Chattanooga Times Free Press: Sen. Alexander says Trump deregulation should aid manufacturers

Posted on April 19, 2017

President Donald Trump has rolled back dozens of regulations this year that the U.S.Senate labor committee chairman believes were hurting business growth.

But U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Wednesday that Congress still needs to repeal and replace the so-called Obamacare health plan and work to maintain some federal programs Trump has targeted for cuts to help maximize economic growth.

In a speech to the Tennessee Association of Manufacturers, Alexander said the president and Republican-controlled Congress have already lifted major regulatory barriers for job growth, including stricter overtime rules for managers, fiduciary regulations on financial advisers, and a host of business reporting requirements proposed by the Obama administration's Department of Labor.

Alexander said the number of major regulations proposed under Obama rose by 37 percent, but President Trump is committed to removing many of those regulations to help businesses thrive and grow.

"One rule after another has stacked a big, wet blanket of costs and time-consuming mandates on job creators, causing them to create fewer jobs," Alexander said.

Trump also has cleared the way for construction of the Keystone pipeline to bring more oil from Canada into the United States and encouraged more purchases of American-made goods.

Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said he expects the Senate to confirm Alexander Acosta as Secretary of Labor early next month so "he can get to work creating an environment for workers in Tennessee and across the country to succeed in a rapidly changing workplace."

Acosta, the son of Cuban immigrants, served on the National Labor Relations Board, led the civil-rights division of the Justice Department, and served as a U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida during the George W. Bush administration. If confirmed, he will be the first Hispanic in Trump's cabinet.

Alexander praised Acosta, who was nominated to head the Department of Labor by President Trump after Trump's first choice, former Hardee's CEO Andres Puzder, withdrew under pressure.

"We are fortunate to have a Labor Secretary nominee who understands how a good-paying job is critical to helping Tennessee workers realize the American dream for themselves and their families," Alexander said. "Tennesseans do not want Washington telling them what to do, and I expect, President Trump and the Republican Congress will work together with Mr. Acosta once he is confirmed to ensure Tennesseans have more control over their everyday lives."

Alexander urged his Congressional colleagues to take a similar approach to health care by offering states more flexibility in how they operate Medicaid in each state and how they regulate health exchange networks for those buying health insurance who are not covered by their employers. Alexander and fellow Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, R Tenn., are backing a bill to allow individuals to buy insurance off the exchange if no insurer offers a qualified plan in a market.

In Knoxville, the one insurer now offering individual health exchange plans, Humana, has announced it will not continue coverage in 2018.

Alexander likens the subsidies offered for coverage under ObamaCare in market like Knoxville "to having a bus ticket without any bus to ride on."

While Alexander said many of Trump's policies are helping business, Tennessee's senior senator did part company with the White House over some of the proposed cuts in a preliminary Office of Management and Budget plan submitted last month. Trump's OMB has proposed cuts in non-military functions of the Department of Energy, the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Transportation, and the elimination of agencies such as the Economic Development Administration, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Community Development Block Grant program.

"With all respect for the president, presidents don't write budgets, Congress do," Alexander said. "Most of the people I know in manufacturing and job creation are more worried about regulations, and less worried about these budget cuts. But that budget that was proposed a few weeks ago is not a budget that is likely to pass."

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R Chattanooga, who also attended the Tennessee Association of Manufacturers luncheon, also voiced support for restoring funding for DOE projects, especially those that help provide more than $3 billion a year to DOE facilities in Oak Ridge.

"This is a new administration that has to look at all of its priorities," Fleischmann said. "But rest assured, I spoke with (Energy) Secretary (Rick) Perry last week and told him about the Oak Ridge National Lab and he is going to come visit with Sen. Alexander and I and I think were going to be in great shape."