congress

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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Corker wades into Qatar controversy

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker on Monday said he would block future U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and four other Gulf nations until a regional conflict is resolved, reports Politico.

The Tennessee Republican announced his plans in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Monday as the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council remains wracked by internal disputes over anti-terrorism efforts and a Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

Corker’s gavel grants him advance approval of significant arms sales to foreign governments before Congress is notified, authority also held by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.).

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TN Hospital Association opposes both House and Senate versions of Obamacare repeal

The Tennessee Hospital Association is opposing pending Republican legislation to replace and repeal Obamacare, reports the Times Free Press. THA President Craig Becker says nine rural hospitals have closed or dramatically curtailed services over the past four years and spending cuts in both the House and Senate versions of the GOP proposals will make things worse.

“I think definitely, you’re going to see more rural hospital closures coming along, particularly as it relates to these Medicaid cuts coming down the pike,” Becker said after Republican Senate leaders unveiled their plan last week.

Becker said the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 fails to “adequately address the health care needs of Tennesseans and THA opposes the legislation.”

The hospital association is talking with the offices of Tennessee’s Republican U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

“We’ve told them we’re absolutely in opposition to the Senate bill as it is now,” Becker said. “It’s clearly going to do damage to the hospitals here.”

Becker said rural hospitals won’t be the only ones to feel the pain.

The Senate and House bills both would cap federal funding for Medicaid, which covers more than 70 million low- income people nationwide. Some 1.5 million pregnant women, children, disabled and elderly people receive Medicaid through TennCare.

Becker said the proposals “represent real, long-term cuts to Medicaid and present a major threat for the future of health care and hospitals in our state.”

He said planned changes to premium subsidies and dropping the individual coverage mandate would put at risk more than 200,000 Tennesseans who bought insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.

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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DesJarlais among six congressmen on reported Hodgkinson ‘assassination list’

Tennessee’s Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ name was on a handwritten list of six Republican congressmen – all members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus — found in the van of James Hodgkinson, the slain shooter who wounded Rep. Steven Scalise and five others on Wednesday.

The Daily Caller initially reported the FBI’s discovery of the note late Friday. Multiple other media outlets have followed with similar reports.

Besides DesJarlais, Fox News says those on the “assassination list” were Republican Reps. Trent Franks of Arizona,  Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mo Brooks of Alabama and Morgan Griffith of Virginia.

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Puerto Rico statehood advocates follow 1796 ‘Tennessee Plan’ (but without support of today’s TN legislators)

Tennessee has been getting name-dropped during the recent attention on whether the island of Puerto Rico will become the 51st state because of a move that Tennessee forefathers took more than two centuries ago, reports WPLN — with a link to a website promoting Puerto Rico statehood under the headline, ‘Tennessee and the Tennessee Plan.’

In the recent legislative session, the current Tennessee legislature balked at a proposal to declare support for Puerto Rico statehood.

More than 200 years ago, Tennessee was still a territory and its early settlers were impatient — hoping for Congress to start the process toward statehood. Instead, local leaders went ahead and declared the territory a state. The people voted in favor, a government was formed and a constitution written. Then the trick was to persuade Congress to make all of those moves official, and that did happen in 1796.

Since then, six other states have used this aggressive method to move toward statehood.

Earlier this month, residents of Puerto Rico voted in favor of becoming a state (despite a ballot process that was messy and drew scant turnout).  Those in favor are still running with the results, continuing with the tactic of fake-it-till-you-make-it.

NBC News reports that a delegation of seven — meant to resemble two senators and five House members — will petition Congress and lobby for support. Just like Tennessee did.

Note: State Rep. Tilman Goins, R-Morristown, sponsored a resolution (HJR31) in the 2017 legislative session that, as originally drafted, urged Congress to approve statehood for Puerto Rico.  It was substantially watered down via amendment to instead urge Congress “to work with the territorial government of Puerto Rico to ensure a definitive and authoritative act of democratic self-determination” in the then-upcoming election. In that form, the resolution passed the House 53-24 on April 20. But it then died in the Senate Finance Committee, which never brought the matter up for a vote before adjournment of the session.

Fleischmann slightly injured fleeing ‘horrible’ shooting at congressional baseball practice

Tennessee’s Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was present when a gunman began shooting at a baseball practice session for congressmen today that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise wounded, according to multiple media accounts. The third district congressman was slightly hurt while running to take cover from the gunman.

From Michael Collins’ report:

The Ooltewah Republican was shaken, but not hit.

“It’s just a madhouse here,” he said during a phone call from the scene. “It’s horrible. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

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TN politician commentary on Comey (‘Big distraction,’ says Haslam)

A roundup of some comments on former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before a congressional committee Thursday:

From Gov. Bill Haslam and former Gov. Don Sundquist, via WBIR TV:

“To me, the big issue, to me, is all of this ends up being such a big distraction,” Haslam said. “Forget your politics, which side you are on, Democrat or Republican, the unfortunate reality of this is you have something like this going on around you, you are not very effective at delivering good government.”

Haslam said from what he knows now, he does not think President Trump obstructed justice. Former governor Don Sundquist agreed.

“I learned that [President Donald] Trump is not a candidate for prosecution,” Sundquist said. “Comey, I think, is distressed over the fact he was fired. He was embarrassed, and a president has the right to name their own person.”

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TV ad criticizes Blackburn for working with ‘liberal Massachusetts senator’ on hearing aid bill

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn is being attacked in a TV ad campaign for working with Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in supporting  legislation that would allow over-the-counter sales of hearing aids, reports Buzzfeed.

Frontiers of Freedom, a conservative educational foundation, is launching a six-figure advertising campaign to derail the Massachusetts Democrat and potential 2020 presidential candidate in her bipartisan push to allow for over-the-counter hearing aid sales.

To do so, the group is aiming to discourage supportive Republicans by linking them to a New England liberal. Commercials will air in three GOP congressional districts, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s in Tennessee. Blackburn was an original co-sponsor of the Over-The-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017 in the House.

“Liberal Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is at it again,” a narrator says in the spot targeting Blackburn. “But this time she has help — help from our Republican congresswoman, Marsha Blackburn. Warren and Blackburn have introduced hearing aid legislation that will eliminate states’ rights, expand the size and power of the federal government, resulting in higher prices for consumers. We expect these bait-and-switch liberal tactics from Elizabeth Warren, not Marsha Blackburn. Call Marsha Blackburn and tell her to represent our Tennessee values, not those of a liberal Massachusetts senator.”

The ad campaign is another example of Republican-allied organizations aiming to weaken Warren ahead of her 2018 re-election bid and any future run for the White House. (America Rising, a GOP opposition research group, already has made Warren a top target.) But in this case, a low-key policy issue is at the center of the fight, and Frontiers of Freedom is going so far as to signal that Republicans who work with Warren do so at their political risk.

Besides, Blackburn, Frontiers of Freedom is airing ads in districts represented by Buddy Carter of Georgia and Michael Burgess of Texas. Like Blackburn, they are members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that will tackle the bill. Carter also is an original co-sponsor. Burgess presides over the Health subcommittee.

Hagerty gets Senate committee OK to become ambassador to Japan

News release from Sen. Bob Corker

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today (Wednesday) joined members of the committee in approving the nomination of William Hagerty to serve as U.S. ambassador to Japan. The nomination will now be considered by the full Senate.

“There is no one more well-suited to fill this important role than Bill Hagerty,” said Corker. “Our nation will benefit from his leadership and experience as he carries on the tremendous legacy of U.S. ambassadors to Japan, and I look forward to his confirmation very soon.”

Note: The Tennessean observes that, if confirmed by the Senate, Hagerty – a former head of the state Department of Economic and Community Development who worked in vetting Trump administration appointees —  would become the third Tennessean to serve in the post.

Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., who died in 2014, was ambassador to Japan under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005.

Luke Edward White, who was born in Giles County, served in the post from 1906 to 1907 under President Teddy Roosevelt.