From Senator Alexander’s desk

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

This year was a productive one in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the committee I chair: 13 substantial bills in the committee’s jurisdiction were signed into law; our committee approved 32 of President Trump’s nominees; and we held 32 hearings to tackle issues important to Tennessee families.

In 2017, the committee took the lead on laws to help improve the lives of virtually every Tennessean –including legislation to ensure that safe drugs and medical devices can get into patients’ medicine cabinets more quickly, as well as legislation to preserve local control of our 100,000 public schools.

At the same time, the committee approved 32 of President Trump’s nominees so they can get to work helping deliver results for Americans.

The committee also held 32 hearings to address issues that matter to Tennessee families, including examining the opioid crisis ravaging our communities, simplifying applying for financial aid for college, and hearing from governors, state insurance commissioners, and health policy experts on how to stabilize the market where 350,000 Tennesseans purchase their health insurance.

Some highlights from the year include:

  • On April 19, the Trump Administration announced it would release the first round of state grants to fight the opioid crisis provided under legislation I sponsored, the 21st Century Cures Act, to all 50 states, including $14 million to Tennessee.
  • The committee, followed by the full Senate, approved the nominations of Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel to the National Labor Relations Board. This board recently reversed the Obama Administration-era “joint-employer” standard. The Obama Administration’s action was the biggest attack on the opportunity for small businessmen and women to make their way into the middle class that anyone has seen in a long time – threatening to destroy the American Dream for owners of the nation’s 780,000 franchise locations.
  • The Senate passed a resolution of disapproval I sponsored to overturn the Obama Administration’s final regulation implementing accountability provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This action preserved local control of Tennessee schools and affirmed that Congress, not the Education Department, writes the laws.
  • The May and September government funding bills included year-round Pell grants to help nearly 1 million students — including roughly 20,000 students in Tennessee – take the opportunity to graduate sooner and with less debt.
  • The committee worked for two years to reauthorize and update the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) user fee agreements that pay for a quarter of the FDA’s work to bring safe and effective cures and treatments to Tennessee patients.

I am looking forward to continuing our work next year by reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, ensuring states and local communities have the tools they need to combat the opioid crisis, and updating legislation to help our country respond to public health emergencies.

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