May 9, 2012
I wanted to share with you some of the things I’ve been working on over the past month:
Celebrating Pat Summitt’s remarkable record and leadership
Women's college basketball will never be the same without Pat Summitt and women's college basketball would never be what it is today if it weren't for Pat Summitt. Much has been said about her winning record--and it's an astonishing accomplishment—but the statistic that I always valued most, especially when I was president of the University, was that in 38 years, every single one of Summitt's athletes who have completed their eligibility with her have graduated from the University of Tennessee. She is a terrific person individually and a great model. She always had time for community events in Knoxville, despite her busy schedule. I’m sure she'll be as accomplished in some appropriate way in the next stage of her life as she has been in the last 38 years.
Click here to watch my floor speech on Pat Summitt’s decision to step down.
Find the good and praise it: Lance Corporal Frankie Watson and Tenn. Highway Patrol Sgt. Lowell Russell
My late friend Alex Haley, the author of "Roots," lived his life by these six words: "Find the good and praise it." Occasionally, I go to the floor of the Senate and cite an example of a Tennessean or some circumstances in my state that fit those six words. I recently talked about the story of two extraordinary Tennesseans who are united by both their friendship and their courage – Lance Corporal Franklin Namon Watson, who sacrificed his life for our freedom, and his devoted friend and mentor, Tennessee Highway Patrol Sergeant Lowell Russell, who is recovering from critical injuries he sustained while on duty.
Click here for more details on these Tennessee heroes.
Creating an opportunity to improve Chickamauga Lock
The Senate Appropriations committee recently approved the Energy and Water Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2013, which will change the funding structure for the nation’s locks and dams and free up $72 million for funding urgent needs such as reconstruction of Chickamauga Lock. I suggested making this change because it was unacceptable to me that Chickamauga Lock could close because of the failure of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, and this is a good first step to better managing the fund.
Click here for more on the new funding structure.
Full Senate committee agrees that Y-12 and Oak Ridge are priorities for our entire nation
The Energy and Water Appropriations bill also includes $25 million to begin addressing mercury contamination at the Y-12 National Security Complex, $340 million (a 113 percent increase from fiscal year 2012) for construction of the Uranium Processing Facility, and $94 million for a supercomputer upgrade at Oak Ridge National Lab. I am pleased that the Senate Appropriations Committee agrees that funding for these facilities is critical to our nation’s national-security and research goals. Oak Ridge could again be home to the most powerful computer in the world, the Uranium Processing Facility will safely house all future uranium production operations for the nation’s nuclear weapons, and, while this bill continues funding for radiological cleanup in Oak Ridge, it also begins the mercury cleanup process.
President’s health care policies are the real reason tuition and loan rates are going up
President Obama's speeches on college campuses around the country about student debt do not tell the full story—that the main reason college tuition is going up, and the main reason, therefore, why loans are going up, is President Obama and his health care policies. President Obama didn't create this problem, but he has made it worse with laws that say, basically, that when states have less money, they have to spend more on Medicaid. If states are told from Washington to spend more on Medicaid, they are going to spend less on something else. So they spend less on the University of California, or the State University of New York, or the University of Tennessee.
Click here for more details.
Keeping loan rates from rising by returning to students money taken from them in the health care law
I introduced legislation last week called the Student Interest Rate Reduction Act, which would keep the interest rate at 3.4 percent for subsidized Stafford loans beginning July 1 of this year, just as the president and Governor Romney proposed. We will pay for that by taking back the money that Congress overcharged students on their student loans under the health care law. The government and congressional Democrats who passed the health care law are actually overcharging students on student loans and using some of the money to pay for the health care law. Under the health care law, the government borrows money at 2.8 percent and then loans to students at 6.8 percent. That produces a profit. The Congressional Budget Office has said that the Congress could have lowered the interest rate from 6.8 to 5.3 percent and save all students $2,200 over the life of their average 10-year loan.
Seeking to improve the safety of children's medications and medical devices
I joined in introducing legislation that will help ensure drugs and medical devices are specifically tested, labeled, and proven to be safe and effective for children. The legislation ensures children are prioritized in the drug development process and that drug labels provide clear, detailed information about the proper use and dosage of medications for children. This bill will strengthen successful programs that have helped speed the design of life-saving medical devices for children, and enabled doctors to avoid dangerous guesswork in prescribing medicine for children.
Combating Prescription Drug Abuse
Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and I worked to include a proposal to combat prescription drug abuse in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reauthorization bill. Tennessee ranks second in the nation for prescription drug use—much of which is legitimate, but some of which is abusive—so we pushed to include this provision that will help Tennessee and other states better monitor and prevent the increasing problem of prescription drug abuse.
Click here for more details on the provision.
Continuing the fight against the meth epidemic
Tennessee also ranks second in the nation for meth lab seizures, but is only one of many states struggling to cope with cleanup costs. In March, I urged the U.S. Department of Justice to continue supporting states’ meth cleanup programs and, last month, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill that includes $12.5 million for the Drug Enforcement Administration to help states with their meth cleanup costs. I am pleased that the Department of Justice will continue to assist states in the very difficult and often dangerous efforts to clean up meth labs, and help states win the fight against the meth epidemic.
President playing politics on so-called Buffett Rule
Instead of playing politics, the president should join me and three dozen other senators of both parties in endorsing his own Simpson-Bowles Debt Commission report. Both Simpson-Bowles and the Ryan budget, which I also support, would restructure entitlement spending—the main source of our dangerous federal debt—and reform the tax code by closing special-interest loopholes. This is a disappointing and cynical smokescreen. Since the top 1 percent of taxpayers already pay 37 percent of federal individual income taxes, the “Buffett Rule’ would generate revenues of less than 1 percent of the new debt projected under the president’s 10-year budget. According to the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, the “Buffett Rule” would only generate $47 billion in revenue over the next 10 years, which is less than .3% of our $15.6 trillion national debt.
I also thought you might be interested in these news articles:
Memphis Commercial Appeal: Memphian, 91, finally cited for D-Day heroism
Chattanooga Times Free Press: Editorial: U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander sees med 'bomb'
Tennessean: Opinion by Nelson Andrews: Tennessee - How did we become the 'Motor State'?