February Newsletter

Senator Lamar Alexander
2017-02-28 22:28:40
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I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve been working on in Tennessee and Washington recently. The committee that I chair held nomination hearings for to lead the U.S. Department of Education and to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Both Mrs. DeVos and Dr. Price were confirmed by the Senate in February.

I also

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I joined the Republican Tennessee Congressional delegation in hosting a reception for Tennesseans visiting Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President Trump.

Working to rescue Americans trapped in an “Obamacare emergency”

There is an Obamacare emergency in Tennessee. Humana just announced last week that it is pulling out of all Obamacare exchanges for 2018 – meaning that 40,000 Knoxville residents on the exchange may have zero options for health insurance next year. They have an Obamacare subsidy, but it’ll be like holding a bus ticket in a town where no buses run. And Tennesseans just went through an enrollment period where 171,000 of them had to pick new plans because United and Blue Cross Blue Shield TN reduced offerings for 2017.

The news from Humana should light a fire under every member of Congress to work together to rescue Americans trapped in the failing Obamacare exchanges before they have no insurance options next year.

In January, the Senate took the toward building better health care systems by voting on a budget resolution that provides the tools necessary to begin repealing Obamacare. I have proposed a three-part mean Obamacare should be finally repealed only when there are concrete, practical reforms in place that give Americans access to truly affordable health care. The American people deserve health care reform that’s done in the right way, for the right reasons, in the right amount of time. It’s not about developing a quick fix. It’s about working toward long-term solutions that works for everyone.

If a local bridge in Tennessee were ‘very near collapse,’ the first thing you would do is send in a rescue crew to repair it temporarily so no one else is hurt. Then you would build a better bridge—or more accurately, many bridges— to replace the old bridge. Finally, when the new bridges are finished, you would close the old bridge.

Similarly, we will first send in a rescue crew to repair temporarily a collapsing health care market so no one else is hurt. Then, step by step, we will build better systems that give Americans access to truly affordable health care. We will do this by moving health care decisions out of Washington, D.C., and back to states and patients.

Finally, we will repair the damage that Obamacare has caused millions of Americans. We will do that by replacing Obamacare with better, lower-cost alternatives and repealing the parts of Obamacare that have caused the damage. While we will vote to repeal Obamacare this year, the repeal will take effect when concrete, practical alternatives are in place.

I wrote more about my plan on Medium.

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Following my recommendation, the Department of Health and Human Services last week released a proposed rule on market stabilization to help rescue Americans from the currently collapsing Obamacare individual market.

This action by Secretary Price is a good first step towards rescuing the health care market that Tennessee's insurance commissioner says is ‘very near collapse.’ Without this course of action, many of the 18 million Americans in the individual insurance market may have zero choices for insurance next year. Congress will act in the next few weeks to help provide a stable situation for the next three years while Congress and the administration work to replace and repeal Obamacare and give Tennesseans and all Americans more choices of lower cost insurance

It’s time to stop acting like the Hatfields and the McCoys over Obamacare -- Tennesseans expect the new Congress and administration to work together to quickly fix the Obamacare emergency in our state.

Restoring Tennessee classrooms to Tennessee communities

 On January 31, the Senate education committee, which I chair, sent the nomination of Betsy DeVos to become the next Secretary of Education to the Senate floor. Mrs. DeVos was confirmed by the full Senate on February 7, and I attended her swearing-in ceremony at the White House afterward.

I supported Betsy DeVos because she will implement the new law fixing No Child Left Behind the way Congress wrote it: to reverse the trend toward a national school board and restore local control of Tennessee’s public schools. Under her leadership, there will be no Washington mandates for Common Core, for teacher evaluation, or for vouchers. She has been a leader in the movement for public charter schools – the most successful reform of public education during the last thirty years. And she has worked tirelessly to help low-income children have more choices of better schools.   

I attended the swearing-in ceremony for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who will restore Tennessee classrooms to Tennessee communities.

Mrs. DeVos believes in the law we passed in December of 2015, with 85 votes, that restores to states and classroom teachers and local school boards the responsibility for making decisions about standards, about tests, about how to help improve schools, and about how to evaluate teachers. That law passed because people were so sick and tired of Washington telling local schools so much about what to do.

In a Medium"post on January 24, I urged my colleagues to confirm Mrs. DeVos. She has spent more than three decades helping children from low-income families choose a better school.

My office received many comments on Mrs. DeVos from Tennesseans and I"answered some of those calls myself.

It is appropriate to name the new Nashville federal courthouse after Fred Thompson

On Jan. 9, every member of the Tennessee delegation introduced a

At a ceremony celebrating the passage of 21st Century Cures, Nashvillian Doug Oliver presented me with the cane Doug used when he was blind, before his sight was restored through stem cells taken from his own hip. Doug contacted me last year to share his story of success with regenerative medicine and came to Washington last June to express his support for including regenerative medicine as part of Cures. The Cures legislation was

President James K. Polk’s home should be part of the National Park System

Tennessee is full of history, and the presidency of James K. Polk is one of our state’s great contributions to our nation’s history – which is why I introduced that would take the next step in preserving President Polk’s home as a site within the National Park System. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for the home of the president who created the Department of Interior, the home of the National Park Service, to be managed by the National Park Service? I sure think so. Columbia’s dedicated residents understand the importance of this historical presidential home, and the special resource study authorized by this legislation is the next step in the process toward preserving President Polk’s home and belongings and elevating the site to the national treasure it deserves to be.

Expanding Shiloh National Military Park protects sites for future generations

On January 11, I introduced

I spoke at the rally, held during , about helping students from low-income families have a choice of better schools.

Washington should adopt some Tennessee common sense and repeal federal death tax

Nobody should be put into the position of having to sell the family farm or small business they’ve inherited in order to pay the IRS a tax that’s only owed because someone passed away. I want to reduce Washington’s involvement in our everyday lives – which is why I by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) to eliminate the federal estate tax and help relieve the tax burden on family-owned farms and businesses. Tennessee – which benefits from being a low-tax state – repealed its inheritance tax in 2012, and it is time to transfer some of that common sense to Washington. 

On January 5, I  

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture rule could jeopardize Tennessee Walking Horse tradition

On January 14, the Obama Administration's U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a final

I met with Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch in a Capitol office. The Supreme Court is visible through the window.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s record-setting visitation proves it is “one of America’s greatest treasures”

More than 11 million visitors came to experience the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2016, the U.S. National Park Service Centennial. I was fortunate to mark the 100th anniversary by hiking in the Smokies with Tennessee students and Superintendent Cassius Cash and honoring the service of park employees. The park’s dedicated employees and nearly 2,250 volunteers – who donated over 100,000 hours of service – had a busy year and deserve a lot of credit for welcoming a 11,312,785 visitors. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s greatest treasures – and it has a tremendous economic impact in East Tennessee. I hope even more visitors will come to the park in 2017 which will help the area rebuild and recover from the deadly wildfires that spread through Sevier County and Gatlinburg in November.

Here is my statement on Andy Puzder’s nomination:

Andy Puzder has the experience and ability to make an excellent Labor Secretary, but I respect his decision. He understands the difficulties American workers face in a rapidly changing workforce and I look forward to continuing to hear his insights.

Here are some articles that I thought you would enjoy: 

The"Knoxville Focus: Alexander shines in committee hearings

Kingsport"Times-News: Replacing Obamacare

Chattanooga"Times Free Press: Senator Alexander urges three-step Obamacare replacement

Tennessee was awarded federal grant money in January: The National Park Service

I voted to confirm President Trump’s cabinet:

Follow Sen. Alexander in real time:

     
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