Sen. Lamar Alexander blasts Barack Obama over fiscal cliff, Michigan visit

Posted on December 12, 2012

Offering a lengthy speech delivered on the Senate floor Tuesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander blasted President Barack Obama for his role in negotiations regarding the fiscal cliff and heralded Tennessee's status as a "right-to-work" state.

The senator, who reportedly has worked to put together an "emergency backup plan" that could be put into place if Congress and the president cannot agree how best to address a mix of tax increases and spending cuts set to go into effect at year's end, said he was still waiting on Obama to set the agenda for how negotiations could move forward.

"We are waiting for his leadership," Alexander said." He is not sitting around a table as one senator anymore. He is the president. He is the agenda setter. We need his proposal. Then we can react to it, and then we can agree on it. He is not the speaker. He is not the majority leader of the Senate or the minority leader. He is the president of the United States."

The senator specifically mentioned his desire to see the president's suggestions for reforms to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, while ensuring the programs would still provide for current and future enrollees. 

Alexander also directed a portion of his comments at Obama's recent visit to Michigan, whose Legislature on Tuesday voted to make the state the 24th "right-to-work" state in the country. The controversial decision will prohibit labor unions from requiring workers to pay membership dues. 

"It seems to me that time would have been better spent here in Washington, D.C., working on the fiscal cliff, but [Obama] was in Michigan," he said. "By my way of thinking, he was doing two things: First, he was encouraging the people of Michigan to continue to deny working people the right to get or keep a job without having to pay union dues; and second, to continue to perpetuate a system that will keep our auto industry from being able to compete in the world marketplace."

A former governor of Tennessee, Alexander applauded the move, despite conceding that it could lure competition away from Tennessee in future years. The senator said the move was ultimately better for the national economy and expressed hope that it would eventually bring new companies and jobs to the state, similar to when he helped recruit Nissan to Tennessee during his tenure as governor. 

"I believe that what saved the industry, as much as anything else, were the right-to-work laws and the existence of a competitive environment in the southeastern United States, where workers could make cars efficiently, be paid well for their work and make them here in the United States, instead of in Japan," he said.