“Part of being here is discussing our differences, but also trying to move the country ahead through seeking common ground,” Corker said.

Two hours after Corker declared on Fox News in November that Obama is on course to be one of the worst presidents ever, the White House called — not to complain, but to discuss another issue, Corker said. Obama himself sometimes phones from Air Force One when he has something important to discuss.

“I deal with people throughout the administration every single day,” Corker said. “I’d say the relationship is one of understanding that while there are differences, the constant purpose of our interactions should be seeking solutions.”

Alexander describes his relationship with Obama as “cordial, courteous, proper and infrequent.”

At a recent bill signing at the White House, Obama singled out Alexander and Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who currently chairs the HELP committee, for their work on child-care and block-grant legislation and praised them as lawmakers who know how to get things done. Obama also got involved during negotiations on student loan debt in 2013 and was good at helping Democrats and Republicans reach a deal that cut nearly in half the interest rate paid by all undergraduates, Alexander said.

But Alexander said his dealings with the White House have often been frustrating.

“The problem with the White House is they seem to have no capacity for crafting a consensus, for making a deal,” Alexander said, arguing the administration should be digging deep into issues with congressional Republicans and Democrats and then helping them forge an agreement.

Alexander, Corker list Senate committee assignments

News release from Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office:
NASHVILLE, Dec. 18 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today announced that next Congress he will serve on the following committees:

• Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, where he is currently the ranking Republican member;
• Appropriations, where he is the ranking Republican member on the subcommittee that oversees energy and water appropriations;
• Energy and Natural Resources; and
• Rules and Administration.

“In the new Senate majority, Republicans will have an extraordinary opportunity to show Americans what it means to lead and work together to get results,” Alexander said. “We need to repair the damage Obamacare has done to our health care system. We need to get Washington out of our local schools. We need to reform the FDA so life-saving drugs can get to patients faster. We need a 21st-century energy policy that doesn’t pick winners and losers in the marketplace and recognizes the importance of clean, low-cost, and reliable nuclear power. These will all be top priorities of mine as the new Congress begins in January, and these committee assignments give me a real opportunity to get results.”

Senate committee chairmen will be elected in January by members of the respective committees, the results of which will then need to be approved by the full conference of Republican senators.d

News release from Sen. Bob Corker’s office:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today announced he will serve on the following committees during the 114th Congress:

• Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
• Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
• Senate Committee on the Budget
• Senate Special Committee on Aging

“As I traveled across the Volunteer State in the days following the November election, Tennesseans made clear that they are ready for the Senate to govern responsibly and finally focus on growing our economy, repairing our fiscal house and strengthening our nation’s role in the world,” said Corker. “Serving on the foreign relations, banking, budget and aging committees will allow me the unique opportunity to focus on the issues that matter most to Tennesseans and our country, and I am eager to get to work.”

Corker continued: “Some of America’s greatest achievements and longest-lasting solutions have occurred when one party controls Congress and another the White House. It will take hard work, but if the president rolls up his sleeves and provides leadership and if the Congress acts responsibly, I truly believe we can begin to solve the big issues before us so that my generation can leave behind a stronger nation than the one we inherited.”

Committee assignments are subject to approval of the Republican Conference as well as the full Senate. Chairmen will be selected by a vote of the members of each respective committee and then approved by the Republican Conference, which is expected to take place in early January.

Corker currently serves as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

TN Senate minority leader seeks common ground, slams government inaction

In an interview with the Commercial Appeal, state Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris says there’s a chance the five Democrats now serving in the Senate might have a way to get something done because they start on common ground with majority Republicans on certain fronts.

“We’re all against wasteful spending, unwanted pregnancies, failing schools,” Harris said. “That’s at least a starting point. It’s just a question of ‘What do we do about it?’”

…Harris, 36, is believed to be the first African-American caucus leader in the history of either house of the General Assembly, according to Matt Anderson, a spokesman for the Democratic caucus.

Harris shrugged it off. “I don’t have the time to think about things like that,” Harris said Wednesday morning, as he drove between stops to gather ingredients for his family’s Thanksgiving meal. “There are really serious problems, really serious challenges in our state.”

Instead, Harris preferred slamming governmental inaction. Take the most recent Republican gains in the U.S. Senate. He didn’t frame that as a rejection of Democrats, but framed it as voters’ quick distaste for a government they perceive isn’t accomplishing anything.

It’s a lesson he wants to take — and adopt, as best he can in the minority party — to Nashville.

“People just get tired of that,” Harris said. “It’s not just a repudiation of Democratic ideas, I think it’s a repudiation of inaction.”

…Harris, a professor at the University of Memphis law school, won’t have any teaching responsibilities next spring. He plans to vacate his District 7 Memphis City Council seat in early January (and he isn’t picking sides when it comes to backing his successor, he said).

The caucus election represented another fast step in a quick career rise. The Yale-educated Whitehaven native won a seat on the City Council in 2011, defeating Kemba Ford in a runoff. He successfully challenged District 29 incumbent Ophelia Ford in the August Democratic primary and won with 42 percent of the vote in a four-candidate field.

Freshman Lee Harris elected state Senate minority leader

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Incoming state Sen. Lee Harris of Memphis has been elected leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

The caucus held its elections on Tuesday.

Incoming Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville was elected caucus chairman.

Both men, who are attorneys, were nominated by Memphis Sen. Sara Kyle, who is taking over the seat once occupied by her husband, former Democratic Leader Jim Kyle. He is currently serving on the Shelby County Chancery Court bench.

Republicans control the state Senate 28-5.

Harris defeated former Sen. Ophelia Ford in the August primary.

The former Memphis City councilman said despite the small number he believes Democrats will have a voice in the Legislature, which convenes Jan. 13.

“Everybody … is a leader in our caucus,” Harris said.

Further, from The Tennessean:
By choosing freshmen as their leaders, the Senate Democrats sent a message they are betting on the future of the party, Harris said.

“At some point, you end up at a place where you’ve got to have a hard reset. And I think that’s where the party is,” Harris said.

“We’re going to have a hard reset, and we’re going to put a lot of our chips in the future of this party. And that’s what we did today.”

Harris is the first black lawmaker to serve in a leadership capacity for either party in the Senate, said caucus spokesman Matt Anderson.

Anderson, citing the legislative library, said state leadership positions have been recorded since the 1970s. There have been several black lawmakers who’ve served as speaker pro tem or deputy speaker in the House, but never as the House speaker, majority or minority leader, Anderson said.

The caucus chose Harris over Sen. Reginald Tate, a Memphis lawmaker first elected in 2006. The caucus did not release the vote totals in either race, casting physical ballots that were not read aloud during the meeting.

Note: The Commercial Appeal notes, however, that Tate nominated himself and his nomination was seconded by Sen. Thelma Harper of Nashville. Ergo, the deduction is that the three freshmen united in voting for Lee while Harper and Tate, the veterans, voted for Tate.