Posted on December 22, 2007
“Mistaking style for substance, his opponents often underestimate Alexander’s toughness. He’s soft-spoken, decent and thoughtful, but unbending once he decides he’s right. One of the things I admire most about Alexander is his deep understanding of the immigration issue and the need to promote assimilation among all who would become Americans. Alexander’s thoughtfulness, his ability to put together bipartisan coalitions to achieve policy goals where possible and to fight on principle when necessary make this conservative hope that after Thursday he will be a part of the Senate Republican leadership team.” -David Keene, “Post-Lott GOP Leadership,” The Hill, Dec. 4, 2007 “I wish to commend my colleague, Senator Alexander, for his broad and very intricate history of bipartisanship. If all of us in this body followed this process in all major legislation, this would be a historic session, and I hope it is so. This will be one of the first [times] that I can look back to and say we tried and we succeeded. And I think we’re going to succeed. I thank the Senator from Tennessee very much.” —Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) on the America COMPETES Act “…even though this is a Reid-McConnell bill, the true inspirations for this measure…are Senator Alexander from Tennessee and Senator Bingaman from New Mexico. They made an extraordinary contribution in pulling together a disparate group of senators from different committees to produce an extremely important piece of legislation.” —Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Senate Republican Leader on the America COMPETES Act During the 110th Congress This year U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander’s top legislative accomplishment was the passage of the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act, bipartisan legislation to invest $34 billion over three years to double funding for basic scientific research and improve the teaching of math and science to our children. Alexander led Republican efforts on the bill for over two years prior to its final passage this August. In a show of bipartisan support, the America COMPETES Act – which went through multiple versions in the previous Congress – was jointly introduced by Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and garnered 70 cosponsors from both parties. Alexander was both the Republican manager of debate on the legislation and the lead Senate Republican conferee during final negotiations on the bill with the House of Representatives. It was signed into law by President Bush on August 9, 2007. Alexander was also a major player in the debate on U.S. policy in Iraq as the lead Republican sponsor of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) Recommendations Implementation Act, a bill to make the ISG recommendations the basis for future U.S. strategy. That legislation, sponsored by Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO), garnered the support of 16 Senators – 8 Democrats and 8 Republicans – and was consistently cited as the potential point of consensus between the two parties on Iraq policy. It would set U.S. policy on a course that, over time, moved our troops out of the combat business and into the business of training, equipping, and supporting Iraqi forces as soon as we honorably could. The bill contained no artificial deadlines for transitioning or withdrawing forces. Alexander also achieved prominent positions of leadership in the Senate this year. In early December, he was elected Senate Republican Conference Chairman – the third highest ranking Republican position in the Senate – by his peers. At the beginning of the year, Alexander was named to the Senate Appropriations Committee, widely considered to be its most powerful because of jurisdiction over federal spending; he is the only Tennessee Republican to ever serve on this prestigious panel He was also named to the Environment and Public Works Committee – the committee responsible for clean air and climate change issues and the Tennessee Valley Authority. He is also third ranking Republican member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Senator Alexander also joined with Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut this year to host Weekly Bipartisan Breakfasts that offer senators from both parties the opportunity discuss the challenges of the day in a private, relaxed setting. The meetings have been attended by as many as 40 senators at one time and are the only regular bipartisan gatherings of their kind. Alexander was the principal sponsor of 8 pieces of legislation that became law and 8 pieces of legislation that passed the Senate. He made 163 visits to Tennessee counties. This year, Senator Alexander: Was principal sponsor (or lead Republican sponsor) of 8 legislative proposals that are now law: America COMPETES Act – bipartisan legislation to invest $34 billion over three years to double funding for basic scientific research and improve the teaching of math and science to our children. Alexander led Republican efforts on the bill for over two years prior to its final passage and signing by the president in August 2007. Creating Head Start “Centers of Excellence” – authored a provision to establish 200 Centers of Excellence around the country to serve as model Head Start programs. Alexander’s provision served as the basis for an overall bipartisan compromise on Head Start and was included in the final version of the Head Start Reauthorization bill that was signed into law by the president in December 2007. Ending the North Shore “Road to Nowhere” – with Rep Heath Shuler (D-NC) secured $6 million in the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus appropriations bill signed by the president in December 2007 to begin a settlement between Swain County and the federal government instead of building the North Shore Road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The $6 million appropriated to the National Park Service to hold for use in the eventual settlement with Swain County is the result of over two decades by Alexander to end the road. Demonstrating Carbon Capture at the Capitol Power Plant – lead Republican on legislation that creates a demonstration project at the Capitol power plant for the capture or use of CO2 emissions from coal burned at the plant, to allow Congress to lead by example on climate change. The provision passed as an amendment to the Energy Bill and was signed into law by the president in December 2007. Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Payments for Tennessee Hospitals – with Sen. Corker secured language in the Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP Extension Act to provide extensions for Tennessee’s DSH payments for six months, or until June 30, 2008. These payments compensate hospitals – like UT Medical Center, Erlanger Hospital, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and the Regional Medical Center at Memphis (The Med) – that treat large numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients. The bill allocates approximately $63 million to help Tennessee hospitals and has been sent to the president for his signature. Key Projects in the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA)– authored Tennessee provisions in WRDA that authorize repairs and replacements for aging Tennessee dams and locks, revitalize riverfront developments, bolster flood control efforts and aid more than a dozen state water quality projects. The bill became law in November 2007 after Congress overrode the president’s earlier veto. Aiding Sick Nuclear Weapons Workers – lead Republican on legislation which helps sick nuclear weapons workers navigate the bureaucracy when filing claims for compensation and extends the sunset date for the EEOICPA Ombudsman’s office – created as part the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICPA) Reform Act of 2004 – until October 28, 2012. Passed as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2008 and has been sent to the president for his signature. Renaming the Memphis Federal Building – introduced Senate version of legislation to add the name of civil rights pioneer Odell Horton, the first African-American federal judge in Tennessee since Reconstruction, to the Federal Building in Memphis. Identical legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) was signed into law by the president in May 2007. Was principal sponsor (or lead Republican sponsor) of 8 pieces of legislation that have passed the Senate: Protecting English in the Workplace – amendment to stop the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from filing lawsuits against employers who require their employees to speak English on the job. Passed the Senate as part of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008. Presidential Award for Business Leadership in Promoting American Citizenship – establishes an award to recognize companies for extraordinary efforts to help their immigrant employees learn English and civics. Passed the Senate as an amendment to the immigration reform bill. Combat Illegal Logging Act – legislation to protect the rule of law and support conservation by preventing illegal timber from entering the U.S. Passed the Senate as part of the 2007 Farm Bill. Bishop Patterson resolution – resolution celebrating the life of the late Bishop Gilbert Patterson of Memphis. Lady Vols – resolution congratulating the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team for winning the 2007 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship. American Eagle Day – resolution declaring June 20, 2007 “American Eagle Day” and celebrating the recovery and success of the national symbol. National Charter Schools Week – resolution naming April 30, 2007, through May 4, 2007 as a time to celebrate charter schools. National Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week – resolution designating the third week of April 2007 as a time to learn about Shaken Baby Syndrome and how to prevent it. Is a principal sponsor of the following legislation that has passed committee and is waiting to be considered by the full Senate: Low Carbon Fuel Standard – amendment requiring transportation fuels to decrease gradually the amount of carbon in the gasoline or diesel that they contain. Using lower carbon fuels reduces emissions of greenhouse gases, reduces oil consumption, lowers expenditures on oil imports and saves consumers dollars. Passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as part of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. Is principal sponsor (or lead Republican) on legislation awaiting Senate action: Iraq Study Group (ISG) Recommendations Implementation Act – to implement the bipartisan recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which would, over time, move our troops out of the combat business and into the business of training, equipping and supporting Iraqi forces as soon as we honorably can. Clean Air/Climate Change Act – to cap carbon dioxide emissions at 2001 levels and encourage utilities to undertake “offset” projects to reduce or capture carbon dioxide. The legislation also caps emissions on three major pollutants that effect health and air quality: sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury. Regional Presidential Primary and Caucus Act – to establish a rotating schedule of regional presidential primaries and caucuses, thereby allowing voters in all states the opportunity to have a meaningful voice in the selection of presidential nominees. The legislation is based on the Rotating Regional Presidential Primaries Plan first adopted by the National Association of Secretaries of State in 2000. State Student Achievement Contract – to allow up to 12 states to enter into a five-year “State Student Achievement Contract” to give those states greater flexibility in meeting No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements in exchange for setting higher academic achievement standards. Iraq Redeployment Planning – to require a report on the status of redeployment planning from the Pentagon. The bipartisan bill requires the Department of Defense to provide its report within 60 days to congressional defense committees, with updated reports every 90 days thereafter. Already passed the House of Representatives as legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Tanner (D-TN). Protecting English in the Workplace Act – to protect the rights of employers to ensure their employees can communicate with each other and their customers during the working hours and to clarify that it’s not against the law to require employees to speak in English while engaged in work. Strengthening American Citizenship Act – to help legal immigrants and prospective citizens learn what it means to become American and codify the Oath of Allegiance to which all immigrants swear when they are naturalized as U.S. citizens. American History and Civics Achievement Act – to establish a new, 10-state pilot program under the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” to assess and improve our children’s knowledge of American history and civics. Empowering Parents Through Choice Act – to provide Promise Scholarships of up to $4,000 for tuition at private schools for students attending public schools that have not met adequate yearly progress and are subject to restructuring under the No Child Left Behind Act. Federal Consent Decree Fairness Act – to provide relief to newly-elected state and local officials who inherit overbroad or outdated consent decrees by making it easier to modify or terminate those decrees. Green McAdoo National Historic Site Study Act – to require a study on the feasibility of designating the first desegregated public high school in the South – the Green McAdoo School of Clinton, Tennessee – as a unit of the National Park System. Is a cosponsor of other significant pieces of legislation, including: Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards – amendment to increase the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks for the first time in more than 30 years, so vehicle go further with less gas thereby reducing pollution and climate change and making Americans less dependent on foreign oil. Passed as part of the Energy Bill and signed into law by the president in December 2007. Border Security First Act – legislation providing $3 billion in emergency funding for border security improvements. Passed the Senate as an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2008 and included in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2008 that was signed by the President in December 2007. Stop Over-Spending (S.O.S.) Act – to create new forces to restrain federal spending, reduce the deficit and gain control of the federal budget process. The bill would establish a two-year budgeting process, giving Congress more time to review and sunset unnecessary federal programs, and it would give the president line-item veto authority to strip wasteful projects from spending bills. Healthy Americans Act – to provide every American with affordable, private health insurance. The legislation would give Americans choice in where they get their health care, break the link between employment and insurance to make health care portable from job to job (and continue if you lose your job), promote personal responsibility and preventative medicine, and reform the insurance market so that insurers are forced to compete on price, benefits and quality. English as the National Language – legislation to declare English the national language of the United States. Passed the Senate as an amendment to the immigration reform bill. Permanent State Sales Tax Deduction – to make the state sales tax deduction permanent in states such as Tennessee that don’t have a state income tax. Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action – to review all aspects of the government’s long-term financial condition and find solutions to protect critical programs while keeping costs down. The Bipartisan Task Force’s recommendations would be fast-tracked through Congress and guaranteed an up or down vote. Every American Insured Health Act – to provide all Americans – regardless of age, income or employer – with access to affordable, high-quality health insurance through the free market by providing tax credits. Invest in America Act – to make permanent the tax cuts that were enacted in 2001 and 2003 and to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). This would repeal the death tax and make permanent lower rates on the income tax and capital gains and dividends tax. Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act – amendment to encourage pharmaceutical companies to test more drugs for use by children by extending the current policy of giving those companies an extra six months on their drug patents in exchange for conducting further testing of how medicines affect children. This provision became law as part of the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act of 2007 that was signed by the president in September 2007. Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Access – to ensure expecting mothers in rural areas have access to an OB/GYN doctor. The legislation addresses the severe shortage of OB/GYN doctors for women and expectant mothers in rural areas by reducing excessive lawsuits against doctors and other health care providers. Wired for Health Care Quality Act – to give doctors and nurses the ability to look at a patient’s entire medical history at once by investing in health care technology. This will improve the quality of patient care and reduce administrative costs and medical errors caused by a lack of information. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2007 – to make necessary reforms to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 in order to address concerns that have been raised over the past 6 years, and to maintain the law’s strong accountability system so that every child in the classroom is given the opportunity to succeed. Secret Ballot Protection Act – to guarantee the rights of union workers to secret ballot elections, protecting them from intimidation or coercion. Commission to Reduce Spending – to create a Commission on Budgetary Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies (CARFA) to cut unnecessary programs and spending that waste taxpayer money. The District of Columbia Personal Protection Act – to restore Second Amendment rights by repealing the ban on certain firearms in the District of Columbia. Underground Railroad Educational and Program Act– to reauthorize a competitive grant program for museums and other institutions to research, display and collect artifacts about the history of the Underground Railroad. Funding for the program was included in the FY 2008 Omnibus appropriations bill that was signed by the president in December 2007. Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act – to establish a special section within the Department of Justice and a new FBI office to investigate civil rights cases and bring the guilty to justice. Union Corruption Amendment – to restore funding for the U.S. Labor Department office charged with cracking down on union corruption. Mental Health Parity Act – to provide parity between health insurance coverage of mental health benefits and benefits for medical and surgical services. Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act – to amend the Public Health Service Act to require an abortion provider – before beginning any abortion of an unborn child that can feel pain – to educate the mother on the pain the child can feel. Broadcaster Freedom Act – to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from reinstituting the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” that requires the government to monitor and regulate political views on the airways. Teach For America Act – to increase the number of highly accomplished recent college graduates teaching in underserved communities through the Teach for America program. The legislation would help Teach For America grow to over 7,500 corps members in 32 communities around the country, teaching over 600,000 low-income students every day. Student Loan Accountability and Disclosure Reform Act – to prohibit financial institutions operating under the Federal Family Education Loan program from offering specified inducements to institutions of higher education. Student Information Means a Positive Loan Experience Act – to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to improve the information and repayment options to student borrowers. Student Financial Aid Data Privacy Protection Act – to protect student borrowers and their families by establishing clear, standard operating procedures to manage access to private student financial information. National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week – resolution to name the week of September 9, 2007 as a time to celebrate the success of historically black colleges and universities. PERFORM Act – to require cable, satellite and Internet music providers to protect music they broadcast while at the same time allowing consumers to continue to record and replay programming. The legislation ensures appropriate protections on copyrighted music so that those who write, perform and produce music are fairly compensated for their work. Preserve America and Save America’s Treasures Act – to support community efforts to preserve and celebrate our nation’s priceless cultural and natural heritage. Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Study Act – to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to determine the suitability and feasibility of extending the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail to include additional sites associated with the preparation and return phases of the expedition, including sites in Tennessee. Appalachian Regional Development Act – to reauthorize the law that provides grants to communities in Appalachia to create thousands of new jobs, improve local water and sewer systems, increase school readiness, expand access to health care, assist local communities with strategic planning, and provide technical, managerial, and marketing assistance to emerging new businesses. Public Buildings Cost Reduction Act – to require federal buildings to become at least 20% more cost efficient. Passed as part of the Energy Bill and signed into law by the president in December 2007. Rosa Parks Postage Stamp – resolution expressing the sense of Congress that a commemorative postage stamp should be issued honoring civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. No Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Aliens – resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that states should not issue driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. Combat Methamphetamine Enhancement Act – Improves last year’s Combat Methamphetamine Act by ensuring that pharmacy customers are not able to purchase large quantities of cold medicine over the counter that could be used to produce meth. OPEN Government Act of 2007 – would make government more responsive to requests from Americans under the Freedom of Information Act. Grassroots Lobbying Amendment – to preserve the rights of groups and citizens to petition the U.S. government. This amendment struck language from ethics legislation that would have required burdensome and expensive filing and reporting requirements for grassroots organizations that encourage their members to contact government representatives. Passed the Senate as part of ethics reform legislation, and the language it struck was not included in the final version of the ethics bill which became law. Was honored for his legislative work by numerous groups, including: National Parks Conservation Association William Penn Mott Jr. Park Leadership Award Honorary Committee for the 20th Anniversary Council on Competitiveness March of Dimes Public Affairs Leadership Award Kodak American Greenways National Award for 2007 Horst G. Denk Legislative Service Award for support of the baking industry District of Columbia Association of Chartered Public Schools Legislative Champions Award 2007 George E. Brown Jr. Science, Engineering and Technology Leadership Award Council of Chief State School Officers Distinguished Service ward Outdoor Industry Association Friend of the Outdoor Industry Award YMCA 2007 Congressional Champion Senator Alexander also accomplished the following: Federal Assistance for Tennessee farmers – joined other members of the Tennessee congressional delegation in sending a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture that resulted in disaster declarations for all 95 counties as a result of the Easter freeze and record setting drought, allowing farmers affected to become eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency. He also urged congressional appropriators to extend the eligibility date for agriculture and livestock disaster aid programs. New Flying Mission for the 118th Airlift Wing – joined Governor Bredesen and other members of the Tennessee congressional delegation in writing the Air Force Secretary to ensure that the 118th continues its operation of C-130 aircraft at Berry Field. This was part of a two-year effort by Alexander and others, including former Senator Bill Frist. Alexander met with two Secretaries of Defense, the Secretary of the Air Force and other defense officials to help achieve this result. The new mission will keep approximately 700 jobs in the Nashville area, including the state’s only Aero Medical Unit. Protecting Scenic and Historic Places – joined Rep. Zach Wamp in writing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in opposition to a 150-foot cell phone tower on the slope of Chattanooga’s Missionary Ridge. Their efforts resulting in the FCC withdrawing approval for the construction of the Chattanooga cell tower and stopped it from being erected next to a national military park. TennCare Waiver – with Sen. Corker wrote to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and negotiated with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to secure a waver to extend health care coverage for 1.2 million Tennesseans. As part of the process, changed language in TennCare’s renewal application that guarantees the state would only be required to comply with new regulations, saving Tennessee hospitals an estimated $1.3 billion over five years as well as ensuring that Graduate Medical Education (GME) funds – which are meant to support the academic work of Tennessee’s medical students – would go directly to the state’s medical schools instead of teaching hospitals where they could be reallocated for other purposes.