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Members of TN Congressional Delegation Respond to Obama Seeking AUMF Against ISIS

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker; R-Tenn.; February 11, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made the following statement about President Barack Obama’s proposed authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIS that was submitted to Congress today. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has jurisdiction over AUMF legislation.

“I appreciate the president following the long tradition of seeking authorization for the use of military force from Congress,” said Corker. “It also will be important that the president exert leadership, lay out a clear strategy for confronting the threat posed by ISIS, and do the hard work of making the case to the American people why this fight is necessary and one we must win. We will quickly begin to hold rigorous hearings where the administration will have an opportunity to provide Congress and the American people greater clarity on the U.S. strategy to address ISIS, particularly in Syria. Voting to authorize the use of military force is one of the most important actions Congress can take, and while there will be differences, it is my hope that we will fulfill our constitutional responsibility, and in a bipartisan way, pass an authorization that allows us to confront this serious threat.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. 01; February 11, 2015:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) released the following statement regarding President Obama’s request for Congress to authorize use of military force against the Islamic State:

“The Islamic State is a radical terrorist organization with every intention of bringing their heinous acts of terror to our homeland. We must address this serious threat and act pragmatically and deliberately to eliminate this evil. As is the case with any matter regarding war and peace, before I can support any authorization for use of military force, I must see a clear, strategic plan that includes an exit strategy. I am carefully considering the president’s proposal and I am hopeful we can work together to stop these murderers in their tracks.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn. 02; February 11, 2015:

WASHINGTON – Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. released the following statement Wednesday in response to President Obama’s request for use of military force against ISIS:

I am reviewing the Authorization for Use of Military Force draft very closely and keeping watch for any changes to it that will likely occur in the coming days.

If we do have to go to war against ISIS, we need to get in and get it over with and not drag it out for 13 or 14 years like the Afghanistan war.

I do believe most of the fighting in the Middle East should be done by men and women from those countries.  I don’t want to see young Americans killed in what is thus far a regional civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims.

These ISIS fanatics are probably the most evil, hate-filled people in this world.

If any American goes to fight with them, they should have their citizenship immediately revoked.  If any of them try to do anything to people in the United States, they should be given the death penalty without delay.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. 03; February 11, 2015:

WASHINGTON− Today, President Obama sent his formal request for Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIS to Congress. In response, Rep. Chuck Fleischmannreleased the following statement.

“The combination of the rapid growth and barbaric violence employed by ISIS poses one of the greatest modern threats to the US, our allies, and global security and stability. We must learn from our past experiences and adapt our military strategy to deal with the evolving threats we face today. The President took the proper step in requesting an AUMF from Congress to take any substantial action against ISIS but he must outline and justify the force he plans to use.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburtn, R-Tenn. 07; February 11, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s request for Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against ISIL.

“The President’s request for an AUMF is one that should not be taken lightly or considered without doing the due diligence that such a request requires. The House will proceed in the appropriate manner to review the strategy that would be implemented by such an order and the objectives set forth that our military would be required to achieve. As we proceed through this process, I will continue to visit with our military commanders and seek their input and guidance. ISIL poses a growing threat. We must have a plan to eliminate them.”

Corker Calls on Congress to Work to ‘End Modern Day Slavery’

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 5, 2015:

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB4Ab3TFENE[/youtube]

WASHINGTON – During a hearing to examine the challenge of modern day slavery today, U.S. SenatorBob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for Congress to “create and lead a vision” to end this deplorable practice world-wide.

“Congress can create and lead a vision to end modern day slavery,” Corker said. “With the U.S. behind it; we can lead; we can solve; we can bring others to the table.”

The committee heard testimony from leading non-governmental organizations and slavery victims that elevated the scope of this global problem and offered successful strategies for combating human trafficking. More than 27 million people around the world are enslaved. Forced labor accounts for 74 percent of victims and forced sexual servitude accounts for 26 percent of victims. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to slavery and human trafficking, accounting for 54 percent of victims. Children under the age of 18 account for 26 percent of victims.

“Number one, slavery is as brutal as ever. Number two, it’s more vast than ever, but thirdly, it’s more stoppable than ever,” said Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission in his testimony before the committee. Haugen emphasized the need to improve local law enforcement as a deterrent to traffickers who thrive in communities that turn a blind eye to their activities.

“We’ve measured trafficking fall off by more than 80 percent and even higher in larger populations when impunity ended,” added Haugen.

Witnesses identified the role of public-private partnerships, especially for leveraging scarce resources and raising awareness of human slavery, as an important priority for policy makers.

“The business of human trafficking is too large to allow fragmentation of efforts, which is why bringing government, business, and civil society together is key,” David Abramowitz of Humanity United said.

Organizations focused on ending modern day slavery have developed reliable methods of measuring their efforts, which allows for greater accountability of public investments devoted to ending slavery.

“We can measure how much sex trafficking, forced labor is actually taking place by infiltrating the criminal networks who are operating and get a baseline. Then you can actually carry out your intervention and measure…at the end whether or not there has actually been…an increase…in enforcement and then a correlated decrease in the actual prevalence of the slavery,” Haugen said.

The committee also heard the compelling stories of James Kofi Annan and Shandra Woworuntu, both trafficking survivors who have dedicated themselves to victims’ advocacy so that others will not fall prey to similar violence and captivity.

“I want to thank you for the courage to be here but also for taking your experiences and using them to help other people,” said Corker in thanking the victims for their testimony. “One of the easier outcomes to produce is to make sure people are more fully aware and that parents understand what is happening in various countries with their young ones; and to understand the tremendous plight of victims who in many cases are not dealt with as victims.”

Testifying at today’s hearing were Gary Haugen, President, International Justice Mission; Shawna Bader-Blau, Executive Director; Solidarity Center; David Abramowitz, Vice President, Policy and Government Relations, Humanity United; James Kofi Annan, Trafficking Survivor & Founder, Challenging Heights; and Shandra Woworuntu, trafficking survivor.

For complete testimony and archived video footage of the hearing, click here.

Alexander, Corker Vote For Veteran Suicide Prevention Bill

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; February 3, 2015:

Legislation Passes Senate, 99-0

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2015 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on his vote in favor of legislation to help reduce military and veteran suicide by improving access to quality mental health care:

“Our veterans deserve to be taken care of when they return home, and we need to ensure they have access to the best mental health care available. One death by suicide is one too many, and this bill is a major step towards lowering the staggering number of suicides among our military members by putting in place critical new programs that provide additional support and resources for veterans as well as improving the quality of mental health care at the VA.”

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans (SAV) Act, S. 167, would increase veterans’ access to mental health care through pilot programs that establish support groups to assist service members transitioning to civilian life. The bill would also create incentives to encourage more psychiatrists to serve at the VA by helping them repay their student loans. The legislation would also require an annual evaluation of the VA’s mental health and suicide-prevention programs to increase accountability and quality of care.

The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously and now heads to the president’s desk for signature.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. February 3, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) released the following statement after voting for H.R. 203, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which passed the Senate by a vote of 99 to 0.

“The alarming rise in the number of suicides within our active duty military and veteran populations is a crisis we cannot ignore,” said Corker. “By expanding access to mental health care while refining and improving the programs currently in place, this bill is an important step toward ensuring our veterans are receiving the care and resources they deserve.”

TN Congressional Delegation Responses to Obama Budget Proposal

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama submitted a nearly $4 trillion budget to Congress, calling for an end to the across-the-board cuts in federal spending brought about by the sequestration agreed to by Congress in 2011.

Instead, Obama suggested a 7 percent budget increase over the agreed-upon sequester levels for domestic and defense spending.

“I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward. It would be bad for our security and bad for our growth,” Obama said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security offices Monday.

The U.S. national debt exceeded $18 trillion for the first time in mid-December 2014, just about 14 months after it exceeded $17 trillion in mid-October 2013.

Republican members of Congress have indicated the budget proposal is “dead on arrival.”

Responses from Tennessee’s congressional delegation to the president’s proposed budget follow:

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2015 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016:

“We need to address Washington’s spending problem and fix the federal government’s $18 trillion debt, and the way to do it is by reducing the growth of out-of-control entitlement spending. I plan to work with our Republican majority – and, I hope, the president – to make tough choices so we can pass a real plan to fix the debt while supporting other priorities like national defense and national labs and medical research.”

Alexander noted that mandatory spending – which includes out-of-control entitlement spending that is driving the growth in the federal debt – makes up about 60 percent of overall federal spending each year. Discretionary spending – the part of the budget that is already subject to spending caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the Bipartisan Budget Act – makes up about 34 percent of federal spending each year and funds national defense, national labs, national parks and other federal priorities.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, released the following statement today regarding President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal.

“Our inability to get our nation’s fiscal house in order continues to be one of the most critical national security threats our country faces. The president’s budget makes little effort to solve that problem and is not a serious proposal,” said Corker. “The spending limits put in place in 2011 have generated the only real fiscal progress our nation has made in decades, yet the president wants to not only break the promise we all made to the American people, but also revert back to the bad habits that created our massive deficits in the first place. I hope Congress will show courage and finally address the largest drivers of our deficits so we can generate economic growth and create more opportunities for Tennesseans.”

Corker, also a member of the Senate Banking Committee, commented on the president’s renewed commitment to work with Congress to pass comprehensive housing finance reform.

“On the other hand, I am pleased the administration has renewed its commitment to working with Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said Corker. “The biggest issue this year for the Senate Banking Committee, and the last major unfinished business from the 2008 financial crisis, is finally addressing this tremendous taxpayer liability and ending the failed model of private gains and public losses.”

The president’s budget says bipartisan housing finance legislation passed last year by the Senate Banking Committee was a “meaningful step” in the right direction. The bill, the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014 (S.1217), passed the committee in May 2014 by a vote of 13 to 9 and was first introduced by Corker and Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) in June 2013.

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, Jr., R-Tenn. 02; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON – Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. released the following statement Monday in response to President Obama’s 2016 budget:

This budget would result in a nearly half-trillion dollar deficit next year alone, and our deficits and interest payments on the National debt would continue to go way up every year.

The most wasteful, least efficient way to spend money is to turn it over to the federal government.  The best way to create more good jobs and keep the cost-of-living low is to decrease federal spending and leave more money in the hands of American families.

I strongly support tax cuts for the middle class.  The president claims he is trying to help the middle class, but during his years in office, the gap between the wealthy and the middle class has grown faster than ever, primarily because of big government policies that help only big federal contractors and the federal bureaucracy.

Like all presidential budgets, it will undergo significant changes.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischman, R-Tenn. 03; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON− Rep. Chuck Fleischmann released the following statement in response to President Obama’s proposed budget for FY2016.

“Much like in his State of the Union speech, the President has taken an opportunity to work with Congress and turned it into a partisan game. This budget would increase spending by $2.4 trillion, never balances and simply isn’t a real option. As Tennessee’s sole House Appropriator, I will use my oversight responsibility to comb through the President’s request and ultimately make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and responsibly.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 2, 2015:

Nashville’s federal courthouse is Judiciary’s top priority

NASHVILLE – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) announced today that President Barack Obama’s newly released budget for FY 2016 includes funding for construction of a new federal courthouse building in Nashville.

“Nashville is #1 in the nation on the list of priorities for courthouse construction. This announcement is a critical next step in getting the courthouse built, but we’re not done yet,” Cooper said. “We still need Congress to appropriate the funds, and I hope that happens this year.”

Nashville has been waiting for a new courthouse since 1992, when the Estes Kefauver Federal Courthouse was first deemed “inadequate.”

In 2002, the federal government selected the downtown property on Church Street as the site of the new building and purchased the parcels making up the site from 2002-2005. Since then, further studies and an economic downturn have delayed construction on any new federal courthouse. Neither the President’s budget nor Congressional appropriations has included funding for courthouses in four of the last five years, with the exception of the Mobile, Ala., courthouse in FY 2014.

Federal courthouse funding is supposed to follow the Judicial Conference’s five-year plan that contains a priority list of proposed courthouses ranked by need. But for many years, the Judicial Conference’s priorities were routinely ignored in favor of political favoritism and earmarks, a process Cooper opposes.

Cooper has pushed for a transparent, fair funding process and has led bipartisan efforts to award projects based on priority, not politics. Cooper was a founding member of the Congressional Courthouse Caucus, which was formed to address the urgent need for functional, secure courthouses around the country. Cooper has written to President Obama and Members of the House Appropriations Committee several times asking them to prioritize courthouse funding. Cooper has also met with the General Services Administration regarding the public safety hazard that sits atop the site designated for Nashville’s new courthouse, urging its immediate demolition.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; February 2, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), member of the House Budget Committee, released the following statement on President Obama’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2016:

“I had hoped to congratulate President Obama on finally delivering a budget to Congress by the legal deadline for the first time in five years, but this proposal isn’t really a budget at all – it is a messaging piece. This so-called budget ignores both the reality of our already crippling $18 trillion national debt and of a new Republican majority in Washington that will not allow this laughable tax-and-spend proposal to pass.” said Congressman Diane Black.

Congressman Black added, “The President promised in his State of the Union address to present ‘a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan.’ Sadly, he has done just the opposite. This budget is not practical, it is political. By adding nearly $8.5 trillion to our debt over the budget window, the President’s plan prioritizes the next election over the next generation – which would be forced to foot the bill for his costly agenda. This budget does nothing to address the strain of our mandatory spending programs and never achieves balance. I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues on the House Budget Committee to craft a responsible, timely budget that offers a substantive alternative to the President’s reckless proposal.”

Additional information:

  • The President’s budget calls for $2.1 trillion in new tax increases, on top of $1.7 trillion in tax hikes already imposed by the AdministrationThis budget would grow total federal spending by $259 billion next year alone
  • Under this plan, interest on our debt would rise to $785 billion by 2025
  • The President’s budget increases annually-appropriated spending for next year by $74 billion over current law
  • Under the President’s budget, gross debt would climb to $26.3 trillion in 2025

(Source: House Budget Committee)

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.07; February 2, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who is a member of the House Budget Committee, issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2016.

“President Obama has declared that the time for ‘mindless austerity’ is over, but there is nothing ‘mindless’ about creating a responsible budget and spending within one’s means. The President’s $4 trillion budget proposal will increase taxes and add to our $18 trillion national debt. At a time when our economy is still trying to get back on track, it isn’t prudent to raise taxes and stifle small business as a way of paying for wasteful government spending.

“The President’s budget is simply out of sync with the concerns of the American people – even 55% of Democrats believe that reducing the federal deficit is a ‘top priority.’ While I appreciate the President’s efforts to propose a budget on time, it would be more productive if he took our unprecedented level of national debt seriously. We need to stop spending money on failed policies from the past and instead craft a budget that will improve our country’s fiscal health and put more money back in the pockets of hard-working Americans.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 2, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal:

“President Obama’s budget is a positive vision for our nation’s future that will put us on a sustainable fiscal path. It will spur further economic growth by making critical investments to improve our roads and bridges—creating jobs in Memphis and around the country—and boost take-home pay for the middle-class while closing tax loopholes that allow the wealthiest one percent to avoid paying their fair share.”

“The President’s budget also gives middle-class families better access to higher education by making college more affordable and helps young adults climb out from under a mountain of student debt by capping monthly payments. And it will also help them find jobs by doing more to develop the high-paying, private-sector jobs that will keep our country competitive in the 21st century.”

“And by reversing mindless sequestration cuts, this budget proposal will reinvest in the National Institutes of Health, which is another U.S. department of defense that protects us from deadly diseases and illnesses—because Americans are far more likely to be stricken by Alzheimer’s, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, stroke, cancer, or Parkinson’s than by a terrorist attack. President Obama’s budget will help make our economy work for all Americans instead of just the wealthiest among us, and it is a step in the right direction.”

Alexander, Corker Join Effort to Block IRS Political Targeting

Press release from U. S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; January 29, 2015:

Says IRS Proposed Regulations Threaten Americans’ Constitutional Rights

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2014 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today announced he is a cosponsor of legislation that would delay until February of 2017 the Internal Revenue Service’s plans to issue new regulations that could define candidate-related political activities of tax-exempt social welfare organizations, regulations Alexander says are “so broad they limit free speech.”

“The IRS created an enemies list when it targeted conservative groups in Tennessee and around the country for extra scrutiny, and now it is yet again threatening the First Amendment rights of the American people with these broad regulations,” said Alexander. “With a new Republican majority in Congress, I hope we can finally put an end to the IRS’s abuse of Americans’ constitutional right to speak up and speak out, and work to restore their trust in the federal government.”

The Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2015, S. 283, introduced by Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), would delay until Feb. 28, 2017, the IRS’s plans to issue regulations to define “candidate-related political activities” of tax-exempt social welfare organizations. The broad definition of candidate-related political activity would put social welfare organizations at risk of losing their tax-exempt status.

Alexander was a cosponsor of similar legislation in the previous Congress as well as the IRS Abuse Protection Act, which would require the federal government to notify taxpayers whenever the IRS has assessed their tax returns to ensure the IRS is not violating using taxpayers’ information.

Following the introduction of those pieces of legislation, the IRS announced in May of 2014 that it would reconsider its proposed regulations. The IRS reported receiving more than 150,000 comments on these regulations, the “the most comments ever received by [the U.S.] Treasury and IRS on a proposed regulation.”

After learning of the IRS’s admitted targeting of conservative groups in 2012, Alexander first said, “The government should not have what amounts to an enemies list based on what people or organizations say or believe, and if it turns out the IRS is denying Tea Party groups the proper tax status because of what they have to say, it must stop and those responsible must be held accountable.”

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; January 30, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) this week cosponsored S.283, the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2015. The bill, introduced by Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Pat Roberts(R-Kan.) in the Senate and Representatives Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) in the House of Representatives, would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from further regulating the activities of social welfare organizations until 2017, following cases where some groups were inappropriately flagged for additional review due to their political beliefs during the 2012 election cycle.

“It is unacceptable that all nonprofit organizations seeking tax-exempt status – including groups in Tennessee – have not been treated fairly by the IRS in the past,” said Corker. “As a result, Americans don’t trust the IRS to act impartially, and this bill helps assure Tennesseans that this kind of activity will not happen again.”

In 2013, Corker joined Senate colleagues in asking the IRS to treat all nonprofit groups seeking tax-exempt status fairly in the designation process and demanded that the administration fully comply with congressional investigation requests on how the IRS targeted conservative groups. Corker also cosponsored similar legislation in the 113th Congress.

Alexander, Corker Vote for Keystone XL Pipeline Approval

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; January 29, 2015:

Says Open Amendment Process Under Republican Majority Serves as Model for How to Fix No Child Left Behind, Simplify Student Aid, Repair the Damage of Obamacare

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2015– U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today voted to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, saying that the Republican majority’s decision to allow more roll call votes on amendments than Democrats did in all of 2014 is proof Republicans are working “to get things done.”

“This legislation creates thousands of jobs, moves our country one step closer to energy independence and shows the American people that we are working to build a consensus and get things done,” Alexander said. “Our Republican majority has allowed nearly double the number roll call votes on amendments to this Keystone XL pipeline legislation than Democrats did on legislation in all of 2014, which is proof the Senate is back to work and dealing with important issues, just as the American people expect.”

Alexander continued, “It’s disappointing the Obama administration has said the president will veto this legislation before he even sees it in its final form, and after six years of delay and a Senate debate that has allowed a new level of bipartisanship, I hope he will reconsider. Now we should go on and fix No Child Left Behind, simplify the student aid form so more students can take advantage of Gov. Haslam’s Tennessee Promise program, repair the damage of Obamacare and work to solve the other major problems that the American people elected the Republican majority to deal with in November.”

The legislation, introduced by Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and cosponsored by Alexander and all other members of the Republican majority and six Democrats, would allow TransCanada to construct, connect, operate and maintain the Keystone XL pipeline. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate’s majority leader, allowed dozens of amendments pertaining to a range of issues, including energy and the economy.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; January 29, 2015:

Senator Commends Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Restoring Regular Order in the Senate

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement after voting for S.1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, which passed the Senate by a vote of 62 to 36. First proposed more than six years ago, the pipeline would have the capacity to transport more than 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. Several Obama administration reports have found that construction of the pipeline will have no significant environmental impact along the proposed route.

“There is no logical reason not to build the Keystone XL pipeline,” said Corker. “I’m pleased the Senate passed this legislation that will create jobs, generate economic growth and advance our nation’s energy security. I hope the president will reconsider his decision to veto this bipartisan bill and demonstrate to the American people that Washington can work together to move our country forward.”

Corker, a cosponsor of the bill, also commended Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for his efforts to restore regular order in the Senate by allowing debate and votes on amendments from both Republicans and Democrats on the first bill considered in the new Congress.

“Under Senator McConnell’s leadership, the new Republican Senate has shown that it will allow all voices to be heard so members can represent the people of their states and take the votes we were sent here to take.”

The Senate held more than 40 roll call votes on amendments during consideration of S.1, offered by both Republicans and Democrats. Only 15 roll call votes on amendments were recorded in all of 2014.

Corker: Debt, Deficits Hurt Americans’ Standard of Living

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; January 28, 2015:

Senator Says He Hopes Budget Committee Will Address Issues in a “Meaningful” Way so “Lack of Action Does Not Continue to Hurt the American People”

WASHINGTON – In his first hearing as a member of the Senate Budget Committee, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) questioned Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Doug Elmendorf about the impact debt and deficits have on the standard of living of the American people.

“Debt and deficits hurt the standard of living of Americans by slowing economic growth,” said Corker. “We have quite a challenge… I hope that over the course of the next two months [the Senate Budget Committee] will come together and actually deal with these issues in a way that is meaningful so that our lack of action does not continue to hurt the American people.”

On Monday, CBO released a report, “The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2015 to 2025,” which indicates annual budget deficits will continue to grow at an unsustainable rate. The nonpartisan agency warns that longer-term outlook projections indicate “such large and growing federal debt would have serious negative consequences, including increasing federal spending for interest payments; restraining economic growth in the long term; giving policymakers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges; and eventually heightening the risk of a fiscal crisis.”

The CBO report cites increased mandatory spending on entitlement programs, including the expansion of subsidies under the president’s health care law, and interest payments as key factors in the projected increase in the federal debt. The report indicates:

  • An increase in debt held by the public from $13.4 trillion in 2015 to $21.6 trillion in 2025 – an increase of $8.2 trillion;
  • Today’s debt held by the public relative to a gross domestic product (GDP) ratio of 74% is historically high – higher than any year since 1951 and more than double what it was in 2007;
  • A $2.5 trillion increase in total annual outlays between 2015 and 2025, of which 84% comes from a combination of major health programs (32%), Social Security (28%) and net interest on the federal debt (24%); and
  • Net interest spending as a percentage of GDP will exceed defense and non-defense discretionary spending respectively in 2023.

Corker Objects to Obama Administration Opposition to Congressional Vote on Final Iran Agreement

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; January 21, 2015:

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-kiu3L78Es[/youtube]

 

WASHINGTON – In his first Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing as chairman, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) objected to the Obama administration’s apparent opposition to Congress having an up-or-down vote on a final agreement with Iran.

“I want these negotiations to be successful…but just stiff-arming [Congress]…and saying, ‘No, we really don’t want you to play a role, we want you to just trust us,’ is totally unacceptable from my standpoint,” said Corker during the hearing on Iran nuclear negotiations.

Corker further argued that requiring a vote in Congress would strengthen the U.S. negotiating position, increasing the likelihood of an acceptable final deal that would outlast the Obama administration.

“I would just argue that having Congress as a backstop as you enter these final steps…would be somewhat of an anchor to keep us from continuing to move toward Iran’s position,” added Corker.

He also rejected any notion that U.S. partners in the talks with Iran fear congressional review would disrupt the negotiations.

“I’ve talked with our international partners. Not a single one of them has any concerns whatsoever with Congress having the ability to vote up or down on a final deal. Many of them believe it strengthens our hands,” said Corker in response to Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who admitted during today’s hearing that the Iranian parliament might have to approve a deal if one is reached.

Senator Corker’s proposal would require the Obama administration to submit any final nuclear deal with Iran to Congress for review and an up-or-down vote. The purpose of the proposal would be to give relevant congressional committees the opportunity to hold hearings and for both the Senate and the House of Representatives to vote on the agreement. Under existing U.S. law, a similar role for Congress is required when the U.S. shares civilian nuclear technology with a foreign country (known as a “123 agreement”).

Corker Discusses Issues Facing Congress in 2015 in Bloomberg Interview

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; January 15, 2015:

HERSHEY, Pennsylvania – Appearing on Bloomberg Television with Peter Cook from the Senate-House Republican retreat today, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) discussed some of the major issues facing Congress in the year ahead including Iran nuclear discussions, an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIS, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding in light of President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, the need for Congress to address housing finance reform, and oversight of the Federal Reserve.

Excerpts from Corker’s interview with Peter Cook follow.

On the Senate-House Republican retreat: “We have a lot of similarities that we need to synchronize. It has been a good session. I’m glad to be here. I think it has been very helpful for people to understand how each body [of Congress] plans to move things along.”

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On the prospects of Republican legislative priorities in the face of veto threats from President Obama: “We will follow our own course. Certainly, we are going to deal with things like energy. We have to deal with a budget. We certainly will deal with the Iran issue very fully.”

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On Congress weighing in on Iran nuclear discussions: “I think it’s only right that Congress has the ability to weigh in. Congress got us to the table. Certainly the administration was involved heavily in that too, but Congress played a major role, and we need to play a major role in ensuring that whatever final agreement that is negotiated [with Iran] is one that will stand the test of time.”

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On an authorization for the use of military force against ISIS: “The president has given the nod and plans to work with us soon on an AUMF, an authorization for the use of military force. We hope that is actually going to occur.”

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On the prospects of the Senate passing a “clean” Department of Homeland Security funding bill in light of President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration: “I would not think that would be the case. I think everyone [in Congress] is cognizant of the fact that Americans’ security is one of the most important functions, and homeland security is certainly central to that, and we all want to maintain that. At the same time, my sense is that the Senate will speak very strongly to some of the issues that you are alluding to.”

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On the need for Congress to address housing finance reform: “The biggest issue though, Peter, to me is when Dodd-Frank was being passed, every single Republican senator, I believe, went to the floor and complained about the fact that it didn’t include changes to Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac], winding them down, keeping them off as a taxpayer liability. It is the biggest issue that we need to deal with. From my standpoint, it would be total malpractice for us not to figure out a way to get this tremendous taxpayer liability dealt with and have the private sector playing the kind of role it should be playing right now in housing finance.”

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On oversight of the Federal Reserve: “There is not a lot of oversight into how the Fed is carrying out its regulations. I think you will see a lot of meetings in that regard, trying to understand how [Federal Reserve Governor Daniel] Tarullo and others are going about their business [and] the effects that it is having downstream. One of the most important roles we play, and yet haven’t played it much, is oversight. I think that’s something that is going to be very, very robust over the next couple of years.”

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Senator Corker is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an active member of the Senate Banking Committee and Senate Budget Committee.

Congress Puttering Forward with Federal Gas Tax Discussion

As the average national cost of gas descends to $2 per gallon, a congressional discussion has reignited over the possibility of raising the federal fuel tax to meet shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee’s junior Republican senator, announced a bipartisan proposal in June to increase the federal gas tax by 12 cents over two years, and index it to inflation so “it remains viable into the future.”

The legislation, co-sponsored by Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, “would provide enough funding to offset current MAP-21 spending levels over the next 10 years,” as well as replace “the buying power” the tax has lost since last raised to 18.4 cents per gallon in 1993.

Corker’s plan also calls for tax relief to offset the burden for Americans. Corker wasn’t specific about what the relief will look like, but a press release indicates it could include “permanently extending” tax breaks included in the “tax extenders” bill, or “another bipartisan proposal” to cut taxes over the next decade by “at least the amount of revenue” the fuel tax raises.

Over the past several years, Congress has approved several short-term fixes to the fund — transferring $54 billion from the Treasury Department’s general fund since 2008 — and the fund will face another shortfall in 2015.

“Growing up in Tennessee as a conservative,” Corker said in the release, he learned something important enough to have was important enough to pay for. “If Americans feel that having modern roads and bridges is important then Congress should have the courage to pay for it.”

However, the two-term senator also said whether or not Congress’s solution amounts to a tax increase, he’d like to see a permanent fix to the highway trust fund by May.

Although the proposal was met with lukewarm response last Summer when gas was around $3.50 a gallon, the recent sharp decline in fuel costs — influenced in part by the U.S. oil boom and OPEC’s refusal to cut production — has emboldened the former Chattanooga Mayor to again take up the issue.

Other senators — including Republicans John Thune of South Dakota and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, chairmen of the Senate committees on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Environment and Public Works, respectively — have recently said they won’t rule out a fuel tax hike. Similarly, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said last week “It’s a small price to pay for the best highway system in the world.”

However, the proposal has been met with more skepticism in the U.S. House.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, an Ohio Republican in his third term as speaker, said that while a new highway funding bill is a priority for this year, he isn’t hot on the idea of raising taxes.

And Marsha Blackburn, a Republican representing Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District, said on Fox Business this week that while raising taxes may be “a quick fix,” it’s “the wrong step to take.” Instead she suggested legislators look at the structure of the trust fund, and fix the root of the problem.