Capitol View Commentary: Friday, October 4, 2013

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, October 4, 2013

CREATED Oct 4, 2013


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

October 4, 2013



As Washington remains gridlocked once again, this time with another partial government shutdown and a debt limit/default crisis looming just ahead (October 17), this week on INSIDE POLITICS we bring in a trio of political experts to talk about how we've gotten into this fine mess one more time (thanks, Laurel & Hardy), and how do we ever get out of it.

Democratic strategist Larry Woods, Republican strategist Chip Saltsman and Tea Party leader Ben Cunningham are our guests. I am not sure we'll solve the problems but these guys love to talk politics and we'll have an interesting and lively conversation, even if it's on a topic we all wish would go away. We also discuss Tennessee politics looking to 2014.

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on the NEWSCHANNEL5 Network. Those 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. on Sunday. THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and NEWSCHANNEL5's over-the-air digital channel 5.2.  Portions of INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also later posted on NEWSCHANNEL5.com.

And don't forget you can now watch INSIDE POLITICS in real time with live streaming video on NewsChannel5.com. That means if you have a computer and internet access, you can see INSIDE POLITICS anytime its airs on the PLUS. It no longer matters what cable or satellite service you have or where you live.  It's so easy to see us now, you should tune in!

One last note on this show: it is possible because we tape a little in advance what we say may get dated. We did the best we could to make sure what we discussed was accurate when we said it or I asked about it, but sometimes in a potentially very fluid situation like this, things and circumstances change. That's life, that's politics and sometimes that's TV. This can also be true about this column which is usually filed and posted on Friday afternoons.


As Washington continues to follow the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result), there may be some method to this madness even as national polls indicate strong public disgust with the situation. District by district polling reveals that because our lawmakers represent areas drawn so increasingly red or blue, they have a lot more encouragement from their voters to hang tough and continue to toe the party line.

But with 800,000 federal employees furloughed without pay (while Congress is still being paid) the longer this mess continues (and especially if it greatly intensifies with the nation defaulting on its debt), this has the potential to be real political dynamite that could damage our economy (and the world's) as well as many political futures.

It's been interesting, if somewhat predictable, to watch Tennessee's political leaders react to the crisis. All our Congressman and Senators are voting with their parties on the budget battle. Perhaps sensing the rising public anger in the matter, a couple (Jim Cooper and Diane Black) are donating their salaries for now to charity (Second Harvest & the Wounded Warrior Project). The Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker are doing the same (Corker has always done it). The rest of our delegation are still pocketing their pay, while it's a mixed bag on who is furloughing their staff, who are yet more victims of Congress' inability to do its job.

Congressman Cooper says he and his colleagues should be punished even beyond his previous suggestions of cutting off their pay for not jointly approving a budget (which hasn't happened for four years now). The Nashville Democrat doesn't say exactly what should happen, and it's hard to imagine what kind of extra punishment that might be (although having to live and abide by all the laws they pass and personal self-imposed term limits for several of them may come to mind for some).

While I understand Rep. Cooper's frustration, I doubt any retribution will happen to Congress, except almost all of them getting re—elected next year. I also think there should be a special level of the underworld inferno prepared for those in Congress who are suggesting they would not vote to give retroactive pay for the federal employees furloughed when the budget deadlock is over.

They claim our national debt is too high to pay them. But what did these employees do to have to suffer like that when it's Congress that isn't doing its job? Put Congress' pay and benefits towards the debt first if that's the standard.

Congressman Cooper is supporting a bi-partisan plan to end the budget impasse. It would approve a six-month government spending plan at the GOP-preferred level of funding and which would cut the government discretionary expenditures for two years in a row for the first time since the Korean War. It would also repeal the medical equipment tax that is a part of Obamacare (that is the real source of this deadlock) although other funds would be allocated to keep the program whole.

Is it enough for a deal? Our INSIDE POLITICS panel says no. There's also a report (NEW YORK TIMES October 3) that Speaker John Boehner has said he will do all he can to avoid a government default including bringing legislation to the House Floor to increase the government's borrowing capacity even if a majority of Republicans don't support it (ignoring the so-called Hastert Rule, named for an earlier GOP House Speaker. But the possibility of an open bi-partisan vote might make the debt ceiling look more potentially manageable.

On the state and local level, Governor Bill Haslam says its "inappropriate" for the federal government to have a shutdown. Not naming either party, the Governor says : "I'm one of those who believes the government has to quit spending way more than it brings in, but this is not the way to do that."

But there are those who believe the actions of the Haslam administration regarding the implementation of the new Affordable Care Act (which is the major bone of contention in the Washington budget battle) have not been appropriate. They filed a lawsuit claiming the rules set down by the administration covering folks dispensing advice about enrolling in the new health insurance exchanges are way too broad and vague. The Governor defends the action saying they are a protection against fraud and are not designed to be a "stumbling block." He claims the late timing of releasing the rules is because federal guidelines were delayed.

So far, the courts are allowing the rules to stand, although from the bench the judge himself in the case has expressed some concerns pending another court hearing later this month.

Meanwhile Nashville Mayor Karl Dean has jumped into the matter urging eligible residents to check out what health insurances coverage may be available under the new exchanges (if you can get through on-line).  The Mayor told me last week on INSIDE POLITICS he knows Obamacare is a controversial matter, but it's the law of the land and the many thousands of people in Nashville who need health care coverage ought to see what's available and take advantage if that makes sense.

But we all know what a dim view many of our state Republican lawmakers take of the new health care law. We also know the power of state government and the General Assembly over local municipalities. Will Mayor Dean and the city of Nashville pay a price for taking this stand down the road? I certainly hope not, but I know politics too so I wouldn't count it out.

Actually, the Mayor and Metro may already be getting on the radar of state GOP lawmakers for another reason. The Mayor says he agrees with 26 Metro Councilmembers (one less than a two-thirds majority) who are asking him to appoint a special study committee to look into the city granting domestic benefits to the same-sex spouses of Metro employees. Several cities in the state are looking at this in the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions. One town, Collegedale outside Chattanooga, has already approved the idea.

But Tennessee doesn't allow or recognize same-sex marriage by both law and constitutional amendment. Also a few years back Metro when sought to pass an anti-discrimination law regarding gays, lesbians and transsexuals, the General Assembly voided it and prohibited any other municipality for trying it again. If Metro or other cities in the state move ahead on same-sex benefits will there be a similar veto move on the Hill?


According to an announcement this week by the BEAT LAMAR group, Murfreesboro State Representative Joe Carr is the consensus choice of several Tea Party groups and others to defeat U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander for re-election in the Republican primary next August. It's a designation Carr has been working hard to achieve ever since he got into the race in August after dropping his effort to run for Congress instead.

But at least two media outlets (THE NASHVILLE SCENE and THE TENNESSEEAN) are posting stories that raise questions about whether some Tea Partiers are on board. According to note from "a patriot in Tennessee" received by SCENE's PITH blog site (September 30), the town hall process used by BEAT LAMAR to screen Carr and other potential candidates was not broad or inclusive enough:

"The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of us know Joe cannot win…we are still looking for our candidate, with or without BEAT LAMAR. We believe we can still defeat Lamar, but that requires the right candidate and a fair process. It's not over and BEAT LAMAR does not speak for us. We will start anew, and we will find our guy (or gal)."

Maybe they'll find somebody.  But if they do, and that person is viable as a candidate, the conservative wing of the GOP will be fractured (as it's been in several recent statewide races) increasing the odds that Tennessee's Senior Senator will win a third six-year term in Washington.

Meantime the BEAT LAMAR group continues to try and oust Republican State Party Chair Chris Devaney. The group is upset and says the Party Chair violated the rules by signing a fund raising letter for Alexander, and in effect, endorsing him. But so far, no one in the GOP leadership is paying any attention or lending their support to this Tea Party group. All the ultimatums and deadlines for action set by BEAT LAMAER are falling on completely deaf ears as it's been no secret that almost the entire GOP leadership in Tennessee has been solidly behind Senator Alexander long before Jo Carr decided to get into the race. That hasn't changed.


With all the new hotel announcements and construction underway throughout Nashville these days in the wake of the opening of the new Music City Center, what makes the grand opening of the new Omni Hotel so important?

Well, it's the headquarters or anchor hotel for the new convention center, and convention centers don't do very well without such a facility. In fact, you could argue that Omni saved Metro's bacon in this deal by stepping up with financing in place (cash) to build the 800-room hotel and it did so with a relatively modest incentive package from the city including tax increment financing. Sure, the first report card on the Music City Center issued in recent days show it's behind original projections. But those were done some years back and both the Center and the Omni opened in different times of the year than what the projections assumed. The full year of 2014 will give a better clue as to how this massive investment for the city is working.

Actually the Omni is now open and operating six months ahead of its own construction schedule. It has more than 395,000 room nights already booked and more than 450 meetings set to be held there through 2024. Oh and there's 650 new staff jobs too! It's also now the second largest hotel in Tennessee behind only Opryland with almost 2,900 rooms.


Magnet schools…it's the most successful and powerful brand Metro Nashville's Public Schools possess. Schools Director Dr. Jesse Register learned that the hard way this past week, backing off his plan to ease overcrowding at Martin Luther King Magnet School by removing the 7th and 8th grades and leaving only the 9-12 high school grades there.

That proposal set parents (and would-be parents) into an uproar, united in a concern that this might in some way hurt their children's chances to attend a magnet school and might force them back to a zoned district school instead.

Now Dr. Register says if the full School Board approves and the capital dollars are available (the Metro Council and Mayor Dean play a limited role here too), MLK will be expanded to accommodate the expected extra students coming there in the years to come.   


Life has a way of sneaking up on you. This week has been like that.

October 1st marks the 22nd anniversary for my coming to work at DVL. This weekend I will be celebrating my 40th college reunion at Vanderbilt.

Yeah, it makes me feel a little old when I think about it.

I've never worked anywhere longer than I have at DVL, at least continuously. I have about 29 years total at NewsChannel5 between 1975 and now, but there are a couple of major service breaks there too. Frankly, I have been blessed throughout my life with great employers, great co-workers and great places to work. I couldn't ask to have been treated better at DVL or NewsChannel5. That's particularly true with how they helped me and my family during my stroke recovery last year.

I have also very much enjoyed getting ready for my reunion. As I have done in the past I have been on the organizing committee (both for my college and high school reunions). Being a historian at heart, I have produced a blog looking back on the life and times of our VU class back in the day (the late 1960s and early ‘70s). I have done the same for my Class of 1969 at Father Ryan (coming up on my 45th high school reunion in 2014) as well as a local singing group (Sing-Out South) that I was involved with in the mid to late ‘60s.

The Vanderbilt blog has over 200 postings on it, both for this year and our 35th Reunion back in 2008. Check it out at this link, if you'd like take a trip back to that era now over four decades ago:


I am really looking forward to this weekend. We have a heck of a party planned for everyone and I have a renewed sense of urgency because you never know what lies ahead. I have had a couple of health situations since the last time we gathered five years ago that were serious enough to end my life. So I now realize it's time to live in the moment, to seize the day, because the future is promised to no one.