July/August Newsletter

Senator Lamar Alexander
2013-08-20 15:55:25
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July/August 2013 Newsletter

August 19, 2013-

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

Voting against a ‘national school board,’ pushing for state and local freedom in education

I voted against a 1,150-page proposal on June 12 by Senate Democrats that would double down on the congestion of federal mandates that have, in effect, established a national school board. This proposal says the federal government doesn’t trust parents, teachers and states to educate their children, and they want someone in Washington to do it for them. My fellow Republicans and I completely reject that, and offered an alternative proposal to fix No Child Left Behind. It would restore responsibility to states and local communities to help children in our public schools learn and give teachers and parents freedom, flexibility and choice. Our proposal would get Washington out of the business of deciding whether schools and teachers are succeeding or failing and free states from federal mandates. This includes giving states like Tennessee the freedom to make decisions about educational standards, without the approval of the secretary of education in Washington.

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Pushing for repeal of Obamacare, voting to permanently delay mandates as law unravels

I voted to delay the employer mandate and individual mandate in the president’s health care law on July 11. The White House had previously announced that it would delay the employer mandate, which requires businesses to provide health insurance, by one year. I voted in the Senate Appropriations Committee to delay both the employer mandate and the individual mandate that requires individuals to buy health insurance. The whole law should be dismantled, and Congress should enact legislation that will reduce overall health care costs by giving patients more choice in their health care decision-making.

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Hosting Senator Paul at charter school roundtable with former student, teachers, parents

On July 29, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined me in a discussion of charter schools in Nashville with a roundtable of charter school leaders, teachers, parents and a former student hosted by Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. The goal was to help inform our work on federal legislation to make it easier for states and communities to create charter schools. Charter schools liberate teachers to use their own good judgment to help children, and give parents more choices of good schools. I also joined Senator Paul, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and Senators Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) on July 30 in Washington, D.C. for a roundtable discussion on expanding school choice.

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Passing a permanent solution to bring down student loan interest rates, treat taxpayers more fairly

On July 24, the U.S. Senate passed a bill I cosponsored that makes student loans fairer to taxpayers, while lowering interest rates for 200,000 Tennesseans going to college this fall. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the same legislation on July 31, and on Aug. 9 the president signed it into law. Student loan rates increased on July 1 – from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on 40 percent of all new federal government loans for college students – even though my colleagues and I had already introduced the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act for Senate consideration. Some Senate Democrats wanted a short-term political fix that would have only helped some students and resulted in billions of dollars in permanent tax increases on Americans. By basing student loan interest rates on the U.S. Treasury’s 10-year borrowing note, our plan follows market conditions and actually saves taxpayers more than $700 million over the next decade. Our market-based plan also makes student loans cheaper, simpler and more certain for 100 percent of borrowers taking out a new loan after July 1. Rates on all new undergraduate loans taken out this year since July 1 would be 3.86 percent. And our legislation would end the annual game of Congress playing politics with student loan interest rates at the expense of students planning for their futures.

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Pushing for withdrawal of unconstitutional NLRB nominees, opposing pro-labor replacements

President Obama recently withdrew two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, Sharon Block and Richard Griffin Jr., whom he’d already unconstitutionally appointed to the board. He did so by making recess appointments when the Senate wasn’t in recess, and I’ve been fighting to uphold the Senate’s constitutional role of advice and consent in our system of checks and balances. The withdrawal of these two nominees was the suggestion I made in May in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, of which I am the lead Republican. The agreement to withdraw Block and Griffin and offer two replacements made clear that this president, or any president, cannot thumb his nose at the Senate’s constitutional role. On July 24, I voted against President Obama’s two new nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, because I’m concerned with their ability to set aside their pro-union advocacy pasts to act as neutral arbiters between employees and employers.

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Ending fishing controversy, readying permanent solution to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fishing restrictions

On June 19, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would remove buoys restricting access to fishing areas below dams on the Cumberland River. This was in compliance with legislation I sponsored – which officially became law on June 3 – and it was the right way to end the fishing controversy. That legislation prohibited the Corps from implementing restrictions for two years, while also delegating enforcement below the dams to appropriate state agencies. In addition to this two-year ban, the U.S. Senate passed on May 15 my permanent solution – which would prevent the Corps from establishing physical barriers, require that further action be based on operating conditions and give enforcement responsibility to state agencies – as part of the Water Resources Development Act. The U.S. House of Representatives has not yet taken up its version of the Water Resources Development Act, which made the two-year ban necessary to protect the freedom to fish in the meantime.

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Working to solve our country’s nuclear waste problem and honoring Tennesseans who worked on our nuclear weapons deterrent

After 25 years of stalemate, legislation I introduced on June 27 with a bipartisan group of senators puts us back on the road to finding safe places to dispose of our country’s used nuclear fuel. This is important because nuclear power provides 60 percent of our reliable, clean electricity. The legislation I introduced in my role as lead Republican or “Ranking Member” of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development addresses this by making local, state and federal governments equal partners in the process of finding temporary consolidated and permanent storage for used nuclear fuel.

I’m also working to honor the Americans who worked countless hours with hazardous materials to build our country’s nuclear deterrent. In Tennessee, more than 14,000 workers have made claims for compensation – more than any other state – and I proposed a resolution on June 10 to make Oct. 30, 2013 the fifth National Day of Remembrance for nuclear weapons program workers.

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