congress

Kustoff bill targets financing of illegal opioid trade

Republican U.S. Rep. David Kustoff (R-Memphis) is applauding the passage of his bill targeting the financial networks supporting the illegal drug trade and the opioid epidemic sweeping the country.

The National Strategy for Combating the Financing of Transnational Criminal Organizations Act (H.R. 4768) passed unanimously on Tuesday.

“In order to defeat these criminal organizations, we must track down their financial networks and cut them off at the source,” Kutoff said in a release.

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Politicians pray and sing at Memphis stop on congressional civil rights ‘pilgrimage’

About a dozen Democrats and Republicans prayed and sang “Amazing Grace” during a solemn ceremony Friday at the site where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated nearly 50 years ago, marking the start of a three-day congressional “pilgrimage” to sites with ties to the civil rights era in the South, reports the Associated Press.

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Black skips vote on budget deal; rest of TN delegation split

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, former House Budget Committee chair who is now running for governor, skipped voting on the $400 billion budget that stopped a brief federal government shutdown on Friday. The Tennessee congressional delegation was otherwise split in the voting.

In the Senate’s 72-28 vote, Sen. Lamar Alexander voted yes; Sen. Bob Corker no.

In the House’s 240-186 vote,  Republican Rep. Jimmy Duncan of Knoxville voted no along with Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Nashville. The state’s other Republican congressmen – Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood, Scott DesJarlais of South Pittsburg, Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah and David Kustoff of Memphis – voted yes and were joined by Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis.

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Fleischmann slightly injured in train wreck; Kustoff and Roe aboard but unharmed

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann was slightly injured Wednesday when a train carrying Republican congressmen to an event in West Virginia hit a garbage truck. Two other Tennessee Republican congressmen—Reps. David Kustoff and Phil Roe – were aboard but not injured in the mishap.

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Alexander throws stick at Democrat, damages glass elephant

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee threw a “walking stick” toward Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia during bipartisan discussions on ending the government shutdown, according to Politico, and instead hit a glass elephant that was “nearly shattered.”

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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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Bill pending in Congress would return 76 acres of TN land to Cherokees

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann says he expects a House floor vote “very soon” on legislation that would effectively make 76 acres of land in Monroe County a part of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians reservation, reports the Times Free Press.

The property includes land that is currently home to the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore and tracts once part of two major Cherokee towns that were tribal centers before the forced removal of Cherokees to Oklahoma 180 years ago. Much of the Cherokee homeland in the area was covered with water when the 129-foot-high Tellico Dam became operational in 1979.

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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.

Norris voices doubts about being confirmed as U.S. District Court judge

State Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris says he will stay in his current elective position until the U.S. Senate actually confirms his nomination as U.S. District Judge for West Tennessee – and he’s not really certain that’s going to happen, reports The Tennessean.

“I don’t trust the United States Senate to follow through on this,” he said during a state Senate GOP caucus meeting. “I’m not going to resign the seat which my constituents have elected me or this leadership for which you elected me.”

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Senate confirms ‘Chip’ Campbell as federal judge for Middle TN

The U.S. Senate Tuesday voted 97-0 to confirm President Donald Trump’s nomination of Nashville attorney William “Chip” Campbell as a U.S. District Court judge for Middle Tennessee. Confirmation of three other nominees for judicial post in Tennessee is still pending.

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