Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Marxist, Pseudo-African, make-up, Kwanzaa holiday wishes

In case you missed it, Mayor Karl Dean on December 20th extended holiday greetings to the Metro Council in an official message from the Mayor. Below is the text:

I wish you a blessed and happy holiday season. This has been a challenging year for many of you as you’ve worked on your re-election or election campaigns. I hope you take the opportunity to enjoy this time of year, the slower pace that comes with it, and to catch up with friends and loved ones.
There is much work for us to do in the new year. I look forward to working with all of you to keep our city moving in the right direction. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanza, and Happy New Year! 

Karl F. Dean

Isn't that nice? I could forgive Mayor Dean for the "Happy Kwanza" wishes. He is a Democrat and a liberal and I don't expect much better. However, the Republican National Committee went one further. This is from the Republican National Committee:
From December 26 through January 1, many families will take time to celebrate African culture and history. Kwanzaa is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to honor the importance of family and community, and it reminds us of the great diversity in America. Happy Kwanzaa!
There is no excuse! Republicans know better. Worse than that, it got 3054 "likes." It did not get a "like" from me. It almost make me not want to contribute to the RNC. I know as Republicans we need to reach out to African Americans, but pandering and acting like bone-head liberals is not the way to do it. Even intelligent Blacks make fun of Kwanzaa.

Not only is Karl Dean and the RNC wishing people Happy Kwanzaa, but so are late night TV talk show host and department stores and Hallmark has a line of Kwanzaa greeting cards. The Tennessean, today featured laudatory story "Kwanzaa wraps up on note of faith."

Kwanzaa is a made up holiday. It was created in 1966 by a radical American Black nationalists who was either a stooge of the FBI or an FBI informer. In the sixties, the founder headed a group called "United Slaves" which positioned themselves as more radical than the Black Panthers.

The principles of Kawanzaa are not anything worth celebrating. The first principle is Umoja (Unity). That is not unity among all people however but  unity in the family, community, and race. The second principle is Kujichagulia (Self-Determination). It calls for the right to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. Keep in mind this is for Black people to do. It is not a call for cooperation with others or to be accepting or cooperative with others; this is a call for radical Black power. It doesn't get better. It calls for "collective economics," perhaps the last thing the Black community needs. The Black community needs a good dose of capitalism not more socialism.

I know Christmas is made up also. It evolved over time and customs and traditions and elements were added one on the other. However the message of Christmas is a positive message and anything that evolves over time, to my way of thinking, has more legitimacy than something someone just set down one day and made up.

To learn more about the made up holiday of Kwanzaa see this Wikipedia link and see this story by Ann Coulter: KWANZAA: THE HOLIDAY BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE FBI.

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Marsha Blackburn's year in review

From Marsha Blackburn:


What a year it has been! I’ve had the joy and pleasure of seeing many of you while crisscrossing the Tennessee 7th Congressional District, others came to visit in DC, and many of you visit often through social media. Serving the District is a great honor for me and this year was no exception. This year has certainly been packed with news and unforgettable moments. As you’re getting ready for 2014, I wanted to take a few minutes and highlight the past year as well as take a quick look forward to the year to come.

January- I joined my colleagues in passing out of the House the “No Budget, No Pay Act” because if Congress can’t perform one of the most basic functions of government, then we don’t deserve to receive a paycheck. It was the first victory secured by House conservatives to get us back on a path to restoring regular order. I also joined with a coalition of 29 conservative organizations urging the end of taxpayer funding for abortions through the Title X grant program.

February- President Obama came to Congress for the 2012 State of the Union address and I once again called for spending cuts. We do not have a revenue problem. Washington has a spending problem. I joined with House Republicans in passing the “Require a PLAN Act” to call for a balanced budget. By approving the “Require a PLAN Act,” we reaffirmed our commitment to getting our nation on a path to fiscal health. In February, I was named the leading conservative female voice in the House and the 3rd most conservative member overall.

March- I learned Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano was spending $50 million on new Transportation Security Administration uniforms days before sequestration went into effect. Later in the year, I worked with the House Appropriations Committee to cut the TSA uniform account by $18 million. I wish we could have cut the full $50 million, but even in this divided government, I’ll keep looking to cut more in 2014. I supported the 2014 Fiscal Year Budget Resolution and reminded the Senate that we can’t continue to spend money we don’t have on programs the American people don’t need or necessarily want. I voted for one of dozens of jobs bills passed in the House, still remaining in the Senate, that would have helped put people back to work.

April- It was an honor to lead the House delegation to former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Baroness Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. Her deep and abiding friendship with America altered the course of history and I am grateful for her example and legacy. I introduced the SECURE IT Act of 2013 as we cannot afford to sit idly by as malicious hacker groups, and the states that sponsor them like China and North Korea, devise more sophisticated and effective ways to attack our citizens, businesses, and government institutions.

May- Congressman Griffin and I joined together to demand the Federal Communications Commission answer questions about the Lifeline program, commonly known as the “Obama phone” program. This effort was part of a focus on making government more efficient. I voted to fully repeal President Obama’s signature health care law. The law was unpopular when Democrats rammed it through Congress without a single Republican vote three years ago and the burdens Obamacare places on hard-working American families grow with each passing day. I co-sponsored the Northern Route Approval Act because it’s been five years since the initial Keystone XL Pipeline application was filed with the State Department and more American energy means more American jobs. Joining with Congressman Fincher and Stutzman, we co-sponsored House Resolution 206 calling on the House to review public policies that led to illegal abortion practices such as those of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell debunked the myth that abortion in America is safe, legal, and rare. Oversight and enforcement are desperately needed so we can help stop these Gosnell abortion horror stories from continuing.

June- Continuing the fight to rein in the Transportation Security Administration, I secured a provision that cut funding for Officer uniforms by 20%. Working with leaders from Fort Campbell, I secured provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act to provide important resources for our military. I went to the Floor and urged passage of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. With over 60% of American’s supporting a ban on abortions in the second trimester and over 80% supporting the ban in the third trimester, our humanity compels us to end this violent and abhorrent practice.

July- With fellow members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, we launched an investigation into the delay of the Obamacare Employee Mandate. I co-sponsored the Saving America’s Workers Act that would have reinstated the 40 hour work week slashed under Obamacare and would have allowed small business owners to run their businesses as they always have. I fought back against burdensome regulations being imposed on American ceiling fan manufactures by the Department of Energy. I voted again to give hard-working taxpayers relief from Obamacare by voting to delay Obamacare mandates for all Americans. I introduced legislation to delay Obamacare and all its taxes for one year.

August- I’ve spent my career in Congress fighting to stop government abuse and to empower the American people. That’s why I supported the Stop Government Abuse Act. I voted for legislation that would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from implementing or enforcing any provisions in Obamacare. And I voted to rein in regulatory overreach at the Environmental Protection Agency.

September- I opposed military action in Syria because I will not vote to put the lives of our troops at risk without a clearly defined mission, an execution strategy and an exit strategy. I fought to protect American taxpayers from Obamacare fraud. I joined with my colleagues on the Republican Study Committee in introducing legislation to replace Obamacare, the American Health Care Reform Act. My colleagues and I voted again to defund Obamacare and keep the government running. Leading the fight, I sponsored HR 2809 to delay all Obamacare provisions and taxes for one year. I joined with my colleagues and continued to come to the table with proposals that would have kept the government open.

October- During the shutdown, I fought to restore funds for the Tennessee National Guard and Reservists, as well as voting to pass legislation such as the Nutrition Assistance for Low-Income Women and Children Act, the Head Start for Low-Income Children Act, and the Impact Aid for Local Schools Act.  The House passed several bills putting people before politics as we should not allow cold hearts and petty politics to overtake our obligation to come together, as one nation under God, to serve people with the respect and care they deserve and require. I introduced legislation that would have ensured Military Tuition Assistance Programs would continue to be funded. I voted against raising the debt ceiling.

November- As Vice Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, despite her “non” answers, I continued to investigate Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius. I fought for solutions to promoting access to affordable health care such as the Keep Your Health Plan Act.

December- Based on two bills, H.R 1960 and S.1197, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 is a bipartisan agreement on America’s national security goals, resources, and policies. I secured an NDAA provision, a restoration of the Army and Air Force flying hours, to provide important resources to the Fort Campbell and broader military community. One of my last votes of the year was in support of the Budget Agreement to rein in waste, fraud and abuse by ending the permanent extension of unemployment benefits and putting a stop to government payments for prisoners and the deceased. Most importantly for our men and women in our military, the budget agreement allowed Congress and the Pentagon to return to regular order so we can better manage the cuts facing our military so that they will not damage our national security or vital installations like Fort Campbell. In addition, this bill ensured that our seniors will be able to continue to have access to their physicians and the care they deserve.

As you can see, it has indeed been a very long year. When I head back to the 2nd Session of the 113th Congress, I’ve got cutting on my mind. Now that we have a Budget and are back to regular order for the first time since 2008, I can begin to cut into the Budget and assure you President Obama will no longer be able to re-program money from one agency to another. My colleagues and I are going to keep the pressure on Secretary Sebelius for answers regarding the failed implementation of Obamacare. As well, you have my word I won’t let up the fight for faith, hope, freedom, free people, and free markets.

I’m looking forward to 2014. I hope you and your family have a wonderful new year-

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Don't Drive Drunk, but if you do, here are some tips.

Happy New Year!

Tonight there will be more drunk drivers on the road than any other night of the year.  Unfortunately there will be a lot of inexperienced drunk drivers on the road. A lot of people will have their judgement impaired and think they are perfectly capable of driving  but they will be drunk.
Don't drive drunk. Don’t do it. Drunk driving kills people. Getting arrested can be costly and humiliating. It can ruin your life. You can go to jail and loose your license. Call a cab. Although, good luck getting a cab in Nashville. Since Nashville has had a long-time policy of restricting the supply of all kinds of vehicles for hire, we do not have sufficient transportation-for-hire to meet the demand. However, it would impossible to have enough taxis, black cars, Ubers, Lyfts, Sidecars or limousines to transport all of the people who should not be driving on New Years eve.

Have a designated driver. Pick the designated driver before you start drinking. Have a friend drive you. If at a friends house, stay the night. Use Sober Ride. Sober ride is a service of the Sheriff's office. Sober ride pick up points are (1) 2nd and Church, (2) Demonbruen near the roundabout, and (3) east Nashville at Five Points.  Sober ride operates from 10PM to 2AM.

Having said all of that however, I know that there are going to be thousands of people who will be driving tonight that will not think they are too drunk to drive but will have had a sufficient amount of adult beverage that they could register drunk even though they don’t think you are drunk.

I am offering this guide to help you improve your drunk driving skills.

(1) Know that you don’t have to be “drunk” to register DUI. You do not have to be sloppy, falling down drunk to register as DUI. If you think you should not drive then by all means don’t. See the above. Often you will not know if you are drunk or not, so unless you know exactly how much you have had to drink and weather or not that would constitute drunk driving, then assume you are technically drunk. You do not have to appear intoxicated or have any of the symptoms that we think of as “drunk” to have a Blood Alcohol Content that legally makes you guilty of Driving Under the Influence. If you drink and you drive you have probably driven “drunk.”

(2) Track your consumption and don’t have “one for the road.” That is what often happens. If  for New Years you are having dinner with friends and you have a pre-dinner cocktail and wine with dinner and after dinner liquore with coffee, and a champagne toast at midnight, you might register drunk. Try to keep your alcohol consumption to a level that falls below the BAC limit.

On occasion I like to go to Lower Broadway to listen to live music and party. If I have 8, 12-ounce beers in a four-hour period I should have a BAC of about .068, however if I have 9 beers in four hours that means I have a BAC of .085 and am legally drunk. “One for the road” could put me over the limit. Actually, I seldom have eight in a four hour period, but it has happened.

A female can drink less than a male and a slender person can drink less than a heavy person. For a 115 pound female, three glasses of wine in two hours is drunk. Don’t try to keep up with the other people in your party. Know your limit. Skip a round. Drink slower. Some people assume that wine is less inebriating than tequila shots. That is not so. A 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ounces of 100 proof distilled spirits have the same impact on an individual's BAC level.

Here is a calculator that will give you guidance on how much alcohol you can consume and an estimate of BAC. Please be aware that this is only a guide. If you are drinking on an empty stomach, your BAC may be higher than indicated in the calculator.

(3) Plan your trip. Point your car in the direction of home.  Avoid places where the police might see you. When I go to the honkytonk strip on lower Broadway to party, I never park on Broadway. I live on the south side of town, so I park a block or two south of Broadway on one of the one-way streets heading south. The less exposed you are to the police the less chance you have of getting caught.

(4) Be aware that you are impaired. If you didn’t keep track of how much you drank then assume you are may have had enough to register drunk and use your best drunk-driving skills. "Thinking" skills, like perceiving and evaluating risks, or processing information are not easily visible to outside observers, but they are the first skills to be adversely affected by alcohol. Be aware of this.

(5) Stop the Party. You are having a good time. You are joking and singing and laughing. You hate
to end the party, but if there is any chance that you are driving with an elevated BAC, then stop the party. Say, “OK folks, we need to straighten up. I need your help in getting us home.” Don’t sing or engage in distracting conversation. Turn off the radio. Don’t talk on the cell phone. Give driving your undivided attention. Don’t let anyone in the car have an open container. You may be perfectly capable of driving, but if a drunk passenger is yelling "Happy New Year" out the window, the police may stop the car and give you a drunk driving test.

(6) Check the checklist. Have a mental checklist. You don’t want to get stopped because you failed to use your turn signal. I was once stopped by the police on lower Broadway and forced to take a Breathalyzer. I knew I had only had two beers in a two-hour period so I was not concerned. The reason they stopped is that I had not tuned on my headlights as I pulled out into the street. The downtown area is well lit and this was just an oversight. The police are looking for excuses to stop you; don’t give them one. Seat belts? Check. Adjust the mirror? Check. Turn off the radio? Check. Turn on the headlights? Check.

(7) Consecrate; pay attention. Be aware of your driving. Don’t relax. Keep both hands on the wheel. Don’t be distracted. Don't answer the phone. If you feel you must answer the phone, safely pull off the road. Don't even engage in conversation.  Make sure you do not weave. Are you staying within the lines? Drive just below the speed limit. Don’t tailgate. Pay attention to the car in front of you. If they put on their brakes, notice it. If you are approaching an intersection with a traffic light, pay close attention. Plan that traffic light stop. Don’t run a yellow light.

(8) Use your co-pilot. Ask the person in the passengers seat to help you drive. Ask them to tell you if you weave or tailgate or go too fast.

(9) If you get stopped. Unless you are certain that you have had less than the number of drinks it would take to raise your BAC level to the .08 level, then common wisdom holds that it is a good idea to refuse the breathalyzer test. It generally is more difficult to convict a driver of drunk driving if no chemical tests are taken.

I have never been arrested for drunk driving but I admit I have been guilty of it. I guess I have been lucky. As a young adult I was more often guilty of it than I have been as an older adult. Nevertheless, from time to time, I still have probably technically met the blood alcohol level for being drunk. Stay safe. Happy New Year.

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Monday, December 30, 2013

State Senator Mae Beavers wants to block police from cell phone tracking

WBIR Staff -  A recent study by USA Today and Gannett found that found 1 in 4 state and local police agencies are using new technologies to tap into cell phone data. At this point, we've not been able to determine that any agencies in Knoxville, Knox County, or Nashville are doing this, but a state lawmaker wants to make sure they don't.

The investigation found at least 25 police agencies use tower dumps, a way for them to get thousands of phone records from cell phone towers near crime scenes.

Police have also used a Stingray, a portable device that fools cell phones into thinking it is a real cell tower.

Both methods help police gather cell phone data without a search warrant and without people ever knowing. Tennessee State Senator Mae Beavers is trying to change that. She announced Monday she will introduce a bill next session that, if passed, will require local and state police to get a search warrant before collecting data. (read more)

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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Is Universal Pre-K the answer?

Reposted with permission from TN Edu-Independent:

Locally and nationally, "universal" Pre-K continues to make news.  Memphis voters recently defeated (in a low voter turnout) a sales tax hike to pay for more Pre-K. President Obama has brought attention to the need for high quality early learning and is pushing universal Pre-K and full day Kindergarten. San Antonio, has in a way, gone big (not gone home) for Pre-K.

San Antonio expects to pay their Pre-K teachers $64,500, rising to $80,000 by 2021, and each student served is expected to cost $15,000. The program expects to serve, after a few years of ramping up enrollment, 3,700 students per year (SA has many more 4 year olds per year, but the program will target low-income 4 year olds).

(You may have noted that the expected salary for Pre-K teachers in San Antonio is much higher than what many MNPS K-12 teachers currently earn, and that a Nashville K-12 student averages about $12,000 per year).

Should Nashville, or Tennessee follow San Antonio's lead?  Is expanded Pre-K, in the form of "universal" Pre-K (Pre-K for every 4 year old), the right policy solution? It's currently popular to be for it politically, but is it the right policy solution?

Not so funny side note on that - I met with a particular TN state representative 2 years ago (my rep) and was trying to push him to bring much greater attention to early learning at the state level. He had no interest. Lo and behold, I just saw the same rep in the news "boldy" coming out for more Pre-K, attacking the other party. He just got some headline time, but disappointing that he only cares now for political reasons.

Anyways, I've long been an advocate for much greater attention and much better "age 0-5" public policy that helps young children develop and grow for their full potential. We know that the "achievement gap" is pronounced the first day of Kindergarten. Not only that, but other research makes it clear that early brain development and experiences in the first 5 years of life can really shape individuals in profound ways that will last them throughout their K-12 careers and into adulthood as citizens. A few brief graphics capture this:

Great graphic from Memphis:

Education neuroscience research makes it really clear that the brain and young body are growing at an incredible rate during the early years (90% of your brain grows during age 0-5). It makes absolute total sense that we have much more effective programs and focus on ensuring high quality early childhood development for every child.

But I'm not so sure "universal Pre-K" is the way to make that happen.  Here are some of my concerns and mixed feelings, specific to Tennessee and Nashville's case:
  • "Gold standard" studies of Pre-K show cognitive increases fade out, generally by 3rd grade. The large Head Start study has shown that, and unfortunately, the Vanderbilt Pre-K study has shown that recently as well.  This is a MUST READ on the topic: "New Evidence Raises Doubts on Obama's Preschool for All."
  • Professor Dale Farran, lead researcher on the Vanderbilt study, has some very good points in this piece, emphasizing that some of the non-cognitive gains that come out of Pre-K are quite important for both school and life. I completely agree, but I don't think we know conclusively if non-cognitive skill gains we see in Pre-K or Head Start are a direct result of the programming or other factors - such as the child growing and maturing around that age. It's also very hard to create public policy for an expected return 20 years from now.  We don't know concretely enough (the previous long term studies on early childhood programs have been small).
  • Institutionalizing Pre-K in the school system does not sound appealing to me if we're looking for high quality outcomes for kids over time. There are many reasons I feel this way, but structurally, once it is locked in the school system, there's not much incentive for the system to keep up it's quality.
  • Less may be more. Educating a diverse student body of 81,000 students in grades K-12 is hard enough, and the challenges are large enough, that we don't need to also expect MNPS to knock it out of the park as a high quality early childhood provider.  What I'm most concerned with is quality. I want quality K-12, I want quality early childhood programs - and I'm concerned that if MNPS tries to take on "universal" Pre-K, some attention will drop from the educational programming quality in K-12. Both might suffer.

  • If Pre-K is going to be expanded in Nashville - I'd rather see the school system follow the state model that allows non-profit providers and community organizations to provide Pre-K classrooms. I think MNPS would be more effective as a "program manager" and funder, and not an operator of Pre-K. MNPS as a gatekeeper of quality if you will, vetting applicants and monitoring quality outcomes, and shifting funding when a community provider isn't meeting a high quality standard, sounds much more appealing and promising than MNPS as a provider of more Pre-K.
  • The district faces a pretty substantial issue of facilities when it comes to providing universal Pre-K, or simply more Pre-K seats, for that matter. In the high need areas of Nashville where Pre-K would be most useful - many of the elementary schools in those areas are already pretty overcrowded with their K-5 student populations.  Hence, MNPS often places Pre-K classrooms across the city where there ends up being available space - not necessarily where the demand is greatest, or where the impact can be the greatest (and not many parents want their 4 year old riding the yellow school bus for 30 minutes or more each day). 
  • Not only that, but when Pre-K classrooms are put in elementary schools, one of the "quality" concerns that goes along with that is that the elementary school principal is tasked with managing the Pre-K program. Nothing against elementary school principals - but they are often focused on TCAP pressures for their 3-5 grades, evaluating teachers in grades 3-5, and often don't have an extensive background in what high-quality early learning looks like or know how to deliver high quality PD to the early learning teachers.  I think this was some of the thinking in San Antonio - they are building 4 Pre-K demonstration centers (Pre-K) only that will educate 2,000 PreKers. The other portion of the enrollment will be filled by non-profit and partner school district providers.
  • When MNPS hires Pre-K teachers - they pay them on the MNPS teacher step and ladder pay scale. It is a much higher wage, higher than what the labor market for early childhood teachers currently pays, and while great teachers are worth every penny - MNPS adding more Pre-K will mean they will draw some of the best early childhood teachers from private and non-profit providers in the city.  The same thing happened when the state voluntary Pre-K program started up and MNPS adopted more Pre-K classrooms. Is it good policy to migrate those teachers into the school system from the private or non-profit sector? Is the sum of the whole less? (if teachers move to MNPS, that means those teachers aren't in private or non-profit settings, offering their professional expertise and development to other developing ECE teachers)
  • There are big opportunity costs to investing scarce public dollars into Pre-K, whether it be "universal" or halfway there to "universal."  For example, with the big concern of the "fadeout" problem - where cognitive gains have shown to be lost from Head Start or TN Pre-K programs - if the district or the state is itching to spend x million dollars more on early childhood - what about putting that money towards ensuring a more robust K-3 educational quality for all students?

    More reading specialists in grades K-3? Creating a firm foundation of early literacy for all students is extremely critical.  MNPS could pay for 1,000 more Pre-K seats or 200 reading specialists deployed throughout the district. Or what about putting that money towards even more effective expenditures at an earlier age? Nurse-family partnership programs, especially for infants and toddlers in low-income settings, have shown really solid benefits to the child and family.
What is clear is that we need to do much much better with educating and developing ALL of our young children - so that they're well prepared for the 1st day of Kindergarten, and well on their way for their futures as adults.

We need much greater attention on the issue as a community.  Our public policies need to reflect smart and sound investments in our youngest when their bodies and brains are most vulnerable. Age 0-5 is an incredible window of opportunity for every developing child. That biological fact is not going to change.

But "Universal Pre-K" might not be the best policy solution to accomplish such an important priority.

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Len Silverman to Challenge Cortney Rogers for seat formerly held by Debra Maggart

Len Silverman
Len Silverman of Hendersonville has announced he is running in the Republican primary for the 45th district State House of Representatives seat. He is challenging incumbent State Representative Courtney Rogers.

Rogers defeated Representative Debra Maggart, who was the Republican whip in the House, in the 2012 Republican primary in a bitter campaign focused on extending gun rights. The Tennessee Firearms Association did not deem Republican Debra Maggart sufficiently pro-gun and they spend an unprecedented $155,000 plus dollars in negative campaigning and disparaged her A+ rated, pro-Second Amendment voting record.  They said she was for gun control, for shredding the Constitution, and compared her to President Barack Obama. That campaign got national attention and was used as an example of the power of the gun lobby.

Until last month there was speculation that Maggart might seek a rematch and challenge Rogers in the 2014 primary. In mid-November however, she announced she would join a Nashville lobbying firm ending that speculation.

Silverman  owns a Huntington Learning Center tutoring franchise in Hendersonville. He is Chairman of the  Board of Directors for COMPASS, a foundation that helps raise funds for Sumner County Schools.  Until recently, COMPASS was headed-up by former State Representative Debra Maggart.

He is also Chairman of the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber Foundation, Chairman of the Sumner County United Way, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Pope John Paul II High School.

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CPAC 2014 takes place March 6-8, 2014

From American Conservative Union:

 Dear Fellow Conservative,

There are just five days left to take advantage of the biggest savings and the best deal for CPAC 2014.

If you act within the next five days, you will not just save 25% or more off the price to attend, you will also be entered to win a chance to meet and have your picture taken with a CPAC star! Go here to register now and be entered towin.

Want to know who our VIP speakers will be this year?

Stay tuned for our first round of invitations! But, don’t wait! Register now for CPAC 2014 and you will be entered to win!

CPAC 2014 takes place March 6-8, 2014, at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, and brings together the top conservative thinkers and leaders – and activists like you. In a year as important as 2014, I know this is an event in which every conservative will want to participate.

Al Cardenas
Chairman, The American Conservative Union

My Comment: For the first time, I attended CPAC last year. (To learn more of my experience, follow this link.) It was a thrill to hear the luminaries of the conservative movement and to hear panel discussions of public policy issues and authors and network and much more. I am still trying to work out the details and hope I can attend this year. My personal situation makes it difficult for me to get away, but I hope to be able to make it. If you are a conservative activist and have never attended CPAC, I urge you to attend.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

The Tennessean says, "Airlines should be free to make decisions on cellphone use."

I could not agree more with the Tennessean's position on this issue. Every problem or potential problem does not require a government response. If government will stay out of the way, the market and people will settle a lot of issues themselves. I am very disappointed that Lamar Alexander is the sponsor of the bill to ban cell phone use on planes.

Our View: Airlines should be free to make decisions on cellphone use

Cellphone conversations are not, in and of themselves, the health hazard that second-hand smoke is, and airlines should make their own decisions on how obtrusive technology is used on board their flights, not Congress. The Department of Transportation should give the responsibility to each airline on how they restrict cellphone usage.

It is too infrequent that regulators ease their restrictions, and we should not be too quick to relinquish choices to a political and bureaucratic infrastructure that we may later regret.

Technologies change, and airlines might find solutions that work for all, but not if legal and regulatory hurdles prevent even thinking about innovation.

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Lamar Alexander not Vulnerable in 2014 Primary

Ranking the Top 5 Senators Vulnerable in 2014 Primaries National Journal

Joe Carr is running against Lamar Alexander; and in Texas, Rep. Steve Stockman is opposing Sen. John Cornyn. At this point, it doesn't look as ...

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What if a Typical Family Spent Money like the Federal Government?

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Beware of pajama boy.

If you think you have survived the holidays without having an argument about Obamacare, well look out. The holidays are not over. There may still be days of quality family time.

Beware of pajama boy. President Obama is still trying to ruin your holiday. The official Obamanista orgnization is encouraging pajama boy to "wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about health insurance." 

Pajama boy looks like a certain kind of liberal, probably a student, a nerd, a know-it-all. Maybe he lives with his girl friend in the basement apartment of the girl friend's parents. He listens to NPR and watches MSNBC and Comedy Central. He may be a vegetarian. He thinks same-sex marriage should be the law of the land and he thinks we are not taxed enough. 

If he casually brings up Obamacare, it is to lure you into a discussion. Just say, "that's interesting" and leave the room to go get some more coffee. Beware that after the holidays he is going to report back to the Obamanistas what you had to say in response to his attempt to "educate" you about Obamacare. Don't let your guard down. Pajama boy may look harmless, but don't let that fool you. He has memorized all of the talking points and has an agenda. He is an Obamanista.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

82,000 Tennesseans who will begin to lose their individual health insurance plans starting Jan. 1

Alexander: Obamacare “Delivering An Unwelcome Christmas Present To Tennesseans”

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A Merry Christmas Cartoon Book, Volumn II

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Monday, December 23, 2013

An Example of how President Obama violates the Constitution and Rules by Executive Fiat

Unions Get Big ObamaCare Christmas Present As Other Self-Insured Groups Get Scrooged 

by Larry Bell, Forbes, 12-22-2013 - As a presumed constitutional scholar, Barack Obama should know that while a president has authority to check the Legislative Branch by recommending legislation to be passed by Congress, or through presidential veto, he or she cannot legislate through executive fiat or pick which parts of the law to comply with or decline. Article 2, Section 3, Clause 5 of our Constitution requires that the president “…shall take care that the Laws be carefully executed.”    It doesn’t limit those laws or encapsulated provisions to the particular ones that he or she likes.

In addition to delaying and rewriting key ACA provisions and carving out a special subsidy for members of Congress, Obama’s latest constitutional violation will exempt unions from a fee the law imposes upon all large group health plans. That provision which appears in Section 1341 (b)(1)(A)  establishes a reinsurance program.... (link)

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Americans for Limited Government Foundation paper warns against state Obamacare nullification

As much as I would like to see Obamacare repealed, I cannot support those who are urging state nullification. Nullification is not a solution. By now, it should be clearly established that the supremacy clause of the constitution trumps nullification.

I am concerned that President Obama is violating the rule of law by arbitrarily delaying implementation of key parts of the Affordable Care Act. A president may delay or change an administrative rule, but should not be allowed to ignore or change a law. If President Obama can arbitrarily say the employer mandate will be delayed for a year, what is to keep a future Republican president from saying the employer mandate or, for that matter, the entire Affordable Car Act is suspended and deferred indefinitely? It would be the same thing.

As much as I dislike what Obamacare is doing to health care and the market economy of this country, I equally dislike what President Obama is doing to the rule of law and the Constitution. Nevertheless, the response to the President for ignoring a law, is not for a State to also ignore a law. The President should be impeached for violating the law. The difficulty in doing that is that those who would like to see the President removed from office for failing to uphold the law, do not like the particular law he is failing to uphold. Another practical reason the President can not be impeached is that Democrats would never vote to impeach America's first Black president, regardless of what law he failed to uphold. Our strategy for defeating Obamacare is to elect a Republican Congress and repeal Obamacare.  Nullification is not a winning strategy for defeating Obamacare or dealing with a President who fails to uphold the law. Nullification itself violates the rule of law.

 Below is a press release from Americans for Limited Government regarding Obamacare nullification:

Dec. 23, 2013, Fairfax, Va.—Americans for Limited Government Foundation released a paper today by Dr. Bradley Gitz, Arkansas' Bates College's William Jefferson Clinton Professor of Political Science, which found that Obamacare nullification actions pending in the South Carolina state legislature are unconstitutional and will do harm both to the people of the state of South Carolina and to those who oppose the President's signature health care legislation.

Dr. Gitz makes this last point writing, "… at present there is no better way to raise Obamacare from its deathbed than to do what the South Carolina Senate is contemplating doing (and the South Carolina House has already done). Rather than having let Obamacare die from its many self-inflicted wounds, they will have unintentionally aided and abetted its recovery and entrenchment in our national life. The struggle against Obamacare is both important and necessary, and South Carolina appears poised to only make it more difficult."

Americans for Limited Government Foundation president Nathan Mehrens affirmed Gitz's findings saying, "We wanted an independent scholar to review the nullification effort in South Carolina, and Dr. Gitz's findings should be a sobering wake up call to anyone seriously considering pursuing state nullification of the disastrous Obamacare law." 

The full report is available on the Americans for Limited Government website.

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Charter schools mess with "the system."

In case you missed it, last week Mayor Dean criticized the School Board for wasting time and energy fighting charter schools and he also said the School Board should not expect a blank check for future funding increases. While I occasionally disagreed with the mayor on some issues, especially the tax increase of year before last, I am with the mayor on this. The mayor and the Chamber of Commerce have been advocates of education reform and the School Board has been resisting and picking costly fights with the State. I am almost of the opinion that we should abolish the elected school board and go back to a school board appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the council.

In his remarks before the Chamber of Commerce last week, Mayor Dean pointed out that when a child ops out of a regular zoned school for any other school it is the same impact whether it is a charter or a magnet or other option. School Board member Will Pinkston took strong exception to the Mayor's statement in a letter saying when a child leaves for a charter school, money leaves "the System."

Technically, Pinkston is correct of course. When a child goes to a charter school, the funding for that child goes to the charter school.  However, the Mayor is right in saying the impact is the same whether it is a charter school or magnet school the child attends.  Pinkston has argued that when a child goes to a charter school, a seat that was occupied in a zoned schools is now vacant and overhead cost at that school does not decrease proportionately. Well, is that also not also true when a child leaves a zoned school for a magnet school?  It looks like the real concern of opponents of charter schools is control and "the system."

While an empty seat at a zoned school does not decrease overhead proportionately, more children are entering the system every year than are leaving through charters. The school system should be able to adjust to shifting attendance rates at different schools. And in any event, they should innovate and improve so that their product can compete with charter schools.

The school board has the institutionalized thinking of most bureaucracies. Publicly owned enterprises or government protected monopolies do not welcome competition. If I stop shopping at Krogers and shop at Publix, Krogers cannot make the claim that I should not be allowed to do that because their overhead does not proportionately decrease. You can bet that if retail grocery was a public function and Krogers was a government enterprise that would be the argument they would make.  The government still makes it illegal for Fed Ex or United Parcel to put a letter in a mail box, the mailbox paid for and installed by the homeowner.

Government agencies or government protected monopolies simply do not like for consumers to have choice.  They do not like competition. They do not welcome innovation.  Choice and innovation and competition messes with "the system." The market place is messy. All of that innovation and change and choice sending signals to producers of goods and services can create excess capacity and disrupt the way things have always been done. Government agencies or government protected monopolies are more concerned with protecting "the system" than improving the product.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

If Obama didn't ruin your Thanksgivng, he is planning to ruin your Christmas

I got this from the official Obamanista organization:

Friend --

As you get ready to celebrate with your loved ones, I wanted to pass along a few final tips to help in those conversations about health care you know are coming up.

Here's a little cheat sheet of facts:
1. Because of Obamacare, you can't be dropped from your plan just because you get sick.
2. You can't be denied coverage just because of your health.
3. You might qualify for financial assistance to help you pay for your plan. (Seriously. Use this calculator to check out how much folks might save.)
4. Your insurance policy can no longer limit the amount of care your provider covers over your lifetime.
5. You can't be charged more just because you're a woman. No more out-of-pocket expenses for mammograms and contraception.
Then go back to your previously scheduled holiday plans. If you want more facts to share with friends and family over dinner, head here:

Thanks -- and happy holidays,
Beth Kelly
Deputy Health Care Campaign Manager
Organizing for Action
I suspect that after Christmas, the Obamanistas will be reporting back to OFA on what was said at the Christmas dinner table, the way they did after Thanksgiving.  Does that mean if you are outspoken in disagreement, you may get a tax audit?

If my liberal relatives want to discuss Obamacare at Christmas I am going to try to salvage Christmas by not having the discussion. It will take a lot of self control to not take the bait however. If you anticipate being forced into a debate of Obamacare this Christmas, you may want to brush up on your talking points. Here is a good source of information.

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Tennessee Firearms Association Demands the Legislature address Gun Rights

It seems the Tennessee Firearms Association is not at all happy that our state legislature is getting distracted by things like education reform and tax reform and making government more efficient rather than focusing on gun rights. They are disappointing that gun rights are not going to be a priority in the upcoming legislative session. TFA's Executive Director John Harris said, "The lack of attention to firearms-related issues on the 2014 Republican-controlled legislative agenda did not go unnoticed."

The TFA is the pro-gun lobby in Tennessee. They want to go beyond the rights guaranteed in the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment, as everyone knows, is a restriction on government that guarantees our right to bare arms. The TFA wants to expand your "right" to bear arms beyond the rights guaranteed in the Second Amendment. They want to prohibit others from saying you cannot carry your gun onto their property. If TRA got their way on this, who knows what they would want next.

Because the TFA did not deem Republican Debra Maggart sufficiently pro-gun, they engineered her defeat in the 2012 GOP primary, spending an unprecedented $155,000 plus dollars in negative campaigning and disparaging her A+ rated,  pro-Second Amendment voting record.  They said she was for gun control, for shredding the Constitution, and compared her to President Barack Obama. 

In 2013 the State legislature passed the  'safe commute' bill which essentially would "allow" a person with a valid handgun carry permit to keep a gun in their car in a public or private parking lot. Despite the hysteria about the bill, it is worth noting that it really didn't do much. At the time, supporters stressed that the measure would not stop employers from banning weapons on their property but would simply remove their ability to call for criminal charges against violators.  Also, it was clear the bill did not apply to areas like airports, railroads or secure facilities governed by federal law.

It is true that the bill did not give the TFA all they wanted, but they got something. I do not think our state legislature was prepared to go further and trample private property rights in the name of expanding gun rights. If they would have done so, I doubt Governor Haslam would have signed the bill.

The TFA showed they can take out a powerful State legislator, but there is no making them happy. I don't think the TFA can take out Ron Ramsey or Beth Harwell or Governor Haslam. The legislative leadership should take the position that, we have dealt with "guns-in-trunks-in-parking-lots" and we are not going to revisit the issue. Haslam should take the position, I signed the "safe commute" bill and I will not go further than that bill and I will veto any gun bill that tramples property rights. 

We have spend enough time on guns. Our right to bear arms is well protected in Tennessee.  Move on to other things. 

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Congressman Phil Roe: 100 Reasons to Cut Spending

by Congressman Phil Roe, M.D. 1st District Tennessee,

Each year, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) releases a Wastebook. This document lists 100 projects that are questionable uses of taxpayer dollars. Now that the House and Senate have agreed on a plan to avoid future government shutdowns and reduce the deficit by $23 billion, it’s time we go a step further and look at each line item in the federal budget to identify waste, fraud and abuse. Senator Coburn’s report identifies nearly $30 billion in savings—a useful first step toward lowering our $17 trillion debt. While you might be able to debate the merits of certain projects listed in the senator’s report, there are projects listed that are undoubtedly a waste of tax dollars.  

Just a few of these projects include:
  • A home loan program backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that helped more than 100 individuals purchase a residence in Hawaii.
  •  A $100 million endeavor at the National Endowment of the Humanities intended to “explore the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, song and internet fan fiction”.
  • A tax deduction for brothels in Nevada totaling roughly $17.5 million.
  • At least $379 million spent to promote Obamacare and fix HealthCare.gov.
  • Salary and benefits for the Fort Hood shooter.
  • $3.5 million on solar panels at Manchester-Boston airport that were eventually covered because the glare was dangerous to pilots and controllers.
  • $630,000 to increase Facebook likes for the State Department
There is no question that tax dollars should be not used to research romance novels, provide tax relief to brothels or increase likes on social media sites. And before the government invests in things like solar panels, which can help lower costs in some cases, we should be researching all possible outcomes to ensure that 3.5 million tax dollars aren’t wasted on an investment that will not work because of safety concerns.

Still, many liberals argue that the only way to cut our debt is to raise taxes on the “wealthy” to make sure everyone is paying their “fair share”. A new report released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, however, found that the top 40 percent of earners pay 106 percent of individual income taxes. How is that possible?  It’s because there are so many so-called “refundable” tax benefits that are guaranteed in full to the beneficiary, regardless of whether they have any income tax liability.

The truth is: we don’t have a revenue problem in this country, we have a spending problem, and the only way to get our country’s fiscal house back in order is to stop spending money we don’t have. Senator Coburn’s report identifies billions of dollars in savings potential, and now that we’ve returned to regular order in the budgeting process, I look forward to taking a hard look at the budget and fighting to eliminate frivolous government spending.  

Feel free to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you or your family. Our contact information can be found on our website, www.roe.house.gov.

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Friday, December 20, 2013

TNGOP Chairman Chris Devaney Releases Statement Ahead of President Obama’s Press Conference

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—As President Barack Obama prepares to take a two-week Christmas vacation, the White House today scheduled a final press availability for the President before he departs.

The President leaves Washington with a number of matters unsettled. Just yesterday, the White House announced it will circumvent its own health care law once again by granting “hardship exemptions” from ObamaCare’s individual mandate. Earlier in the week, the administration was given a 300-page set of recommendations to overhaul the NSA’s spying program, and the dodgy application of American foreign policy under Obama has lessened our credibility across the globe.

Ahead of the news conference, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney commented:

With his record of failure in 2013, I understand why President Obama wants to get out of town as quickly as possible. Over five million Americans received an insurance cancellation notice for Christmas this year thanks to ObamaCare and now the President is trying to win back support by strong-arming insurance companies and circumventing the law itself. He continues to preside over a sluggish recovery and his inconsistent foreign policy stances have caused our allies to question our leadership.

Thankfully, in 2014 Americans have a chance to give President Obama the lame duck presidency he deserves by electing Republicans to the US Senate, enlarging our House majority, and electing dedicated conservative Republicans all across Tennessee who will push an agenda of economic growth and individual opportunity--in stark contrast to Obama's big government track record. 

In light of the press conference, it’s worth reviewing President Obama’s whoppers:

Revisiting Obama’s 2013 Whoppers
“President Obama Ended Up With Three Of The Most Misleading Claims Of The Year.” (Glenn Kessler, “The Biggest Pinocchios Of 2013,” The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker, 12/16/13)

Obama’s Broken “Keep Your Plan” Promise 
Obama’s Promise That Americans Could Keep Their Plan “Backfired On Him” Once “Millions Of Americans Started Receiving Cancellation Notices.” “This memorable promise by President Obama backfired on him when the Affordable Care Act went into effect and millions of Americans started receiving cancellation notices. As we explained, part of the reason for so many cancellations is because of an unusually early (March 23, 2o10) cut-off date for grandfathering plans—and also because of tight regulations written by the administration.” (Glenn Kessler, “The Biggest Pinocchios Of 2013,” The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker, 12/16/13)

See a helpful list of all the 2013 whoppers by clicking here.

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A Merry Christmas Cartoon Book

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Senate passes budget deal: Alexander and Corker vote "no."

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on his vote against the Ryan-Murray budget agreement:

I voted against the budget agreement because it avoids the federal government’s most urgent need: reducing the growth of runaway entitlement spending. Instead, it spends savings that should be used to strengthen Medicare, pensions, and the air transportation system. It is particularly troubling that the budget agreement takes money from pensions in a way that treats military retirees worse than the civilian federal employees.
It would have been better to pay for this agreement with a small part of the $1 trillion in entitlement savings that Sen. Corker and I have identified in our ‘Fiscal Sustainability Act,’ or with entitlement savings suggested in the president’s budget.

Although I can’t support it, I appreciate the efforts of Rep. Ryan and Sen. Murray to bring certainty to the budget process, which is why I voted Tuesday to allow a Senate vote on their agreement, which had passed the House with two-to-one Republican support. In addition to its failure to address growth of mandatory entitlement spending – such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – Alexander cited four major objections to the budget agreement. Alexander objected to the agreement because it:
  • Cuts $22 billion in 2022 and 2023 in Medicare reimbursements to doctors and other health care providers, for savings that may never materialize.
  • Increases pension premiums paid by employers to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. by $7.9 billion, to pay for unrelated spending.
  • Cuts the annual cost-of-living benefits for military retirees under the age of 62 by 1 percent, to pay for unrelated spending. This would impact current retirees, as opposed to new hires as in the case of changes to civilian federal employee pensions.
  • Increases by $12.6 billion airport security fees – which generally get passed on to airline passengers – to pay for unrelated spending. Such fees should be used to improve airport security.
In February, Senators Alexander and Corker introduced the “Fiscal Sustainability Act,” S. 11, to reduce the growth of entitlement spending (Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) by nearly $1 trillion in the next decade in order to improve the programs’ solvency. The bill incorporates many of the recommendations made by President Obama’s Debt Commission (Simpson-Bowles) as well as by former Republican Senator Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin, budget director for former President Clinton.

Also voting against the budget deal was Senator Bob Corker. Corker issued this statement:

Because of the Budget Control Act, for three years in a row, Congress has spent less on discretionary programs than the year before.  While I appreciate the dilemma Paul Ryan was in, it's disappointing the misguided strategy of the House this fall weakened our hand on fiscal issues and that House appropriators indicated they were unwilling to live within the budget discipline laid out in the sequester.   So with the afterglow of the ‘bipartisan’ deal fading, I think everyone can see this budget deal busts the budget caps by $45,000,000,000 in the first year alone without making meaningful changes to mandatory programs, violating the only real progress we have made in getting our fiscal house in order and demonstrating that Congress continues to lack the discipline to control spending even in this small way.  Spending now and paying later is the cause of our deficit problems, not the solution.

Senator Corker also voted against cloture, which was the vote to end debate on the budget deal. Majority Leader Harry Reid filled the amendment tree on the bill on Sunday, allowing no amendments and no debate.  Since there was no debate and there were no amendments, Corker did not feel it was appropriate to support cloture. Senator Alexander, on the other hand, did support the cloture motion.

The Senate vote on the budget deal was 64-36.  Among Republicans, 36 voted "no" and only 9 voted in favor.

In the House, the vote was 332 to 94 with Republicans voting in favor 169 to  62. Tennessee's delegation supported it 7-2 . The "no" votes were DesJarlais and John Ducan. Marsha Blackburn, Diane Black and the rest of the Tennessee Republicans voted for the deal.

This is very interesting. Many tea party Republicans praise Marsha Blackburn and view Alexander and Corker as "RINO."  In this instance, the more conservative vote, the position advocated by Heritage Action and other conservative activist groups, was a vote against the budget deal.

I do not think one can say with certainty which was the correct way to vote. My heart is with those who voted "no," but my head is with those who voted "yes."  I understand those who cast a principled "no" for the reasons expressed by Corker and Alexander above.  On the other hand, the logic of voting "yes" was strategic. If we had not approved a budget compromise, the reasoning goes, we would have faced another government shutdown. Republicans would have gotten the blame and Republicans would have suffered in the 2014 election. It is better to keep the 2014 election focused on the failures of the Obama administration, Obamacare and issues that divide the parties, rather than defend and explain a government shut down. To eventually prevail on cutting the size of government and reducing the debt, Republicans must retake the Congress.  A "yes" vote was thought of as strategically, the wise thing to do, in order to win in the long run.

I just wish their had been a more unity among Republicans and more of them would have voted the same way. Either vote, I think was defensible, I just wish they would have gotten on the same page. One good think to come out of this vote however, is that the ultra conservative pressure groups cannot criticize Alexander and and Corker for this vote. When some who they do not like voted the way they wanted them to, and when some who they really like voted the way they did not want them to, I think that weakens the power of the ultra conservative pressure groups and I am beginning to think that is a good thing.

To view the roll call of the Senate vote, follow this link.  To view the complete roll call of the House follow this link: Final Vote Results for Roll Call .

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