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Corker ‘Pleased’ By Obama Approval of Law Granting ‘Lethal Military’ Aid to Ukraine

Press release from the Office of U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; December 18, 2014:

Bipartisan bill with unanimous support in Congress strengthens U.S. response to Russia, provides lethal military and non-military assistance for Ukraine

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued the following statement after President Obama signed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act into law.

“I am pleased the president signed our bill into law, and I hope he will do the hard work to convince the Europeans to adopt similar measures and stand with Ukraine against the ongoing threat of Russian aggression,” said Corker. “This legislation passed with the full support of Congress, so I would urge the president to use the tools provided to help restore Ukraine’s leverage in negotiations and deescalate this crisis instigated by Russia’s hostile actions.”

In a signing statement today, President Obama indicated he “does not intend to impose sanctions under this law” and would instead use the new authority only “if circumstances warranted.”  Since the last round of U.S. sanctions on September 12, Russia has repeatedly violated its commitments under a proposed ceasefire by affirming an illegal rebel election in Eastern Ukraine and continuing to support separatist fighters with troops and heavy weapons. The Obama administration has yet to approve the Ukrainian government’s request for arms.

The Ukraine Freedom Support Act, coauthored by Corker and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), offers lethal military and non-military assistance for Ukraine and expands sanctions against Russia. It also provides Ukraine with energy, defense sector, and civil society assistance, and expands broadcasting programs to counter Russian propaganda in countries of the former Soviet Union.

Alexander, Corker Vote to Expand Federal Surveillance Powers, TN Reps Divided

Tennessee’s U.S. House delegation was split 5-4 in favor of legislation last week — unanimously supported in the Senate — that seeks to expand the federal government’s domestic surveillance powers.

The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 includes a provision giving the director of national intelligence and agency heads two years to develop procedures governing “intelligence collection activities” that lack a warrant or other formal legal authorization. The new rules would apply to the agencies’ collection of “any nonpublic telephone or electronic communication acquired without the consent of a person who is a party to the communication, including communications in electronic storage.”

These procedures, which must be approved by the U.S. attorney general, “shall permit the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of covered communications.”

The legislation limits the retention of information to five years unless the data meets any of a number of exceptions, which include “the communication is reasonably believed to constitute evidence of a crime and is retained by a law enforcement agency” or “all parties to the communication are reasonably believed to be non-United States persons.”

The Senate unanimously approved the measure, amended to include the new section by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Dec. 9, on a voice vote. The amended legislation was agreed to by the House the next day, on a vote of 335 to 100. Of the “no” votes, 45 were Republicans and 55 were Democrats.

Voting against the measure in the House were Republicans  Scott Desjarlais, John Duncan and Phil Roe, and Democrat Steve Cohen.

Joining Democrat Jim Cooper in voting for the measure were Republicans Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn, Stephen Fincher and Chuck Fleischmann.

None of Tennessee’s U.S. House lawmakers gave explanations for their votes, nor did Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Liberty Caucus, said the measure is dangerous and open ended.

“It grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American,” Amash wrote on his official Facebook page last week. He forced a roll call vote in the House — which was avoided in the Senate — after concluding the Act contains “one of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered.”

“Sec. 309 provides the first statutory authority for the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of U.S. persons’ private communications obtained without legal process such as a court order or a subpoena,” Amash wrote in a letter he circulated among all members of the House. While the executive branch can currently use “a claim of executive authority” to conduct surveillance, Amash wrote that “Congress never has approved of using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.”

In 2013 the National Security Agency came under fire when Edward Snowden, a former tech specialist contracted to work for the NSA, revealed a massive domestic surveillance program that included the collection of cell phone and internet data from individuals not under criminal investigation.

One source of criticism by constitutional and civil rights advocates was the federal government’s sharing of that data with local law enforcement agencies, sans warrant. The NSA and federal government officials have maintained these powers are necessary to keep Americans safe from future terrorist attacks.

UPDATED: Corker, Congress Vote to Poke the Bear

Updated Dec. 16, 1:25pm: The White House has indicated President Barack Obama intends to sign legislation unanimously approved by Congress to provide $350 million of “lethal aid” to Ukraine and impose further sanctions on Russia.

TNReport initially reported the legislation had passed the Senate, but hadn’t yet receive full congressional approval. However, on Dec. 11, new legislation — identical to the Senate bill — was introduced in the House of Representatives and was approved by the full House “without objection” later that day, according to Congress.gov. The Senate then approved the House bill on voice vote Dec. 13.

“Because the bill included loan guarantee provisions and thus, involved raising revenues, a new bill had to be introduced and passed in the House,” according to a press release from House sponsor Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Penn, who is also co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Monday urged Obama to sign the legislation, which he said would “underline our strong moral commitment to the cause of the Ukrainian people.”

Previous Post, Dec. 14, 8pm:

Tennessee’s junior senator, next in line to lead the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Republicans take control of the chamber in January, wants America more involved in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Bob Corker, the wealthy former Chattanooga mayor who came of military age during the Vietnam War but never served in the armed forces, is becoming one of the most influential voices in Congress on foreign policy.

His approach of late has been to favor American military interventions and involvement in overseas conflicts. With respect to the regional disharmony in Eastern Europe, he supports the United States sending “lethal aid” to the Ukrainian military in their battle against forces loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And with the Senate’s unanimous passage of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, the nation is one step closer to realizing Corker’s vision.

While the House has yet to vote on the Senate’s legislation — it was referred to committee Dec. 2, according to Congress.gov — last week a House resolution was passed “strongly condemning” the forcible annexation of the Crimean region by Russia, and calling for further sanctions on Russia and aid to Ukraine.  Only 10 representatives voted against the House resolution — five members of each party. Of Tennessee’s House delegation, only Republican Rep. John Duncan, TN-02, and Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper, TN-05, voted against the measure.

The Senate’s Ukraine Freedom Support Act, passed on a voice vote Thursday, authorizes the offer of “lethal aid” to Ukraine, and includes sanctions on Roboronexport, a Russian state agency promoting defense and arms trade, and Gazprom, a major Russian state-controlled natural gas company.

The approved version of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, sponsored by Corker and outgoing Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was softened from its original form, which included further sanctions on Russia’s energy industry and designations for Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova as”major non-NATO allies.”

Russian officials have announced they “will not be able to leave this without a response.”

However, while Corker maintains the need for U.S. action to address Putin’s geopolitical overreach, he acknowledged the aid package won’t necessarily turn the tide for Ukraine.

“The lethal support to me is something that certainly is not going to mean that they would ever be able to stand up to Russia. It’s not going to happen. It raises the price, it shows a little bit of a deeper commitment,” Corker said while speaking about the Iranian nuclear program at a Foreign Policy Initiative conference sponsored by Raytheon, an American defense contractor and industrial corporation. The Foreign Policy Initiative is a non-profit think tank supporting U.S. global involvement, a strong military and the spread of democracy.

Corker added the best time for action would have been while the Russian president was preparing to invade Ukraine. But now, “we waited too long, the genie’s out of the bottle,” Corker said. “It’s very difficult to see how we don’t end up in a frozen conflict there.”

Putin is riding a “nationalistic wave” that he will likely “ride even harder” given Russia’s recent economic hardships, including the possibility of recession in 2015, said Corker.  According to a National Public Radio report from last week, Russia’s economy is taking big hits from Western sanctions, the ruble’s recent loss of value and falling oil prices.

When asked about how falling oil prices will effect Russia, Corker joked, “It’s actually much better than any of the sanctions we’ve put in place, right?”

Corker said at the conference he hopes the president will follow congressional lead, because of the legislation’s strong bipartisan support and unanimous approval by the Senate committee.

During Putin’s December 4 “State of the Nation” speech, he denounced Western nations for attacks on the Russian Federation, and alleged Russia’s opponents will find any excuse to impose sanctions on the Eurasian nation.

And in September, Putin called on military leaders to update the nation’s military doctrine to meet changing global politics and military challenges, such as the Syrian civil war and the Ukrainian conflict.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army announced it would be deploying 100 armored vehicles across Eastern Europe in an effort to deter further “Russian aggression.”

Alexander, Corker Call on White House to Address U.S. Passport Holders Joining ISIS

Press release from the Office of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander; September 11, 2014:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), today led a group of 14 senators in sending a letter to State Department Secretary John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson requesting more information and calling on the administration to provide a plan for dealing with the large number of U.S. and visa waiver country passport holders suspected of fighting alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist organizations. The administration has expressed concern about these individuals, but has yet to provide a clear and comprehensive plan for tracking and preventing them from traveling to the U.S. to potentially carry out terrorist acts.

“We write today to encourage you to take immediate action to prevent U.S. and western country passport holders fighting alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Jabat al-Nusra or other terrorist organizations from traveling to the U.S. to commit acts of terrorism against the homeland,” wrote the senators.

On September 3, 2014, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated that the U.S. government is aware of “over 100 U.S. citizens who have U.S. passports who are fighting in the Middle East with ISIS forces.” The following day the Pentagon clarified that approximately 100 American passport holders are operating inside of Syria and roughly one dozen of those individuals are fighting alongside ISIS. Reports also indicate that hundreds of additional westerners have joined the ranks of ISIS, Jabat al-Nusra, and other terrorist organizations in that region.

In addition to Senators Corker, Thune and Alexander, the letter was signed by Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Lee (R-Utah), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Full text of the letter to Secretary Kerry and Secretary Johnson is included below or available online here.

Secretary Kerry and Secretary Johnson,

We write today to encourage you to take immediate action to prevent U.S. and western country passport holders fighting alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Jabat al-Nusra or other terrorist organizations from traveling to the U.S. to commit acts of terrorism against the homeland.

On September 3, 2014, Secretary Hagel stated that the U.S. government is aware of “over 100 U.S. citizens who have U.S. passports who are fighting in the Middle East with ISIS forces.” The following day the Pentagon clarified that approximately 100 American passport holders are operating inside of Syria and roughly one dozen of those individuals are fighting alongside ISIS. Reports also indicate that hundreds of additional westerners have joined the ranks of ISIS, Jabat al-Nusra, and other terrorist organizations in that region. According to the administration, “there is significant concern about the idea that some of these individuals may try to travel back to the west using their western passports and carry out acts of violence or engage in terrorism here.”

According to media reports, two American passport holders were recently killed in Syria while fighting in support of ISIS. The State Department also confirmed in May that an American citizen was involved in a suicide bombing in Syria. We agree that the prospect of U.S. citizens and other westerners being trained as terrorists in Syria and returning home to carry out terrorist acts is a real threat to the homeland and must be addressed using every available tool of the federal government.

Under the provisions of 22 CFR Section 51.60(c)(4), the Secretary of State may revoke a U.S. passport if “the Secretary determines that the applicant’s activities abroad are causing or are likely to cause serious damage to the national security or the foreign policy of the United States.” Additionally, through the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center the FBI maintains the No Fly List by which known or suspected terrorists are prohibited from boarding a commercial aircraft that departs from or arrives in the U.S. We encourage you to use these authorities, as well as all available law enforcement and intelligence tools, as appropriate, to stop ISIS, Jabat al-Nusra fighters and other dangerous individuals from traveling to the United States to commit acts of terrorism.

Accordingly, please address the following questions:

1. How many individuals fighting alongside ISIS, or Jabat al-Nusra fighters or other terrorist organizations are projected to have passports from the U.S. or visa waiver countries?
2. What actions are being taken to engage visa waiver countries to track and account for individuals fighting alongside ISIS, Jabat al-Nusra or other terrorist organizations operating in this region who hold passports that provide access to the U.S.?
3. What specific information are you seeking from visa waiver countries to ensure that no individuals with ties to terrorism can enter the United States?
4. What visa waiver countries have satisfied all U.S. requests for information and which countries are refusing to provide you all requested information on their citizens suspected of having travelled to Syria to fight with ISIS, Jabat al-Nusra or other terrorist organizations?
5. What is the administration’s plan for ensuring that these individuals who have traveled abroad with American or other western passports and have actively supported ISIS, Jabat al-Nusra or other terrorist organizations are being monitored, and when appropriate, are being prevented from entering the U.S. or being prosecuted for aiding these groups when they attempt to do so?
6. What is the administration’s strategy for identifying, monitoring, and intercepting individuals living in the U.S. and influenced by ISIS’s social media from traveling abroad to join ISIS and other groups and engage in acts of terror?

We thank you for your immediate consideration of this request, and we look forward to continuing working with you to keep Americans safe both at home and abroad.

Corker Coy About Presidential Bid

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker might run for president.

Or he might not.

Tennessee’s junior senator, two years into his second term, spoke at a Lawrenceburg Chamber of Commerce event and acknowledged he entertains daydreams about being president of the United States. He said, though, that he won’t be making any hasty decisions about jumping in the 2016 race — and that his wife might ultimately end up with veto power on the matter.

A story by the Associated Press reported that Corker said “there are times when I do wish I could have the kind of impact and create the kind of change and have the kind of vision for our country” that he thinks “so many people here in Tennessee would like to see happen.”

And Corker told the Jackson Sun editorial board Wednesday afternoon that he “relishes” the presidential role, knowing the “huge difference” he could make as opposed to just being a U.S. senator.

Corker also told the Economics Club of Memphis something similar on Wednesday night — though he apparently added that while he’s indeed thinking about it, it isn’t an all-consuming ambition.

Like the Volunteer State’s other GOP Senator, former Gov. Lamar Alexander, Corker, who is the chief Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been criticized by Tea-Party conservatives for working too closely with liberal Democrats.

In addition to his efforts in the Senate on financial reform and the auto-industry bailouts — which earned him the moniker “Bailout Bob” — the former Chattanooga mayor has received national media and political attention for some of his proposals, including raising the gas tax, arming the Syrian rebels and taking a hardline stance against Russia over Ukraine.

If he does decide to make a bid for president, Corker would join a field of candidate that is speculated to also include such notable Republicans as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and brother of George W. Bush, told a Florida NBC affiliate that he, too, is still weighing the pros and cons of a presidential run.

Alexander Announces First Round of Democrat, Independent Supporters

Press release from the Campaign for Lamar Alexander for U.S. Senate; August 10, 2014:

First round of Democrats and Independents includes former Congressman John Tanner, seven former or current mayors, former UT football Coach Johnny Majors, an Olympic Gold Medalist and numerous civic and political leaders from across the state

NASHVILLE – The Alexander for Senate campaign today announced the first round of “Tennesseans for Alexander,” a list of Democrats and Independents statewide who are supporting Lamar Alexander’s re-election to the U.S. Senate this fall.

“Every time I’ve run for office I’ve done my best to earn the support of Democrats and Independents as well as Republicans, because it is my job to represent all Tennesseans once I am elected,” Alexander said. “My goal is to get results, and that means working with people who know how to help solve problems for Tennessee and for our country.”

During his 2008 re-election campaign, Alexander announced two rounds of “Tennesseans for Alexander,” totaling more than 50 members. This year’s first round includes 30 members.

Former Congressman John Tanner, a Democrat who represented the 8th Congressional District from 1989 to 2011 and was in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1976 to 1988, joined the group this year. Tanner said he is supporting Alexander after years of working together on roads, the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority and other issues.

“There are times in this business when friendships and loyalties should be more important than politics, and this is one of those times,” Tanner said. “Lamar Alexander has always been a friend and loyal to my old district, helping us do everything we needed to do to be successful and bring jobs to rural West Tennessee.”

This year’s list is geographically balanced across East, Middle and West Tennessee and also includes seven current or former mayors, an Olympic gold medalist, former University of Tennessee Coach Johnny Majors and numerous civic and political leaders. The list includes:

East Tennessee

  • Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan
  • Etta Clark, Eastman executive from Kingsport
  • Jim Hall of Chattanooga, aide to former Gov. Ned McWherter and chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board during the Clinton administration
  • Jack Fishman, Morristown-based business man, civic leader and newspaper publisher
  • Former University of Tennessee President Joe Johnson
  • Former Chattanooga Mayor Jon Kinsey
  • Johnny Majors, former University of Tennessee football coach
  • Former State Senator Carl Moore of Bristol
  • Former Knox County Mayor Tommy Schumpert

Middle Tennessee

  • Steve Bogard, Nashville songwriter
  • Dave Cooley, deputy and chief of staff to former Gov. Phil Bredesen
  • Aubrey Harwell, prominent Nashville attorney
  • State Senator Doug Henry, longest-serving member of the Tennessee General Assembly
  • Patsy Mathews, political activist and widow of former U.S. Senator Harlan Mathews
  • Linda Peak Schacht, Nashville university professor and former aide to President Jimmy Carter and former Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd
  • James Pratt, former staffer to former U.S. Senator Jim Sasser
  • Former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell
  • Fate Thomas, Jr. of Nashville, who recently resurrected the Sure Shot Rabbit Hunter’s Supper, a gathering for Middle Tennessee politicians founded by his father, the late Sheriff Fate Thomas
  • Anna Windrow, Nashville business woman, former aide to former Lt. Gov. Frank Gorrell, former Senator Jim Sasser and former Gov. Phil Bredesen
  • Emily Wiseman, former executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Aging

West Tennessee

  • Laura Adams, executive director of Shelby Farms Park
  • Former State Supreme Court Judge George Brown, the first African American to serve on the court, appointed by then-Gov. Alexander
  • Brenda Duckett, Memphis business woman and community education activist
  • Jackson Mayor Jerry Gist
  • Bishop William Graves of Memphis, former senior bishop of Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and former member of the Tennessee Valley Authority board
  • Former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton
  • Cato Johnson, Memphis hospital executive
  • Former Shelby County Mayor Bill Morris
  • Rochelle Stevens, Memphis business woman and Olympic gold medalist
  • Former Congressman John Tanner

The Alexander campaign is chaired by Congressman Jimmy Duncan, with co-chairmen Governor Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Speaker Beth Harwell, as well as Congressmen Blackburn, Roe, Black, Fincher, and Fleischmann.

The campaign’s Honorary Co-Chairmen include former U.S. Senators Howard Baker (1925-2014), Bill Brock, Bill Frist and Fred Thompson, as well as former Governors Winfield Dunn and Don Sundquist.
Serving as Honorary Co-Chairs of the Statewide Committee to Elect Lamar Alexander are all 13 living former state Republican Party chairs.

Volkswagen Announces New SUV Line for Chattanooga

Volkswagen has announced that Tennessee will be home to its new SUV production line, representing a $600 million investment in the Volunteer State that’s expected to generate 2,000 more jobs at the company’s Chattanooga plant.

The automaker’s decision, which includes plans to establish a new strategic marketing and research facility in Tennessee, comes on the heels of an announcement by the United Auto Workers union that it would be opening an office for a voluntary chapter at the Southeast Tennessee VW plant.

“The impact of this announcement goes far beyond the 2,000 new jobs because of the large multiplier effect of the automotive industry,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, in a press release, “and adding an additional manufacturing line and the National Research & Development and Planning Center sends a clear signal that Tennessee can compete with anyone in the global marketplace.”

The press release from the Governor’s office also notes that the state is providing a $165.8 million grant for site development, infrastructure, equipment acquisition and construction costs, as well as a $12 million grant for new employee training.

Volkswagen Group of America has agreed to waive certain tax credits related to its expansion as part of the incentive package.

And some other leaders in Tennessee auto manufacturing supplies — such as Kim Ketchum, Magneti Marelli’s corporate director of business development  or James Adams with eSpin Technologies, Inc. — echoed the Governor’s point that VW’s decision to increase production could create more demand for vehicle parts and positively impact other areas of auto manufacturing across the state.

Others have expressed hope that the expansion will lead to more emphasis on STEM education in the Chattanooga region.

Volkswagen has also named global works council chairman Bernd Osterloh to the board of directors for it’s American auto group.

Political leaders and industry groups lauded the German automotive group’s decision to expand.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker, formerly Chattanooga’s mayor, reminisced about the day, “six years ago,” that he received a call from the Volkswagen board that Chattanooga was where they had decided to locate.

“Today’s announcement is a similar high point,” Corker said in a press release, “as VW’s significantly expanded presence means that thousands of more families will benefit from the good paying jobs being created at the plant.”

Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron praised former state senate colleague and current Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, as well as other city leaders and VW employees, for bringing the expansion and jobs to the state.

“We commend the management and workers at Volkswagen as well as Mayor Berke and other city and county leaders who persevered and brought these jobs despite Republican threats, attacks, and interference with the rights of this company and its workers,” Herron said.

The UAW’s secretary-treasurer, Gary Casteel, issued a statement Monday to congratulate Volkswagen, its employees and Tennesseans on the automaker’s expansion, and thank Haslam for extending the necessary incentives to make the expansion work.

“State officials assured the public and Volkswagen employees that the decision on incentives for Chattanooga would not be related to whether workers exercise their right to join a union, and they kept their promise,” Casteel said in the statement, as reported by WTVC in Chattanooga.

In the statement, Casteel also alleged that the autoworkers union’s decision to expand to the Scenic City played a part in the decision of the automaker. “The fact that the new line is being announced four days after the rollout of UAW Local 42 in Chattanooga reinforces the consensus that the UAW has reached with the company,” Casteel said.

The decision garnered national and international coverage from outlets such as the Associated Press, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Detroit Free Press, CNN, Reuters, Bloomberg, and Automotive News.

Haslam Announces VW SUV Coming to TN

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; July 14, 2014:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Volkswagen Group of America officials announced today the company will expand its sole U.S. manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Volkswagen will add an additional manufacturing line and create the National Research & Development and Planning Center of Volkswagen Group of America. Volkswagen’s total global investment for the expansion will be $900 million, with $600 million invested in Tennessee and 2,000 new jobs being created in Hamilton County.

“Today is an exciting day not just for Chattanooga and Hamilton County but for all of Tennessee, and I want to thank Volkswagen for its significant long-term investment in our state,” Haslam said. “The impact of this announcement goes far beyond the 2,000 new jobs because of the large multiplier effect of the automotive industry, and adding an additional manufacturing line and the National Research & Development and Planning Center sends a clear signal that Tennessee can compete with anyone in the global marketplace.”

The expanded plant in the Enterprise South Industrial Park will manufacture a new automotive line, a midsize SUV for the American market. Production of the new SUV will begin in the fourth quarter of 2016 with the first vehicle expected to roll off the new assembly line by the end of 2016. The expansion will also create the National Research & Development and Planning Center of the Volkswagen Group of America.

“The United States of America is and will remain one of the most important markets of Volkswagen. Over the past few years, we have achieved a lot here. We are now launching the second phase of the Volkswagen campaign in the USA. With the midsize SUV, the expansion of the Chattanooga plant and the new development center, we are focusing on the wishes of US customers,” Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, in Wolfsburg said. “This is also a strong signal for the USA as an industrial and automobile production location. The Volkswagen brand is going on the attack again in America.”

“I deeply appreciate Volkswagen’s significant long-term commitment to the hometown and state that I love,” U. S. Senator Bob Corker said. “I am grateful for Governor Haslam’s steady leadership, for our mayors, our great community leaders and the workers at the Chattanooga plant, whose commitment to excellence helped pave the way for today’s announcement. Finally, I am thankful to be able to help see this through to today’s conclusion.”

Corker added, “One of the most meaningful days in my public service career occurred six years ago when I received the call from the Volkswagen board room that they had chosen Chattanooga. Today’s announcement is a similar high point, as VW’s significantly expanded presence means that thousands more families will benefit from the good paying jobs being created at the plant.”

“Hamilton County is pleased to partner with Volkswagen as they create 2,000 new family-wage jobs which will also generate very positive economic ripple effects for residents throughout our community,” Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said. “By working with Volkswagen to build on the tremendous success of their initial job creation project, we are establishing a foundation for continuing economic growth for years to come.”

“Volkswagen is one of Chattanooga’s largest and most valued employers. They have brought 12,400 living-wage jobs to our region, employed Chattanoogans and helped build our middle class. This expansion will result in a huge capital investment and thousands of new jobs,” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said. “From day one, the city and county have worked hard to see today become a reality, when we can announce that Volkswagen will be adding more jobs, more investment and expanding their presence in Chattanooga.”

“This announcement is great for Chattanooga and great for Volkswagen,” Ron Harr, president & CEO of the Chattanooga Chamber, said. “Thanks to Volkswagen’s expansion, we will have a much easier time recruiting additional automotive suppliers to help them build out their supply chain while also cementing Chattanooga as ‘The Center of the Automotive South.’”

The state of Tennessee is providing a $165.8 million grant for costs associated with site development and preparation, infrastructure, production equipment acquisition and installation, and facility construction. In addition, the state will provide a $12 million grant for training new employees. As part of the incentive package, Volkswagen Group of America has agreed to waive its right to claim certain statutorily available tax credits directly related to the expansion.

Volkswagen Chattanooga currently employs 2,500 people. Hiring for new production positions will occur closer to the launch of the new product. The details of that application and assessment process will be announced at that time.

Immediate needs will center around professional candidates with skills in areas such as purchasing, logistics, engineering, and human resources to begin the preparations for the parts, equipment and people needed to produce the new product line. Interested candidates can search and apply for open positions online at vwjobschattanooga.com or on major online sites such as LinkedIn and CareerBuilder.

Corker Praises VW Decision to Build SUV in TN, Create 2K Jobs

Press release from the Office of U.S. Senator Bob Corker; July 14, 2014:

WOLFSBURG, Germany – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger were in Wolfsburg, Germany, today as Volkswagen CEO Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn announced that the company will build its midsize SUV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a more than $600 million investment in the region, which will add 2,000 jobs at the plant.

“I deeply appreciate Volkswagen’s significant long-term commitment to the hometown and state that I love,” said Corker. “I am grateful for Governor Haslam’s steady leadership, for our mayors, our great community leaders and the workers at the Chattanooga plant, whose commitment to excellence helped pave the way for today’s announcement. Finally, I am thankful to be able to help see this through to today’s conclusion.”

“One of the most meaningful days in my public service career occurred six years ago when I received the call from the Volkswagen board room that they had chosen Chattanooga,” added Corker. “Today’s announcement is a similar high point, as VW’s significantly expanded presence means that thousands of more families will benefit from the good paying jobs being created at the plant.”

Volkswagen will add an additional manufacturing line and create the National Research & Development and Planning Center of Volkswagen Group of America. Volkswagen’s total global investment for the expansion will be $900 million, with $600 million invested in Tennessee and 2,000 new jobs being created in Hamilton County.

The expanded plant in the Enterprise South Industrial Park will manufacture a new automotive line, a midsize SUV for the American market. Production of the new SUV will begin in the fourth quarter of 2016 with the first vehicle expected to roll off the new assembly line by the end of 2016. The expansion will also create the National Research & Development and Planning Center of the Volkswagen Group of America.

As mayor of Chattanooga from 2001-2005, Corker worked with officials and community leaders to develop the 1,200 acre Enterprise South Industrial Park, which is now home to Volkswagen’s North American manufacturing headquarters. Much of the negotiation that led to Volkswagen choosing Chattanooga occurred around the dining room table of Corker’s Chattanooga home.

Corker Calls House Highway Fund Plan ‘Generational Theft’

Press release from the Office of U.S. Sen. Bob Corker; July 8, 2014:

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today blasted the House Ways and Means Committee’s legislation to temporarily patch the Highway Trust Fund, which funds improvements to roads, bridges and transit systems, by transferring nearly $10 billion from the general fund. The $10 billion transfer is spent within a few months but paid for over 10 years using budget gimmicks.

“This disgraceful practice of borrowing money to cover a few months of spending and paying for it over a decade is nothing more than generational theft,” said Corker. “If Congress believes these transportation projects are important, then Congress should have the courage to pay for it in the same timeframe the money is being spent rather than cowardly throw future generations under the bus. It’s shameful for a nation of our greatness to be handling infrastructure funding the way that we are.”

The federal Highway Trust Fund provides half of the country’s spending on transportation projects and will run dry in August, likely halting the construction of any new transportation projects without action from Congress. This will result in a 50 percent reduction in Tennessee’s transportation budget in 2015 and create a $160 billion hole in state budgets nationwide over the next decade at a time when they can least afford it.

Last month, Corker and Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) announced a bipartisan proposal that would create a long-term, stable funding mechanism for the Highway Trust Fund. For more information on this proposal, click here.