Lamar Alexander

Norris questioned on gay marriage at hearing on confirmation as U.S. judge; no vote taken

Tennessee state Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, nominated for a federal judgeship in West Tennessee, told U.S. senators Wednesday he considers the legality of same-sex marriage to be a settled issue and that he would follow it as a precedent if confirmed to the bench, reports Michael Collins.

The Senate Judiciary Committee took no vote Wednesday on whether to confirm President Donald Trump’s nomination of Norris, R-Colliervile, leaving that to another meeting.  Norris has supported state legislation that critics argue would undermine the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling that legalized gay marriage in 2015.

He also was one of the leading sponsors of a state resolution calling for a federal Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman. (Note: The apparent reference is to SJR27 back in 2003, which had then-Sen.  David Fowler, now head of the Family Action Council of Tennessee and a staunch opponent of gay marriage, as prime sponsor and Norris as a co-sponsor.)

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Alexander seeks Senate hearings on fed rule that stopped payments to West TN physician

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander is asking that Sen. Orrin Hatch hold Senate Finance Committee hearings on whether an a federal regulation used to block Medicare payments to West Tennessee’s Dr. Bryan Merrick should be revoked, reports Tennessee Star.

Alexander chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which he says does not have jurisdiction over the CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) regulation. Senator Hatch chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which does have jurisdiction over the CMS regulation.

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Alexander and Corker on Trump and pending tax overhaul

Congressional Republicans involved in crafting a federal tax overhaul are bracing for President Trump to potentially disturb their negotiations at any moment, as he has done throughout his nine months in office and this week on a bipartisan Senate agreement to shore up Obamacare insurance markets, reports Politico.

“Sure, it’s going to come,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who’s been the target of his share of tweets from the president.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who brokered the health agreement that Trump has shifted between criticizing and praising, added that he had already told the president that his staying on track on tax reform could be key to getting a landmark achievement.

“If the president of the United States focuses on one thing, with everything he’s got, for as long it takes, he can usually get what he wants,” Alexander said.

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Alexander, Murray propose bipartisan, short-term Obamacare deal

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray say they have reached an agreement on a bipartisan Obamacare deal to fund a key insurance subsidy program and provide states flexibility to skirt some requirements of the health care law, reports Politico.

There is no assurance that the agreement will get to the Senate floor, however. Republicans on Tuesday were lukewarm about the prospect of resuming debate over whether to try to prop up Obamacare after multiple failed GOP attempts to repeal the law.

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Alexander to try again on bipartisan Obamacare fix

With plans for a U.S. Senate vote on the latest Republican proposal to repeal Obamacare abandoned, Sen. Lamar Alexander said today he will restart efforts to come  up with a short-term bill that can win bipartisan support.

Here’s the press release:

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Alexander’s bipartisan Obamacare fix fails

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington have given up on their push for a bipartisan bill to continue federal subsidies for health insurance under Obamacare as a short-term fix for individual health insurance market.

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Senate GOP spat: Alexander versus Hatch

Sen. Lamar Alexander’s efforts to craft a bipartisan bill to shore up Obamacare are drawing “hostile fire” from a fellow Republican Senate committee chairman, reports Politico.

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Sens. Alexander, Kaine meet in bipartisan border harmony

Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia met for a session of “nonpartisan harmony” at Bristol on the Tennessee-Virginia state line Friday evening, reports the Johnson City Press.

Whatever political differences existed between the two men were briefly cast aside during the 17th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival.

Except for the blue and red shirts.

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McPeak pushes continued fed subsidies to U.S. senators

Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak urged Congress on Wednesday to continue federal cost-sharing payments to insurers, arguing the subsidies are the key to strengthening insurance markets and potentially bringing down costs next year.

Further from Michael  Collins’ report:

Appearing before a Senate panel, McPeak insisted the payments should not be seen as an “insurer bailout.”

To the contrary, she said, cost-sharing funding “ensures that some of our most vulnerable consumers receive assistance for copays and deductibles that are required to be paid under federal law.”

McPeak’s testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee came during the first of four hearings focused on strengthening the individual health insurance market after the collapse of the GOP’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the panel, said he hopes lawmakers will reach a consensus by the end of next week and approve bipartisan legislation by the end of the month to stabilize the individual health insurance market and guarantee that affordable coverage is available for those who want it.

Note: Gov. Bill Haslam speaks to the panel today.

Alexander and Corker on government shutdown talk

Comments from Tennessee’s U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, on President Donald Trump raising the possibility of a federal government shutdown if Congress doesn’t approve his plans for building a wall between the United States and Mexico:

Alexander, as quoted in The Tennessean: “The last time the government was shut down, it hurt small businesses all over East Tennessee at peak tourist season for people coming to the Great Smoky Mountains,” Alexander said after a Tennessee Restaurant Association meeting in Nashville.

“I wasn’t elected to shut down the government,” he said. “I was elected to make it run for the benefit of tax payers. I’m sure that’s what we will do.

Corker (part of a WKRN report on the senator’s visit to Clarksville): “People are feeling robust about the future and they’ll continue to feel that way if we keep government running,” said Corker. “Sometimes we have those little blurbs as we have seen in the past that create a lot of insecurity.”