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 – Gill and Leahy talked to Senator Lamar Alexander and discussed President Trump’s SOTU address on Tuesday evening and the behavior displayed by the Democrats.
As the segment moved to a close, the conversation became heated in a debate about a recent Congressional Research Service report that says President Trump can build the border wall without declaring a national emergency and how the President could appropriate funds to build the wall at the southern border and where those funds would come from.
Gill: Good morning glad to have you with us.
Alexander: I don’t think it was either. But I have a question for you. Were you watching the State of the Union or the Tennessee basketball game?
Gill: To be honest, I was flipping back and forth. (Laughter) Also I had my ESPN box score up, so I was, even when I was momentarily watching the President I was keeping up with the Vols who got another big victory.
Alexander: I checked the score a couple of times. I thought the President did very well. And I thought his ending was spectacular. And I appreciated his optimism and I liked his focus on reducing healthcare costs. I mean that’s an area we ought to be able to do something about. He talked about surprise medical billings. More transparency. He’s talked about these rebates or discounts that never find there way to the consumers. So I thought it was good professionally done State of the Union address. I suspect that across the country people who watched it were impressed with it.
Gill: Well we’re seeing that with the CBS and the CNN polls which they’re trying to discount their own polls that show seventy six percent approval of the President’s speech. Seventy two percent approval of his immigration policies. They’re having to undercut their own polls which we know are probably understated in terms of the support for President already. The President did mention that Congress has shown it can work together including the opioid legislation that you lead the way on. So your right. With healthcare, with maybe some infrastructure. You’ve shown that they can find away to get something done if they just cooperate.
Alexander: Well we can always do that. We did it on opioids. We did it on fixing no child left behind getting rid of the common core mandate. We did it on student loans. We’re going to do it this year on higher education and healthcare. And we should be doing it on border security. I mean for the last four President’s have requested money for border securities that included a physical barrier. A wall of some kind or another. And as a result there’s six hundred and fifty four miles of wall along a nineteen hundred and fifty four mile southern border. Now that was built by Kennedy, Obama, Bush, and Bush. And voted for by Democrats. The Democrats this week should show President Trump the same respect for his requests that they did for the last four President’s and if they did we’d have a result on border security.
Gill: One of the things last night, Lamar that struck me is that again if you look at the results of the polling after the President’s speech. The Democrats have to take note of that. I mean if seventy two percent of Americans are supporting his immigration policies and saying build a wall, they’re call to reopen the government and we’ll negotiate on the wall and the negotiations Nancy Pelosi you know still saying not one dime for a barrier. Does the President’s speech last night move Democrats to actually come to the table and negotiate?
Alexander responded by stating what usually moves people in public office are the people that vote for them. In short, Alexander answered yes and stated the President’s speech was well received by the American people. He also noted that he was shocked when the President in the SOTU speech said that America would never be a socialist country and how the Democrats did not applaud that. He was surprised by their lack of response to that and joked that Republican’s used to call Democrats socialists but now call them so-socialists. Gill responded that the Democrats really showed who they were last night during the SOTU.
Alexander: Well as you know what I try to do is look for areas where we can get things done. I think people expect us to get healthcare costs down. The testimony we’ve had is that at least half of what we spend on healthcare is unnecessary. And family budgets know that. Bill Lee knows that in the state budget. The federal budget knows that. So we need to go to work and get prescription drug prices down and medical costs down and make it possible for people to know the prices of what they’re actually buying when they go in the pharmacy or doctors office.
Leahy: Senator Alexander, good morning this is Michael Patrick Leahy. I have a question for you about February fifteenth. Let’s say we get to February fifteenth and Nancy Pelosi doesn’t compromise and there is no deal to fund five point seven billion dollars for a border wall of the actual two hundred miles you talked about. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but on January tenth, the Congressional Research Service published a report that said the President has the authority to build much of that wall without declaring a national emergency under title ten of the US code, sections two eight zero three and section two eighty four. If, Senator Alexander, the President says, starts building the wall citing that authority, will you support him?
Alexander responded confidently by stating that it would set a bad precedent not to approve the President’s request for building the wall but at the same time a poor precedent to use a national emergency without Congressional approval. He went on to compare how if one President could build a wall, another President could come and tear it down. Alexander agreed with the section Leahy cited avoided declaring a national emergency yet questioned where the money would come from. Gill joined the conversation by asking Alexander how did Barack Obama ship one point seven billion in cash over on a palette to Iran without congressional approval.
Alexander: I don’t know the answer to that all that Steve. But you don’t want generally speaking to ignore the Constitution. I mean the founders set it up in such a way that we have an elected Congress. We after all started our country with a revolution against a king. So we have to be careful about these things. Because if we say ok we like what President Trump is doing he can just doing anything he wants to without Congressional approval. We might not like President Elizabeth Warren or President Alexander or whatever her name is when she comes in later and they might do something different.
Leahy: But Senator Alexander the Congressional Research Service said, those funds were appropriated and authorized by you and Congress in fiscal year two thousand eighteen and the President has the legal authority to use those funds and it’s not unconstitutional.
Alexander: Yeah, well they weren’t authorized for that purpose they were most likely authorized for military construction which means you’d have to take the money out of military barracks at Fort Campbell or out of a dilapidated school at Fort Campbell. Or out of a military hospital in Missouri. Or you’d have to stop the Chickamauga lock progress in Chattanooga and take money that was appropriated for those purposes and use it for another purpose. That’s not the way we should use…
Leahy: Yeah but the Congressional Research Service didn’t say that. They said that the..
Alexander: Well did you read the whole thing? Where did it say the money was coming from?
Leahy: Section two eight zero three.
Alexander: Well wait a minute. I’ll ask you. Where did it say the money was coming from?
Leahy: Provides that the secretary defenses’ budget quote, “May carry out a military construction project not otherwise authorized by law.” That’s in the report.
Alexander: Michael I’m asking you, where are you going to get the dollars?
Gill: It still has to come out of the general military fund.
Leahy: It’s already come out of the defense budget.
The segment concluded by Alexander stating that the money comes out military construction or army corps of engineers and puts at risk four hundred and fifty projects of appropriated dollars for men and women that may have had seven deployments in the Middle East. He agreed that the President may have the power to use the money, but aggressively begged the question of where would they be getting the money and where would you be taking funds from to get the money. Gill clarified the debate with the question, “What are you going to cut to do it?”
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.
Photo “Lamar Alexander” by Lamar Alexander.