Alexander: Republicans Can Say on the Economy: Mr. President, “You Made It Worse”

Says on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers”: “Nine percent unemployment, food prices, gas prices, health care mandates, health care costs, slow-walking trade agreements, undermining right-to-work laws – all of that’s throwing a big wet blanket over private-sector job creation in our country”

Posted on June 9, 2011

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander was interviewed for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program, which will air Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. ET. Excerpts follow and the full interview can be watched on C-SPAN’s website here.

On 2012:

  • “[President Obama] will not be easy to defeat, but I worked for a very good president, the first President Bush, who lost after one term because the Democrats said, ‘It’s the economy, stupid.’ And I think the vulnerability President Obama has is that Republicans may be able to say, by the time we get to a year from now, ‘He made it worse.’ Nine percent unemployment, food prices, gas prices, health care mandates, health care costs, slow-walking trade agreements, undermining right-to-work laws – all of that’s throwing a big wet blanket over private-sector job creation in our country. And if Republicans can say, ‘Look, we’re not going to blame you for problems you inherited, but we are going to give you credit for having made them worse,’ then he’ll be vulnerable to a strong Republican nominee.”

On the NLRB complaint against Boeing Company:

  • “Along with Senators DeMint and Graham, I’ve introduced legislation with 35 senators to put a stop to that. Basically this says that it’s a prima facie case of a labor violation if a company like Boeing, our largest exporter, that has a unionized workforce in a non-right-to-work state chooses to expand into a right-to-work state. That completely changes the law in our state. It makes it harder to create new jobs, it discourages companies from expanding, and it makes it more likely that they will move and create jobs overseas. I mean, Boeing sells airplanes all over the world. Today, most of its employees, more than 150,000, are in the United States. But it can also make airplanes all over the world. And we want companies, instead, to make here what they sell here. Tennessee’s benefitted greatly from having a right-to-work law; auto plants have come there because it is a competitive environment in which they can succeed.
  • “The [NLRB] Acting General Counsel has said, though, that because of past comments made by Boeing and the fact that there was a strike in 2008 by Washington workers, that [Boeing’s decision to open a new plant in South Carolina] is retaliation. It’s discriminatory that they want to open up a second plant in South Carolina because they’re also then saying, ‘You’re not going to strike in the future.’”
  • “Well, companies have always made decisions about where to locate based upon the labor environment there, among other factors. I’m sure that when Nissan came to Tennessee 30 years ago, it looked first at the central location, and second, we had a right-to-work law, and Kentucky did not. We were both in the center of the market; we didn’t have an income tax; we had good road programs. You look at all of those things. Usually, in the case of labor discrimination like this, you have to show that the union was hurt. In this case, Boeing actually added 2,000 jobs in Washington state. Just in practical terms, Boeing announced this expansion nearly two years ago. It spent a billion dollars making the first new airplane assembly plant in 40 years in the United States. They hired 1,500 construction workers to build the plant and over 500 employees to eventually work there, and they’re going to open the plant next month. And here comes this Acting General Counsel of the [NLRB] to stop that.”

On fixing Medicare:

  • “I don’t think a Democrat has a very good standing to criticize [the plan to fix Medicare introduced by Congressman] Paul Ryan unless the Democrat has a better plan. I mean, if you have all the Democratic leaders as well as the Republican leaders saying … [Medicare] spending is the biggest part of the problem, and if Paul Ryan has a plan, then somebody needs to come up with a better one. Now I like better the proposal by former Republican Senator Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin, a Democratic former budget official. They have the idea of premium support for seniors. [The plan would] allow [Medicare beneficiaries] to go into the marketplace and shop for what you might want for healthcare insurance. But if you don’t find what you want, you can fall back on traditional Medicare. And I think that would make many seniors a lot more comfortable. Also, it wouldn’t apply to anybody who’s over 55.”

On the lack of an agenda in the Senate:

  • “The problem is that the Democrats haven’t brought anything up to talk about. The way the Senate works is that when you’re the leader, when you have the majority, you set the agenda. The Republican leader can’t set it. So it’s up to Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, to set an agenda every week. He can bring up any single thing he wants to bring up … [At] a time when we’ve got 9 percent unemployment, we’ve got a health care law that’s been causing people to lose their health care, we’ve got a financial regulation bill that needs to be reformed, we’ve got three trade bills that need to be passed in order to open up this country to new jobs – we’ve got plenty that we can do. But it’s up to the Democrats to set the [Senate] agenda, it’s up to the President to set the national agenda – and in the Senate, they’re bringing nothing up.”
  • “I’ll put the blame on a slow-walking Senate directly where it belongs and that’s on the Majority Leader because he has the sole responsibility of setting the agenda in the Senate.”

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