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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, January 25, 2013

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, January 25, 2013

CREATED Jan 25, 2013

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice-President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

January 25, 2013

CONGRESSMAN OF RUTHERFORD COUNTY; SECOND TERMS; GROWING POWER AND INFLUENCE; COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS; NEW THERAPY

CONGRESSMAN OF RUTHERFORD COUNTY

If you look at the quickly developing 4th District congressional primary race (even though the vote is not set until August, 2014), you can continue to see how important Rutherford County is. With that part of the district estimated to generate at least 40% of the overall GOP turnout, State Senator Jim Tracy wants to show how strong his support is there.

And why not, that's where Tracy's senate district is. And that's also where a potential primary opponent, State Representative Joe Carr has his district too. Whoever can be the most dominant in Rutherford County is the most likely candidate to beat incumbent Dr. Scott DesJarlais. So that's also likely why when Senator Tracy's campaign released its second batch of Leadership Team supporters that 35 of the 55 individuals and couples listed are from Rutherford County. It appears Tracy wants to appear so organized and strong that maybe Carr decides not to ever officially get in the race.

Carr meanwhile seems to be taking a completely different campaign track….media publicity. First there was the bill he filed last week to make it illegal for any federal official or agent to enforce any new gun control law, regulation or executive order in Tennessee. It got a lot of ink and air time. Carr followed it up with a shout- fest appearance with the Reverend Al Sharpton on the preacher/civil rights activist's national MSNBC talk show. Now I don't think a lot of conservative Republicans watch that channel (maybe none) but word gets around, and Carr clearly wants his comments out there, especially at a time when some say GOP leaders are in verbal retreat. Meanwhile Carr wants to show he is not afraid to speak out and debate the liberals on their own turf. Good idea. But how many votes will all that get him in Rutherford County? That's the key, because that's what he needs most if he wants to be a congressman.

SECOND TERMS

Barack Obama has become only the second Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt to be sworn into a second full term. But based on his Inaugural Address like most Presidents in their second four years he has a pretty aggressive (and progressive) agenda ahead. Along with his continuing fiscal fights with Republicans (more on that later in this column), he also hinted in his Inaugural Address that he will champion more social issues this term.

Certainly that includes his new gun control legislation along with immigration reform and global warming. There's also "Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall" as he outlined it in his speech. The Stonewall reference may be aimed more at the Supreme Court and the gay marriage case it is about to consider. But no longer having to worry about re-election and buoyed by his strong margin of victory and increased job performance numbers (55% in a recent CNN poll), the President seems ready to spend the "political capital" he won last year (as the last two-term President, George W. Bush said in 2005 beginning his second four years). Things didn't work out well for Mr. Bush and President Obama, like all two term incumbents has about a year or so to win his new battles (and the old ones) with Congress. After that, the "lame duck" disease will begin a slow onset and lessen his chances for success. Maybe keeping his campaign organization together, and running it full speed as a non-profit organization and lobbying group, will enhance and extend the President's potency. If so, he'll need it to pass gun control and the rest of the progressive agenda he has outlined for his second term. More details I am sure will come from the President next month during his State of the Union address.

It will also be interesting to see how the newly modified filibuster rules just adopted by the U.S. Senate will impact the chances of the President's legislation and his several Cabinet appointments pending there. The new rules passed with strong bi-partisan support amid indications that Senators of both parties are concerned that the repeated use of the filibuster in recent years (by both parties while in the minority) has strangled the Senate into inaction. So at least they agree some tweaks to the rules are necessary. The new rules are temporary for the next two years to see how they work. But already Tea Party leaders such as Judson Phillips here in Nashville are decrying the changes saying Senate leaders are surrendering to the Democrats and the President.

GROWING POWER AND INFLUENCE

Perhaps the most prominent Republican during President Barack Obama's second term inauguration ceremonies this week was Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander. Because of his status on the Senate's Rules Committee, he was chosen to make an introductory speech before the Vice-Presidential swearing in and he made a presentation to the President during the luncheon in Statuary Hall.

Senator Alexander appropriately struck a bi-partisan tone pointing out how the peaceful transition (or in this case, continuation) of power helps separate our country and democracy from most others around the world. The Senator again invoked the words of his longtime friend, the famous Tennessee author, Alex Haley to "find the good and praise it."

But with the Senior Senator up for re-election next year, you can be sure some of the right wing of his party were not completely pleased with Alexander's role in the swearing in, an event many of them wish to quickly forget. Still for right now, Senator Alexander appears unchallenged for re-nomination and re-election. And he seems poised to use his new leadership role on a key Senate committee to reinforce his strong Republican conservative credentials.

Senator Alexander has been elected by his GOP Senate colleagues to be the top or ranking Republican member on the influential Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. In the committee's news release announcing the appointment, Alexander pointed how important his position is in terms of Nashville's prominence in the health care industry and how the committee handles important legislation regarding education (reauthorizing No Child Left Behind) and labor law (right to work issues).

Alexander is already reinforcing the importance of his new committee post, issuing (along with Senator Bob Corker) statements praising an appeal court ruling (January 25)holding unconstitutional the President's recess appointments to the National Labors Relations Board. Alexander, who has been at odds with the NLRB for some time called for those appointees to resign.

To further reinforce his conservative bent, Senator Alexander has also introduced a bill to repeal the individual mandate of the National Health Care Act. Conservatives and Tea Party activists despise all of Obama Care but more than anything they hate the mandate that by 2014 everyone must purchase health insurance coverage or face a penalty. Alexander wants to show he agrees and that part of the law should be repealed even though it likely won't be, at least not in a Democratically-controlled Senate.

Tennessee's other Senator Bob Corker also has new prominence in this Congress, being elected the ranking minority member on the prestigious Foreign Relations Committee. That's a pretty high profile spot for a member just beginning his second term. The Committee and Corker have already been in the limelight with the fiery appearance this week of outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the re-emergence of the Benghazi affair during her testimony. . Corker says he also plans to look closely at our foreign aid programs and other programs and policies of the State Department , which he says hasn't been done "in a comprehensive way in decades," especially to make sure "they are being conducted in line with American strategic national interests."

But while Senators Corker and Alexander are aggressively moving ahead in their new committee posts, House Republicans are retreating again in their on-going fiscal fight with the President. They have now approved a bill to lift the debt limit for another three months to get more time to work out an overall deal with the White House on cutting spending and the deficit and getting a budget approved.

At first the President indicated he didn't want a short term extension, but now he has accepted it. But will the Senate, especially since the House added a poison bill to cut off lawmakers pay if there is no budget by April 15 (something which the Senate hasn't passed in nearly four years)?

It appears the Senate will go along with the extension (including the no budget, no pay provision), in part probably just to shut up House Republicans who have taunted the upper chamber for not passing any kind of budget at all. By the way, the House has passed several budgets, all of which they know the Senate won't ever accept. So we've had no new federal budget for the last several years.

COOPER ON INSIDE POLITICS

If that "no budget, no pay" idea sounds familiar, it should. It's been the pet brain child of Nashville Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper (suggested he says by a constituent). But Cooper complained a few days ago that he was not happy the GOP "high jacked" his proposal for partisan purposes.

But maybe the Congressman has changed his mind. After House passage of the debt limit extension bill, Cooper's office issued a rather congratulatory news release saying the move is "a good first step in the right direction to get Congress to take its duties seriously." Cooper pointed out the bi-partisan Democratic support for the bill with no mention this time about Republicans high jacking the no-budget, no pay idea. Cooper is still pushing a free standing measure of "no budget, no pay" (with Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker again as a sponsors in the upper chamber. Corker has always donated his salary to charity FYI).

Cooper is my guest on INSIDE POLITICS this week and we talk about all that as well as constitutional issues being raised about implementing any "no budget, no pay" law if it ever becomes law. From what Cooper told me the "no budget, no pay" provision about to be passed, applies only to this budget cycle and really may not be what it seems. By that I mean, according to language inserted by House Republican leaders, all both houses have to do to keep their pay is pass a budget of their own, not an agreed-upon budget approved by both houses. So in terms getting a real budget done, the no budget, no tax provision could well mean nothing at all.

We will also talk with the Congressman about the continuing controversy about his "no" vote (the only House Democrat) to the $50 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill. Cooper seems almost apologetic about the situation. He hasn't changed his mind but wishes he had better explained why he voted no (Congress made no effort to pay for the aid with budget cuts). And he says the bill had lots of pork dollars for various unrelated projects.

Also during the show, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee we also get his take on the new women in combat policy from the Defense Department and several other federal and state controversies in the news. There is never a shortage of topics to discuss with the Congressman, so watch us!

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 NETWORK. Our air times include 5:00 a.m. Sunday on the main channel, WTVF-TV NEWSCHANNEL5. We are also on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS at 7:00 p.m. Friday, 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m., Saturday, and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m., Sunday. THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel. For those outside Nashville or who don't have cable access, portions of INSIDE POLITICS interviews are later posted on NEWSCHANNEL5.com.

NEW THERAPY

As I approach seven months since my stroke (January 28), I began a new type of therapy last Saturday morning (January 19). At the suggestion of my YMCA personal trainer, I had a massage for the first time in my life.

That's right. For the first time in my 61 years on this earth, I had massage therapy concentrating in particular on my left shoulder and arm. That's the part of my body, along with my core and my posture that I have had the most problems and restrictions since the stroke.

Of course, my left side physical problems in many ways pre-date the stroke. I've had problems with my left arm and shoulder since I fell downtown 13 years ago (January, 2000). That's when I dislocated my left shoulder and broke my left foot. I complicated matters further by dislocating my shoulder again a few days later in 2000, then breaking my collar bone after another fall in November, 2011. (You're right, I am a klutz!)

I thought the stroke just reinforced my lack of flexibility and mobility in my left arm and leg, and perhaps it did for a while. But what my Y trainer suspected, and my massage therapist does as well, is that my problems are as much mental as physical. After getting me loosened up during the massage (she later told my wife I was about the tightest, stiffest person she's ever worked on), she got me to move my arm and place it in positions I have not been able to do for several years.

Therefore she thinks my problems are not permanent restrictions because of my stroke, but conditions I can correct through exercise and convincing my brain that (once I further strengthen my left arm and shoulder) I can move it through a range of motions my brain has locked down my body from doing the past several years. It's a concept I plan to explore further with my workout trainer and my doctor when I see them in the next few days.

But I already know convincing my brain will not be easy and I have to stay dedicated and serious to the exercises I have been given because I won't be able to turn matters around overnight. In fact, it will take several weeks if not a few months. And probably the toughest part will be convincing my brain. I still have to work with it and remind it daily so I don't lean to the left in my posture or that I stay correctly in my lane (check those pieces of duct tape on the windshield) when I drive my car.

When I exercise, I even have to tell my left side twice (or more strongly than I tell my right side) to move my left arm or hand. That mean I often have to correct myself so my hands are straight or in the correct position with my right when I exercise. Moving my arms through motions my brain has told me I can't or shouldn't do, won't be easy. But I am committed to do it. Pray for me. I think I will need the help. I will keep you informed.