June 2013 Newsletter

Senator Lamar Alexander
2013-06-14 13:45:24

I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve been working on in Washington and Tennessee this past month:

Investigating whether Obamacare fundraising violates the law

In recent weeks, major news outlets have reported that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is soliciting money and other support from private entities on behalf of an organization helping to implement Obamacare. That organization, Enroll America, is a non-profit run by a former aide to President Obama. The administration has been quoted as saying that Congress refused to provide additional funding for the exchanges, so they had to come up with a Plan B. Our country’s founders gave Congress the power of the purse – the strongest curb on executive power included in our Constitution.  The Antidefiency Act enforces these principles. If Secretary Sebelius or others in her department are fundraising for Enroll America and then coordinating with Enroll America for activities Congress chose not to fund, that may be a violation of the Antideficiency Act. That’s in addition to potentially raising money or other support from companies that she regulates, which may be a violation of ethics laws. I asked the Government Accountability Office and HHS’s Inspector General to investigate, and called on Secretary Sebelius to stop her fundraising activities.


Passing a law to stop the government from restricting fishing in Tennessee

Congress recently passed – and the president signed – my legislation that stops the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ from restricting fishing below dams on the Cumberland River. This two-year ban prevents the Corps from implementing its unnecessary, unreasonable restrictions and delegates enforcement below the dams to state agencies in Tennessee and Kentucky. Now the Corps is required, by law, to stop wasting taxpayer dollars and ignoring those of us who have been standing up for fishermen. In addition to this two-year ban, the U.S. Senate has passed my permanent solution as part of the Water Resources Development Act. This permanent solution would delegate enforcement below the dams to state wildlife agencies and prevent the Corps from installing permanent barriers or any restrictions that aren’t based on operating conditions.

The U.S. House of Representatives has not yet taken up its version of the Water Resources Development Act, which is what made the two-year ban that recently became law necessary. My legislation, which originated as the “Freedom to Fish Act,” was cosponsored by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). A similar version was sponsored in the House by U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Andy Barr (R-Ky.).


Obama administration must cooperate with investigation of IRS political targeting

On May 15, I joined all of my Republican colleagues in the Senate in a letter calling on President Obama to have his administration comply with congressional requests for information as we examine the Internal Revenue Service’s admitted targeting of conservative groups and others during the 2012 election cycle. The First Amendment protects the rights of the American people to organize and speak up and speak out, and the IRS has violated those rights by creating what sounds like an enemies list to keep people opposed to the president quiet. Congress needs to investigate the IRS’s actions to make sure something like this never happens again, and the Obama administration owes it to the American people to help us get to the bottom of this.


Progress on legislation to help prevent another meningitis outbreak

Legislation I sponsored to help prevent another nightmare like the meningitis outbreak that killed 15 Tennesseans and made more than 150 people in our state sick recently passed the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, of which I am Ranking Member, or lead Republican. This legislation makes clear that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating large-scale compounding shipped across state lines, and that states are in charge of regulating compounded drugs made by traditional pharmacies. The bottom line is that under this legislation, when you walk into a facility that makes drugs, you will now know who is regulating that facility – and who is responsible for preventing another outbreak like the one Tennessee faced last year.


Opposing Obama’s labor secretary nominee; calling for labor relations board picks who respect Constitution

On May 16, I voted against President Obama’s nominee for secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, Thomas Perez. I opposed voting Mr. Perez out of the Senate committee that oversees labor policy, where I am the lead Republican, for two reasons. First, my view of his record raises troubling questions about his actions while at the Department of Justice, and his candor in discussing those actions with the committee. Second, neither Mr. Perez nor the administration had provided relevant and specific information that congressional committees have asked for during the nomination process. Mr. Perez orchestrated a quid pro quo arrangement between the Department of Justice and the city of St. Paul, in which the department agreed to drop two cases in exchange for the city withdrawing its case – an extraordinary amount of wheeling and dealing that prevented the potential recovery of millions of taxpayer dollars, and violated the trust whistleblowers place in the federal government.

I also continue to push the Obama administration to select nominees to the National Labor Relations Board who haven’t served in violation of the Senate’s constitutional role of advice and consent. On May 22, I opposed the nominations of Sharon Block and Richard Griffin, because they have continued to serve on the board even though the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has said their service is constitutionally invalid. The president previously appointed both of them as so-called recess appointments, at a time when the Senate wasn’t in recess. Any decisions they’ve participated in are invalid, and they’ve shown a lack of respect for the Constitution by not leaving the board.



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