Latest from Lamar, Notes from the Senate Desk
*This week, the
Senate�released a discussion draft of its health care bill. To begin with,
this discussion draft makes no change in the law protecting people
with pre-existing conditions, no change in Medicare benefits, and it
increases Medicaid funding � that�s TennCare � at least at the rate of
inflation. Let me repeat:�it makes no change�in the law protecting
people with pre-existing conditions,�no change in�Medicare benefits,�and
annually increases funding for Medicaid�that�s TennCare� at least at the
rate of inflation.*
Here are some other benefits for Tennesseans I
see in this draft:
- Offers health care coverage to 162,000
Tennesseans who make less than $12,000 a year, and under the current law,
receive zero help buying insurance.
- Means the 350,000 Tennesseans
who buy their insurance in the individual market � these are
Tennesseans who don�t get their insurance on the job or who don�t get it from
the government � are more likely to be able to buy insurance next year
instead of being in the collapsing Obamacare exchanges where there may
be only one option � or even zero options � to buy insurance.
Repeals the health insurance tax, which drives up the cost of
- Gives the state more flexibility and continues federal
cost-sharing, which our state insurance commissioner said will help bring down
the cost of premiums.
- Slows down sky-rocketing premiums, which in
Tennessee have gone up 176 percent over four years.
- Repeals the
medical device tax on one of our state�s largest exports.
the employer mandate penalty, which should mean that employers should
be able to offer employees more choices of insurance at a
lower-cost�and about 60 percent of us get our insurance on the job.
- Ends the
tax on individuals who choose not to buy insurance.
- Provides more
money for hospitals that serve low-income Tennesseans who don�t have
- Provides new funding for opioid abuse, and opioid abuse
is a rampant epidemic in our state.
- Provides new Medicaid
funding for mental health to double the number of days of in-patient
I�m going to continue to review this draft. I�m going to see
what it costs when the Congressional Budget Office gives its report.
Then, I�m going to stay focused on it next week as the bill goes to the
Senate floor � where it will be subject to virtually unlimited
amendments � and my focus will be on how it affects Tennesseans.
Wednesday, Senator Corker and I had the opportunity to congratulate Carmen
and Grant, recipients of the Congressional Award Gold Medal. These
Tennessee students were recognized for setting challenging goals in the
areas of volunteering, personal development, fitness and
*This week, I attended several U.S. Senate Appropriations
subcommittee hearings on the president�s proposed budget. At those committee
meetings, I asked administration officials about the status of a review
of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park�s response to the Sevier
County wildfires. I also asked about the Polk home in Columbia, and
about a proposal that could cost the University of Tennessee nearly $10
million in grant funding each year.*
On Wednesday, I asked U.S.
Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about the status of the
department�s individual fire review for the devastating fire in the
Smokies last year. This report will provide assistance in learning what
happened and help us avoid something like that happening again � and
Secretary Zinke said that he will ensure this report is finalized as soon
as possible. The fire was traumatizing for the people in the
community, and I appreciate his focus. I also asked [link 5] Secretary Zinke if
the Department will continue to support taking the next step on
making the James K. Polk home in Columbia a unit of the National Park
Later on Wednesday, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick
Perry [link 7] testified at the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee
on Energy and Water Development hearing on the Energy Department�s
budget. The Energy Department�s research programs have made the United
States a world leader in science and technology and will help the United
States maintain its brainpower advantage to remain competitive in a
time where other countries are investing heavily in these areas. We have
to be fiscally responsible and carefully spend our resources on
programs that can achieve results.
On Thursday, I talked with Dr.
Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), at a
U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing about how a budget
proposal from the administration regarding NIH grant recipients could mean
a nearly $10 million decrease in funding for the University of
Tennessee and force universities around the country to do less research. We
want universities to do more research, not less. I encouraged Dr.
Collins and the administration to instead look at how much time
researchers spend on administrative tasks � approximately 42 percent by some
*Energy research deserves the same attention from Congress
as medical research*
On Tuesday, at an event hosted by the
Bipartisan Policy Center�s American Energy Innovation Council, I said that
last year�s 21st Century Cures Act will help virtually every American
family, but medical research is not the whole story. Energy research
deserves the same attention and also has the potential to help virtually
every American family. I think the best way to lower the cost of
energy, clean the air, improve health, increase family incomes, and produce
good-paying jobs is to double funding for basic energy research and
drive American innovation. We are heading in the right direction on
federally sponsored energy research. Through the U.S. Senate
Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, which I chair, we
have increased investment in both basic energy research and
high-potential, high-impact energy technologies at ARPA-E.�
*On Tuesday, I met
with the National Association of Manufacturers and discussed
workforce development and the importance of working to close the skills gap.
The Manufacturing Institute estimates that this skills gap will leave
two million manufacturing jobs unfilled over the next 10
*Celebrating our national symbol, the bald eagle*
Last week, the
Senate passed my resolution designating this Tuesday, June 20, as American
Eagle Day. This is the tenth year I�ve sponsored this resolution to
celebrate the recovery and restoration of our national symbol, the bald
eagle. I�m also especially proud as a Tennessean that the American
Eagle Foundation, in Pigeon Forge, has played such a leading role for
more than 30 years in preserving this magnificent bird. You can read more
about bald eagles here [link 12].
Never be too busy to meet a
competent young person who wants a job.�
In 1970, when I was working
in the Nixon White House, a friend telephoned about a young
Kentuckian who wanted a press job. After meeting her, I called Ron Ziegler,
then the White House press secretary.�
"I don't have time to see her,"
"You'll be sorry if you don't," I replied.�
her and hired her. Her name was Diane Sawyer. That interview began a
media career that eventually led to ABC's *PrimeTime Live.�*
*� � � �
�- From Lamar Alexander�s�*Little Plaid Book**
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