federal funding

TennCare moves to implement new TN ‘defund Planned Parenthood’ law

In compliance with a law approved earlier this year by the state legislature, TennCare officials last week applied to the federal government for a waiver that could block clinics that provide abortions from being paid for other health care services, reports the Johnson City Press. An ETSU professor says there may be unintended consequences including more abortions; a legislator disagrees.

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Contract signed for work on unfinished TVA nuke plant being sold to developer; $5B in fed loan guarantees sought

Veteran Chattanooga developer Franklin L. Haney has contracted with a Canadian engineering company to handle much of the work needed to open at least one of the two reactors at the unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant that Haney is buying from TVA, reports the Times Free Press. And he’s seeking a $5 billion in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy to finance the work — with support of U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann.

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Feds approve $26M for new veterans home in Bradley County

Press release from Department of Veterans Affairs

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Tennessee State Veterans Home Executive Director Ed Harries announced the receipt of the $26,224,263 award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) State Veterans Home Grants program today.  The grant will provide the federal funding needed to build the future Bradley County Tennessee State Veterans Home.

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TN delegation split on $1.3 trillion federal spending vote

The Tennessee congressional delegation split in voting on a $1.3 trillion federal spending plan that passed the U.S. House 256-157 on Thursday and the Senate 65-32 early Friday morning. The measure funds the government through Sept. 30.

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander voted yes and, prior to the vote, issued a press release praising several of the spending items in the package. Republican Sen. Bob Corker voted no and, prior to the vote, declared in a floor speech that the bill was the most “grotesque” seen in his 11 years of service.

In the House, yes votes in the Tennessee delegation came from Republican Reps. Chuck Fleischmann of Ootelwah, Phil Roe of Johnson City and David Kustoff of Germantown along with Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville.

The Tennessee no votes came from Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood, Diane Black of Gallatin, John J. “Jimmy” Duncan of Knoxville and Democrat Steve Cohen of Memphis.

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Haslam: Gas tax hike gives TN ‘a step up in the game’ under Trump’s infrastructure proposal

Gov. Bill Haslam says the state fuel tax increase approved by the legislature last year puts Tennessee in a good position to leverage federal transportation funding under the new infrastructure plan proposed by President Trump on Monday, reports Michael Collins.

The Trump proposal envisions $1.5 trillion in new investments in highways, bridges and mass transit over a 10-year period, but only $200 billion would be in new federal money – the rest in state and local funding or private investment, according to the New York Times. States would have to put in a bigger share of the money for projects, or get private investment, to trigger the new federal funding.

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TN politicians comment on government shutdown

Comments from some members of Tennessee’s congressional delegation on the partial government shutdown.

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DesJarlais: If earmarks are restored, ‘I can be more of a spokesman for the people’

Even some conservatives – including Tennessee’s U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais — seem open to return to earmarks since President Trump floated the idea, reports The Hill.

But don’t call them earmarks: lawmakers say they’re in favor of “congressionally directed spending.”

In a sign of the changing attitudes on Capitol Hill, conservatives are divided on whether to reverse the earmark ban in place since Republicans took over the House majority after the 2010 midterm elections.

Conservative leaders like House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) reject the idea, warning that allowing lawmakers to carve out spending for projects specifically designed to benefit their districts would undercut Trump’s “drain the swamp” message.

…But even some Freedom Caucus members sound open to a return to earmarks ahead of House Rules Committee hearings next week on whether to revive the practice.

“I don’t know that I’m opposed to it,” Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), a Freedom Caucus member, told The Hill. “We’re spending more money than ever and it’s still going out, but it doesn’t seem to come to my district.”

If earmarks were restored, “I can be more of a spokesman for the people in Tennessee who need it,” DesJarlais continued. “There is an overpass in Rutherford County that we need to get funding for. We’ve got things up in Nashville, the Percy Priest Reservoir … so yeah, I would like to have a better voice.

“I don’t know if earmarks is the answer. I’ve never had them, so I don’t know if it’s good or not.”

Other conservatives also expressed openness to allowing earmarks or something similar, saying that ensuring money for specific projects would give the legislative branch more power.

… Trump said at a White House meeting with roughly two dozen lawmakers on Tuesday that Congress should consider allowing earmarks again.

He suggested that doing so would allow Congress to function better, lamenting that the “levels of hatred” among Republicans and Democrats are “out of control.”

“Maybe we should think about it,” Trump said. “Maybe all of you should think about going back to a form of earmarks. You should do it.”

“We have to put better controls because it got a little out of hand, but that brings people together,” Trump added.

Fed funding of health insurance for 74,000 TN children threatened; TN Democrats see ‘political games’

Absent action soon by Congress, funding for a federal program that provides health insurance coverage to 74,000 Tennessee children and pregnant mothers could soon run dry, reports the Times Free Press. State officials, including Gov. Bill Haslam, are worried about the possibility.

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Corker seeks inclusion of ‘backstop’ in Senate tax overhaul; otherwise ‘very possible’ he’ll vote no

U.S. Senate Republican leaders are considering last-minute changes in federal tax overhaul legislation, including a provision pushed by Tennessee’s Bob Corker that could eliminate some tax cuts if the new law winds up adding more to the federal deficit than projected, reports Politico.

Two critical Republican swing votes, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Bob Corker of Tennessee, on Monday left open the possibility that they could vote against the tax plan in a key committee vote scheduled for Tuesday if changes weren’t made to their liking. That would tank the bill before it could reach the floor, putting more pressure on leadership to quickly make revisions.

…A handful of deficit hawks — including Corker and Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and James Lankford of Oklahoma — are discussing a trigger mechanism that would kick in and potentially change tax rates if the economic growth needed to defray the cost of the tax overhaul doesn’t materialize.

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Feds restore Medicare billing privileges to West TN doctor who had bipartisan backing

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has restored Medicare billing privileges to  Dr. Bryan Merrick, who was cut off last year over what appeared to be very minor paperwork errors. Tennessee Star has quotes from some political figures who got involved – notably including Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who had called for Senate hearings on the regulation used in cutting off Merrick, and former state Democratic Chairman Roy Herron, who was acting as the physician’s attorney.

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