Fresh off a successful re-election campaign in which Lamar Alexander promised that going forward he’ll be a pugnacious foil to Barack Obama’s liberal agenda, the president praised Tennessee’s senior senator by name at a bill-signing this week.
In the Oval Office Wednesday, President Obama described Alexander and Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, as “some pretty productive legislators who actually have focused on getting stuff done,” USAToday reported.
The occasion was the president penning his signature to the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014. The legislation is a “reauthorization” of an existing program that a press release from Sen. Alexander’s office said will “expand access to and improve the quality of child care for the more than 1.5 million children.”
Alexander said the program, which the release described as having “been due for reauthorization since 2002,” would “help nearly 21,000 Tennessee families not only afford to enroll their children in child care, but be able to choose the care that is best for their family.” In a Nov. 17 floor speech just prior to the measure passing 88-1 in the Senate, Alexander said the CCDBG Act exemplifies legislation that Republicans “especially like” because it “is a block grant to the states, which gives states flexibility with a minimum number of federal rules.”
It also “includes vouchers” that the recipients can use to “choose among (their) various options for child care,” he said.
“It is exactly the kind of legislating that we ought to be doing in the internet age,” said Alexander. “It doesn’t mandate from Washington, it enables from Washington.”
Obama indicated that it tends to please him when Democrats and Republicans work together to send him legislation.
“I love signing bills,” the president said, adding that he’d “like to do it more often.”
Obama’s remarks could indicate he also likes the prospect of working closely with Alexander when the GOP takes charge of the Senate in January and, as is widely anticipated, Tennessee’s ranking U.S. Senate lawmaker takes over for Harkin as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
At the signing ceremony Harkin noted to President Obama the CCDBG Act was the 21st bill over the past two years that he and Alexander had teamed up on to guide through the HELP committee and get passed into law. Obama responded, “Well, that’s because you and Lamar are some pretty productive legislators who actually have focused on getting stuff done.”
Throughout his re-election campaign bid, Alexander and the TNGOP portrayed the former governor as a stalwart opponent to the president. On the other hand, Alexander’s unsuccessful challengers in the primary and general election, former Republican state Rep. Joe Carr and Democrat Gordon Ball, a Knoxville attorney, argued that Alexander has in fact tended to operate and vote more cooperatively with the administration than he was letting on in his campaign.