Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., speaks Saturday, June 6, 2015, at the National Pachyderm Convention at the Chattanooga Marriott.

Gowdy's Chattanooga speech draws Democrats' fire

The ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Benghazi last week chided Republican Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy. R-S.C., and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., for politicizing the probe of the attack on Libya during a GOP gathering in Chattanooga.

U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Maryland, said the Republican congressmen used their speeches to the National Federation of Pachyderm Clubs in Chattanooga "as a political rallying cry — and fundraising tool." Cummings denounced their comments as "offensive, reprehensible, and contrary to the promises we made to the loved ones of those who were killed during the 2012 attacks."

Gowdy denied to the Times Free Press that he has used the Benghazi investigation in a partisan attack on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for president in 2016. But Gowdy criticized Clinton for not ensuring diplomats were better protected in Libya and for maintaining her own email account for State Department business and then destroying some emails she said were only personal.

Fleischmann told the Pachyderm crowd that said Gowdy "is out there and he is going to get you if you are a lefty."

In turn, Gowdy praised Fleischmann, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, for helping the Benghazi probe by threatening to withhold State Department funding if the agency didn't comply with the committee's subpoenas.

Cummings accused the Republicans of trying to make money from the Benghazi tragedy in 2012. The registration fee for the Pachyderm event was $150 to $200.

Haslam says subsidy fix up to Congress

If the U.S. Supreme Court bans federal health insurance subsidies in Tennessee and other states, Gov. Bill Haslam said last week that Congress will need to step in to fix the problem.

Haslam told the Times Free Press his office is talking about its response to a Supreme Court decision expected this week or next on whether the Affordable Care Act allows federal subsidies for the 30 states, including Tennessee and Georgia, that did not create their own health exchange marketplaces.

"At the end of the day, Congress is going to have to do something," Haslam said. "We're looking at what we could do. But for us to try to create our own health exchange from scratch is a big, expensive endeavor."

Haslam said creating a state health exchange program "is probably a $50 million, several-months-long process."

About 155,000 Tennessee residents are getting some level of income-based subsidies to purchase insurance this year through the federal health exchange marketplace. Plaintiffs claim the ACA was written to only allow such subsidies in states that create their own health exchanges.

Docs need better electronic records systems, Alexander says

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said last week the federal government needs to improve the electronic health records system designed to make medical care more efficient.

Alexander, chairman of the Senate's health committee, said more than 250,000 physicians have not been able to comply with the second phase of the electronic records system used for Medicare and Medicaid.

"Our goal is to identify the five or six steps we can take to improve electronic health records — a technology that has great promise, but has, through bad policy and incentives, run off track," Alexander said.

The $30 billion program was launched in 2009 to encourage adoption of electronic health records at doctor's offices and hospitals.

Alexander said reforms would make the program "a tool that hospitals and physicians can look forward to using to help their patients instead of something they dread."

Activists pressure senators over predatory lending

Tennessee Citizen Action called out U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander last week for not signing a letter seeking stricter regulations for payday lenders.

The nonprofit, left-leaning public interest group said in a news release that 33 senators have signed a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau "encouraging them to adopt strong rules to rein-in the predatory practices of payday lenders."

But, the group said, the two Tennessee Republicans are not among them. It urged state residents to contact Alexander and Corker and urge them to sign the letter.

"Ask them to support the CFPB in its efforts to rein-in payday lending with strong rules that will prevent abuse and stop the consumer debt trap," the group's release stated.



* Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey will be speak to the Hamilton County Pachyderms at noon at GOP headquarters, 1428 Chestnut St., Suite E. Parking is in the Finley Stadium lot.

* The League of Women Voters monthly meeting will be held at 5:30 pm at the Business Development Center, 100 Manufacturers Road. Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Commission for Open Government, will present a mini-workshop on open government and the state's sunshine laws. The public is invited.

* The Bradley County Young Democrats and the Bradley County Democratic Women will host a fireside chat with former state representative Gloria Johnson from 6-7 p.m. at the Cleveland/Bradley County Public Library.

Johnson, a longtime educator in Knox County, will speak on education reform at the local and state level. The public is invited.


The Tea Party of Southeast Tennessee will host a town hall meeting featuring Charlie Rose, from the Bradley County Board of Education, and Dan Rawls, from the County Commission.

The meeting is at 6:30 p.m. in the Bradley County Courthouse, 155 Broad St. in Cleveland, Tenn. The public is invited.