Senate HELP Committee works on health, online taxes, nominations

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

We had a busy week in Washington last week (April 23-29), especially in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that I chair.

The committee passed four bipartisan public health bills. We also voted to recommend Dr. Scott Gottlieb favorably to be the new commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of our food supply, prescription medicines and medical devices — the full Senate will vote to confirm him soon. The Senate also voted to confirm Alexander Acosta to serve as Labor Secretary — my committee held Acosta’s confirmation hearing on March 22 — and Acosta was sworn in by Vice President Pence on Friday, April 28.

Tennessee Wilderness Act

On April 27, I introduced legislation with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) to designate land in the Cherokee National Forest as wilderness area. Tennessee is full of history, and this legislation would help protect our state’s heritage while giving the millions of people who visit the state every year an additional reason to come and enjoy the great outdoors.

New Secretary of Labor

On Thursday, April 27, the Senate approved Alexander Acosta to serve as the Secretary of Labor. Mr. Acosta understands the importance of a good-paying job and that harmful regulations from Washington have only made it harder to create, find, or keep good jobs. With last week’s vote, Mr. Acosta can begin working to help create the right environment for more workers to realize the American dream, and as chair of the Senate’s labor committee, I look forward to partnering with him on that important task.

The Marketplace Fairness Act

No state should have to play “Mother, may I?” with the federal government when deciding whether to collect, or not collect, a state tax that is already owed. Congress should provide Tennessee — and every other state that wants to collect state sales taxes that are already owed — with a legislative solution that will make collection efficient and simple for small business. Recently, I introduced the Marketplace Fairness Act with a bipartisan group of senators to give states the right to collect the sales and use taxes they are owed under current law from out-of-state businesses or online retailers, and I’m hopeful we will pass this legislation this Congress.

On Tuesday, April 25, I was able to meet with the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and talk about issues related to their work in Tennessee.

Kids to Parks Day

Recently, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that I chair passed four bipartisan public health bills and voted to recommend Dr. Scott Gottlieb favorable for the head of the FDA.

When you grow up next to a national park like I did, you really grow up in the park — spending your weekends and special times there, and the park looms large in many of your childhood memories. The Senate has passed a resolution I cosponsored that designates May 20, 2017, as Kids to Parks Day. It is my hope children across the country will take some time to explore our country’s national parks and create their own memories. More information on Kids to Parks Day available here.

Bipartisan public health bills

On Wednesday, April 26, the Senate health committee passed four bipartisan public health bills. These bills will help states screen and link to follow-up care for infants with hearing loss, identify ways to improve federal programs to prevent diabetes and other diseases, ensure first responders can administer life-saving treatments, and improve public health preparedness to combat the Zika virus. Our committee has a tradition of working together to get results for American families, and I am glad we are continuing that.

Nominee for FDA commissioner

On April 27, the Senate health committee, which I chair, voted to send Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the president’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to the Senate floor. Dr. Gottlieb is the right person to lead the Food and Drug Administration in its vital mission and move the agency forward so that patients benefit from the remarkable discoveries our nation’s researchers are working on. The FDA is always important, but there has never been a more important time for the agency to take advantage of the new tools provided through 21st Century Cures, which I sponsored last year, and turn that potential into results for patients.

LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-Tenn.) is the senior U.S. senator, former Tennessee governor and former U.S. Secretary of Education for 1991-1993. He chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) and also serves on the Committee on Appropriations, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Committee on Rules and Administration. Alexander may be reached at his Washington, D.C., office at (202) 224-4944 or via his website contact page at