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HomePoliticsLatest from Senator Lamar Alexander, July 6th, 2020

Latest from Senator Lamar Alexander, July 6th, 2020

U.S. SenateWashington, D.C. – Though we may have celebrated Independence Day a little differently this year, we honor the brave men and women who have fought and sacrificed for the freedoms that define our way of life and those who are currently serving to keep us safe and free.  

Last week, I chaired a Senate health committee hearing with Dr. Anthony Fauci and other Donald Trump Administration officials to get an update on our progress towards safely getting back to work and back to school. You can watch here.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

The U.S. Department of Education approved Tennessee’s plan on how to spend the over $25 million a year Tennessee receives for high school and college students to learn more skilled trades so they can get even better jobs.

Beth Harwell and Brian Noland – President Donald Trump’s nominees to serve on Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Board of Directors –came one step closer this week to being confirmed. These are two of our state’s most distinguished citizens and they understand TVA’s mission is to continue to provide cheap, clean, reliable electricity throughout the Tennessee Valley.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced that the Nashville International Airport is receiving a $10.6 million grant to help pay for the airport’s runway reconstruction project. This grant will help the Nashville International Airport continue to be one of the fastest growing airports in the country.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Tyreece Miller to serve as the United States Marshal for the Western District of Tennessee. Deputy Chief Miller has served in the Jackson Police Department for more than 20 years, overseeing law enforcement operations and conducting criminal investigations involving both violent crimes and drug cases.  He knows how to get results and how to get local, state and federal agencies to work together.  West Tennesseans will be well-served by Deputy Chief Miller, and I am glad the Senate confirmed his nomination. 

The stakes are too high for the political debate around wearing a mask to continue

The United States is in the middle of a very concerning rise in COVID-19 Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in many states, and the experts have told us that washing our hands, staying six feet apart, and wearing a mask are three of the most important ways to slow the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, this simple lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do.

That is why last week, in the Senate health committee hearing I chaired, I suggested the president should occasionally wear a mask even though there are not many occasions when it is necessary for him to do so. The president has millions of admirers. They would follow his lead.

I also spoke at the hearing about the need for students to return to school in the fall. Among the casualties of COVID-19 Coronavirus are the 75 million students who were sent home from schools and colleges in March. Add to the casualties the teachers who weren’t prepared to teach remotely and the working parents who suddenly had school children at home and who weren’t prepared to home school.

The question before the country today is not about whether to go back to school or college or child care or work, but how to do it safely. Even though COVID-19 has not, in general, hurt young children and college-age students nearly as much as older or more vulnerable Americans, there is some health risk.  But in my view the greater risk is not going back to school.   

Donald Trump Administration aims to have enough COVID-19 tests to let sports resume in the fall

University of Tennessee Athletics Director, Phillip Fulmer, has told Tennesseans that if “you really, really want to see some football, wear a mask.” I agree. But, in addition to wearing masks to contain the disease, it looks to me like we’re going to need a lot more tests to find out who has the disease if we want to see some football this fall, or basketball this winter.

I participated this week in a Senate hearing on COVID-19 Coronavirus to discuss a competitive effort nicknamed the “shark tank,” which I worked to include funding for earlier this year to accelerate development of new COVID-19 Coronavirus tests. Dr. Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health, who is leading this initiative, was a witness at the hearing. The Trump Administration says that 40-50 million tests per month will be available by September. That should be enough to do widespread testing as Americans go back to school and go back to work. Whether there will be enough tests for teams to play sports or for spectators to watch those sports may depend upon breakthrough concepts being developed at this “shark tank” to increase and develop new COVID-19 tests.

In short, the more tests, the more sports.

Every road back to school, back to work, and back to a football or basketball game leads through testing, and what Dr. Collins told me that is that the administration’s goal is to have millions of tests testing available by the fall.

Speaking to Memphis Rotary Club about race relations in our country

I enjoyed speaking to the Memphis Rotary Club this week and discussing several important issues, including the Great American Outdoors Act the Senate passed last week and the United States’ response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. We also talked about race relations, and the movements we are seeing take place across the country for racial justice. 

I think we should recognize our history, learn from it and build a better future. Benjamin Hooks, the late president of the NAACP from Memphis, said, “America is a work in progress. We’ve come a long way, and we have a long way to go.” That long way to go, I would say, will not be as easy as just passing laws. It will take changing behavior.


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