Lamar Alexander

Alexander, Corker back holding ‘vote-a-rama’ on Obamacare repeal, then split on first follow-up ballot

Tennessee’s U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, stuck with a big majority of their Republican colleagues in voting Tuesday to open debate on Obamacare repeal and/or replacement legislation. Only two Republicans voted no in the opening round of what Pollitico calls a “vote-a-rama.”

But on the second key vote, Corker was one of nine Republicans breaking ranks with the GOP Senate majority and voting no with all Democrats. The overall vote was 47 yes, 53 no, effectively killing – for the time being, at least — what The Hill describes as “the GOP repeal and a replace bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, as well as proposals from GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rob Portman (Ohio).”

The vote-a-rama continues today.

A further excerpt from The Hill story:

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Rand Paul (Ky.) voted against the repeal-replace proposal on the procedural hurdle. No Democrats voted for it.  

The proposal was the first amendment to get a vote after senators took up the House-passed healthcare bill, which is being used as a vehicle for any Senate action, earlier Tuesday.

…Tuesday night’s vote doesn’t prevent GOP leadership from offering another repeal and replace amendment, or another version of BCRA. It could also help GOP leadership get rank-and-file senators on the record, as they try to figure out a path forward.

A vote on an amendment that would repeal much of ObamaCare is expected on Wednesday.

Note: See also the AP story Wednesday morning, HERE, which has more details. Both Tennessee senators sent out similar press release statements on their support for the first vote to open debate — Corker  HERE; Alexander HERE.

Today’s coherent commentary from Corker & Alexander on Obamacare stuff

A quote from Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker made it into a New York Times headline today. The headline: In a cruel summer for the G.O.P., ‘Things are starting to feel incoherent’

Relevant excerpt from the article:

“Things are starting to feel incoherent,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, reflecting on the health care efforts, which have turned many Republican senators against one another as efforts to negotiate the future of the Medicaid program have caused large rifts.

With no small measure of understatement, Mr. Corker conceded, “There’s just not a lot of progress happening.”

Meanwhile, the Times-Free Press has this from Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is differing with Corker’s announced support of a plan to repeal Obamacare now with the effective date postponed two years, giving Congress more time to decide upon a replacement:

“I don’t think Tennesseans would be comfortable with repealing first and then trusting Congress to figure out a replacement later,” he said. “Most pilots like to know where they’re going to land before they take off, and we should too.”

Headline on the TFP story: Democrats attack Corker over health care ‘flip-flop

Note: So Alexander didn’t make the TFP headline. And, of course, he did not refer to his fellow Tennessee senator directly. But  it might be an indication that the issue has turned one Volunteer State senator against the other? Related previous post HERE. (For a left-leaning view of the two Tennessean senators’ positioning on the issue, see Bruce Barry’s Nashville Scene piece, bearing the headline, “The Bob-and-Lamar Reasonable Human Delusion.”)

A glance at Corker, Alexander, the Senate Obamacare dither and related Democrat bashing of Corker — just for today

Tennessee’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, are apparently taking different stances on the latest move on health care legislation by many – but apparently not most — or their fellow Senate Republicans. The basic idea is to a vote to repeal Obamacare now with a two-year waiting period while Congress tries to figure out a replacement. It appears from their comments that Corker’s for it, reversing a past position; Alexander is not.

Corker issued a press release indicating support for the idea. His announcement was promptly denounced by Democrats, including James Mackler, who is campaigning for the party’s nomination to oppose him in 2018.

Alexander initially issued a press release (HERE) saying he wants to have hearings on the replacement regardless of how voting goes on the latest repeal effort with no indication of his stance  on the actual vote,  but the Tennessean today quotes Alexander on CNN as suggesting he doesn’t like the repeal-without-a-replacement idea and the votes aren’t there:

“I don’t think there are 40 votes to repeal and say to the American people, ‘Well, trust us to come up with something in the next couple of years.’ I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Alexander said.

(UPDATE/Note: Subsequently,  the Times-Free Press has this Alexander comment:  “Most pilots like to know where they’re going to land before they take off, and we should too.”)

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U.S. Senate confirms Bill Hagerty as U.S. ambassador to Japan

The U.S. Senate voted 82-12 today to confirm President Trump’s nomination of William “Bill” Hagerty, formerly commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, as U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Tennessee’s two U.S. senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both praised Hagerty in Senate floor speeches. Here’s text of their remarks, as provided by their communications staff:

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Alexander, Corker get 52 percent approval ratings in national polling on U.S. senators

Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker got identical 52 percent approval in polling by Morning Consult in all 50 states on the popularity of U.S. senators. Both also had 29 percent disapproval ratings.

That puts them, more or less, in the middle of the pack among colleagues nationwide. They are among 20 senators who saw their overall approval rating declined from Morning Consult’s last such survey. (Corker was at 57 percent then; Alexander at 55 percent.)

Nationally, Vermont Democrat Bernie Sanders had the highest approval (75 percent); Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, the lowest (41 percent with 48 percent disapproval). The full report is HERE.

Alexander, Corker praise punt of Obamacare repeal vote

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker say the delaying of this week’s scheduled Senate vote on legislation to repeal and replace most of Obamacare is a good thing, reports Michael Collins.

Alexander, who was part of the working group that helped craft the legislation, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made the right call in postponing a vote on the bill.

“Senator McConnell made a wise decision today to delay voting on the Senate health care bill and give senators time to reach an agreement, because senators are actually closer to an agreement than it might appear,” said Alexander, who is chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“There are some differences remaining,” Alexander said, “but this issue is important enough to the country that if we need another few days to get it right, we ought to do that.”

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Alexander, Corker refrain from embracing Senate plan for Obamacare repeal and replacement

Tennessee U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker both stopped well short of embracing the Senate plan for repealing and replacing Obamacare – they label it a “discussion draft” – in official statements.

Alexander, who was involved early in drafting the plan, does list “benefits for Tennesseans” in the proposal, but says he’s going to continue reviewing the matter, see how cost estimates develop and watch for amendments. His statement is HERE.

Corker just says he will be reviewing the proposal, seeking input from a “wide range of stakeholders” and “make a final decision based on whether this legislation, on the whole, is better than what is in place today.” His statement is HERE.

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Corker criticizes ‘awkward process’ of closed-door Senate development of Obamacare replacement

There has been some media attention to Sen. Bob Corker’s recent criticism of secrecy surrounding development of a Republican U.S. Senate plan to replace and repeal Obamacare – a process where fellow Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander has been actively engaged, though the committee Alexander chairs was bypassed.

Corker’s comments, as initially reported by the Huffington Post Tuesday:

“It’s a very awkward process, at best,” he told reporters. “There are no experts. There’s no actuarials. … Typically, in a hearing, you’d have people coming in and you’d also have the media opining about if a hearing took place, and X came in and made comments.”

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With Trump ‘shouting death spiral’ for Obamacare, TN insurance commissioner wonders who’s in charge

Tennessee’s commissioner of commerce and insurance and Sen. Lamar Alexander are both quoted in a New York Times article bearing the headline, “Trump, Shouting ‘Death Spiral,’ Has Nudged Affordable Care Act Downward.” An excerpt:

Frustrated state officials have ideas for stabilizing the individual insurance market, but they say they cannot figure out where to make their case because they have been bounced from one agency to another in the Trump administration.

“We have trouble discerning who has decision-making authority,” said Julie Mix McPeak, the Tennessee insurance commissioner and president-elect of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which represents state officials. “We reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services. They referred us to the Office of Management and Budget, which referred us to the Department of Justice. We reached out to the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.”

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Haslam, Alexander defend Insurance Commissioner McPeak

Gov. Bill Haslam has come to the defense of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie McPeak, reports WTVF-TV, which earlier aired a report on her extensive travel on the job – 120 trips since Haslam appointed her to the position in 2011 with expenses paid by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

U.S.  Sen. Lamar Alexander also issued a statement supporting McPeak. Some of her travel has been to Washington, where she met with congressmen and testified before committees – including one chaired by Alexander.

From WTVF:

“Julie’s worked for me for six years. I am very convinced of her professional approach to this in terms of looking out for what’s the best interests of the state,” Haslam explained.

…The governor said someone in his office reviews all travel requests from commissioners. So someone there knew just how many trips McPeak was taking.

Said Alexander in a statement emailed by his staff:

“Julie McPeak has been very effective in working with Congress to solve a real emergency for nearly 200,000 vulnerable Tennesseans as she works to give them options next year and beyond. Unless Congress acts, these Tennesseans who have federal subsidies to purchase insurance in the individual market may have zero options for insurance next year. I’ve invited her to meet with me in Nashville, and at my invitation, she testified before the Senate health committee and again to brief senators.”

Note: Previous post HERE. The station reported McPeak was out of her office on trips for 117 days in 2015, 120 days in 2016.