On Wednesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy spoke with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) about his decision not to run for re-election in 2020, who he thinks may run to succeed him, Nancy Pelosi’s chance of securing the needed votes to become Speaker of the House, and whether he would support the allocation of military construction funds to build the border wall.
When asked about Pelosi’s chances of becoming Speaker, Alexander said, “I think the problem right now is that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have the votes to be elected Speaker.”
Alexander added he thinks that she is not willing to make any agreement until after she is elected.
You can read the full transcript here:
Gill: And Senator Lamar Alexander a good friend of the show and long time friend of the Gill family on our Newsmakers line to tell us a little bit about his decision and what’s next and, Lamar good to have you with us.
Alexander: Good morning Steve, how are you today?
Gill: I’m good. I have to tell you, you fooled me, you surprised me. The actions you were taking the last several months, you were more visible, you were aggressive in representing the interests of Tennessee and stepping up in the Senate and you were giving every indication you were running. Then you surprised me Monday by announcing you didn’t. When did you make the decision?
Alexander: Well I made the decision in August. I go up to Canada fishing in August. Senator McConnell kind of messed up my fishing… (Gill laughs) And then I kept it to my self because I wanted to make sure it was the right thing to do. You know serving in the Senate is a tremendous privilege, it’s hard to get here, it’s hard to stay here, and it’s hard to give up. But I figured, the people have been really generous to me, they’ve allowed me to serve as governor twice, senator three times and that’s enough. It’s time for somebody else to have the privilege. And I’ve wanted to go ahead and announce it and get it out of the way so political distractions didn’t get in the way. I’ve got a lot of work to do the next two years. I got more done in my last two years. I got more done in my last couple of years as governor, you remember that time because you were there for some of it. I got more done then than I did in the early part. So, I’m planning to focus on reducing healthcare costs, making college education worth it, and spending the next two years doing my job.
Gill: Well and even just in the last few weeks there’s been the opioid bill that passed. Last night the Senate passed legislation dealing with criminal justice reform. You’ve pointed out when we talked a month or so ago. Things are being done, and they’re are just not getting media attention.
Alexander: Well that’s right. It’s kind of like a split screen television here. On one side you’ve got Kavanaugh with all the mud throwing back and forth, and on the other side you’ve got seventy two senators working together to deal with our biggest public health epidemic which is opioids. And we’ve also passed the songwriters bill which is tremendously important in Nashville for thousands of songwriters to make sure they get paid a fair market value and we’ve passed biomedical research. All these medical miracles, record funding for that. So there’s a lot going on the other side of the split screen television. And that’s where I spend my time. You don’t see me as much over on the mud throwing side.
Gill went on to talk about why Alexander has chosen to not run and if the decision was because a mud slinging, bare knuckle brawl, is not who Lamar Alexander politically as that was what the current political climate would require for him to run and if that was a factor. Alexander reflected on his governor campaign and that he is accustomed to running a tough campaign. Alexander stated that “I’d rather go out batting four hundred than some other way.” He added that it was just about time for him to leave and let somebody else do it even after he spoke to President Trump who wanted him to run again.
Gill: Randy Boyd in the Times Free Press today, who’s filling in as interim President at the University of Tennessee, a full time role you once held, announced he’s not going to be seeking the seat. Governor Haslam has announced he’s not going, he’s going to consider, but not making a decision right now. You mentioned our mutual friend, Bill Haggerty, Ambassador to Japan and former commissioner of ECD as a front runner. What advice would you have to people who may be considering running?
Alexander: My advice, and Bill Hagerty, he like you may white house fellow which is not an easy thing. I think Governor Haslam and Bill Haggerty are the most obvious choices, of course the governor’s much better known than anybody else and Hagerty’s much closer to President Trump than about anybody else. So that’s an advantage. But we’ve got a barn full of congressmen, all good people who may want to run and there may be a Bill Lee out there, somebody we haven’t thought about who would be an excellent candidate. My advice would be to ask yourself one question. Why are you running and what do you hope to accomplish? And if you have a purpose about it don’t worry about whether you think you might win or not, just haul off and run. That’s what I always did. And if I’d waited to find out whether the polls were good (which in my case right now they are), I wouldn’t have run for anything.
Gill: You mentioned the Bill Lee model and we’ve seen around the country in Senate races of Braun in Indiana and other locations. Business people moving into the political arena with no prior political experience and winning primaries and in some cases winning the general election. So we’ve seen that play out in senate races around the country in the last couple of cycles.
Alexander: Well we have. And Braun and Bill Lee were alike in the fact that neither of them, both of them were the beneficiary of running against people who were running very negative campaigns. In my last campaign for the Senate I didn’t even mention my opponent, didn’t say a negative word about it. Now I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that this time. (Chuckles) I would need to be prepared to run a tough race if I needed to. But given my poll numbers and the President’s interest in my serving another twenty years. I didn’t not run because I thought it would be a hard race. I did not run because of age, I just ran, I just decided that eighteen years in the Senate, eight years as governor is plenty. And I love what I’m doing. I feel like I’ve did it better than I ever have. And looking into these next two years to try to continue on the same way.
Gill joked that at seventy eight years old, Alexander is looked at like a youngster in the Supreme Court and the Senate. Leahy interjected with a question regarding the border wall and whether or not he would vote yes to fund the border wall for five billion dollars. Alexander replied by stating that he’d already done that several times and that he voted earlier this year sponsoring a bill that would appropriate twenty five million dollars but the administration opposed it. He also added that he had voted for an immigration bill that included border security, Everify, and walls in 2013 that would have solved ninety percent of the problems we currently have.
Leahy: Do you support Senator Alexander, If the senate doesn’t vote for the border wall, do you support proposals to allocate other funds that have already been authorized to build the wall?
Alexander: Well that depends if they are authorized by Congress. You know I’m a conservative constitutionalist and I believe that article one section two says if congress has appropriated the funds and the executive has the authority to do it sure, that’s fine. If Congress hadn’t appropriated the funds I would think any conservative constitutionalist wouldn’t approve of it.
Leahy: So specifically, would you support transferring military construction money to build the wall?
Alexander: I’d have to look at that. Because I’m not sure it’s authorized that way. If, you’d have to read the law. That’s an old fashioned view. But you have to read the law and see whether Congress authorized it and if it did the executive could spend it. So, I would read the law, listen respectfully to whatever the President says he wants to do and let him do it. There shouldn’t be any disagreement about border security. I mean Congress has as I said forty billion dollars in 2013 which the house could pick up. And earlier this year we had bipartisanship in the Senate for more than twenty five billion dollars over ten years, which is what the President wants. So…
Gill: Are you surprised that Chuck Schumer and the Democrats are so adamantly opposed to any spending for border wall now when they voted for it, as you point out, earlier this year and in the past. Is this an indication that literally they’re just going to be all no all the time and try to obstruct, delay, and just throw chaos in both from the House and now from the Senate side? I mean the Senate’s supposed to be the group that behaves like the adults. But as you’ve seen even with your back and forth with Chuck Schumer a few weeks ago, they’re not in the business of trying to make stuff happen right now.
Alexander responded by saying, “I believe the problem right now is that Nancy Pelosi doesn’t have the votes to be elected Speaker and that she is not willing to make any agreement until after she is elected.”
Alexander added he is convinced that this is ninety nine percent of the problem and clarified that earlier this year the President asked for one point six billion dollars which was approved by bipartisanship support. He added that all but five Democrats voted for it and it’s suspected that the only reason it’s not being passed is because Pelosi won’t agree to it. Gill interjected that her reasoning is because she promised thirty or so Democrats to vote for her and that without them she won’t get elected to Speaker. “She’s got a pretty rowdy group over there. Sometimes people look at our party and say we’ve got some hard liners but they’ve got people jumping off the left side of the cliff. She literally can’t count the votes to be elected Speaker and I think that’s why she’s unwilling to make some if any sort of agreement here”, concluded Alexander.
Listen to the full segment:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Steve Gill and Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Background Photo “U.S.-Mexico Border Wall” by Rebajae. CC3.0.