Scott DesJarlais

Here’s who has been vaccinated among the TN congressional delegation

Bill Hagerty attends the Tennessee Republican Party’s Statesmen’s Dinner in Nashville on June 15, 2019. At right is U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Both of Tennessee’s U.S. senators have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the state’s nine House members are more divided.

According to reporting by States Newsroom and the Chattanooga Times Free Press, four House members from Tennessee have gotten the shot: Democrats Steve Cohen of Memphis and Jim Cooper of Nashville, and Republicans Scott DesJarlais of Winchester and David Kustoff of Memphis.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga) is holding off for the moment.

“Because I was diagnosed with COVID-19 in January, I am waiting to be vaccinated until those who are at a greater risk for the virus are able to be vaccinated first,” he told the Times Free Press. “I continue to strongly urge all Americans to get vaccinated.”

The four remaining Tennessee members, all Republicans, did not respond to the survey or newspaper: Tim Burchett of Knoxville, Mark Green of Ashland City, Diana Harshbarger of Kingsport, and John Rose of Cookeville.

U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and Bill Hagerty (R-Nashville) responded they had already been innoculated.

Letting the mask slip: Lee defends lack of face covering for Trump boat rally

(Image credit: Bill Hagerty campaign)

While Gov. Bill Lee has declined to issue a statewide mask mandate, he has been a prominent proponent of using face coverings to help stem the spread of COVID-19. But the governor was put on the defensive by a photo posted to social media by Bill Hagerty showing the Republican U.S. Senate nominee living it up at a Trump boat rally with Lee, U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais and state Sen. Janice Bowling.

“There are circumstances where I don’t wear a mask because I don’t feel I’m at risk in that situation,” Lee said. “But, yeah, I felt safe. And when I don’t, I wear a mask.”

The Lee administration is spending more than $4 million through the end of the year on its “Face It” multimedia ad campaign to urge mask usage.

“I think Tennesseans need to know, and they hear me every day and they see me in masks every day,” the governor said at a press conference this week. “They watch what we say and what we do. I think it’s really important that I think it’s very serious.”

About 3,000 people attended the 400-boat rally, according to the The Herald Chronicle.

Democratic congressional candidate denies defrauding Catholic group

A candidate for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg) is denying allegations he defrauded a progressive Catholic organization for which he once served as executive director.

Christopher Hale, who once ran the Washington-based Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, told the Catholic News Agency “the idea that I drove the organization into bankruptcy or defrauded it is just fundamentally not true. I kept the organization going.”

The comments were in response to allegations made by James Salt, a former board member, who said Hale “did a great disservice to everyone who has worked with him.”

Salt says Hale misled the board about financial records and once falsely told colleagues he was having surgery as a reason for missing work. Hale was fired in 2017 and the group was dissolved, Salt said, but not before allegedly making off with the organization’s mailing and donor lists he later used to start a new initiative called The Francis Project.

Hale told CNA he was not fired, but rather left on good terms to pursue “different adventures in life.”

Hale faces Noelle Bivens in Thursday’s Democratic primary.

See the full account here.

DesJarlais spurns debate with GOP challenger who voted for Clinton (as Rush Limbaugh suggested)

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais has turned down a debate challenge from Republican challenger Jack Maddux in the 4th Congressional District on grounds he has voted for Hillary Clinton and is thus not a credible candidate, reports the Cleveland Daily Banner.  Maddux acknowledges he did so, but says that was at the request of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

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Black, Blackburn and DesJarlais join GOP congressmen nominating Trump for Nobel Peace Prize

Eighteen Republican U.S. House members –  including three from Tennessee – have signed a letter formally nominating  President Donald Trump for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to get North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons program, according to ABC News.

Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in his home state,  drafted the letter. Five other signers are also running for higher office, including Tennessee Reps. Marsha Blackburn, also running for the Senate, and Diane Black, a candidate for governor. The third Tennessee signee was Rep. Scott DesJarlais.

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U.S. House approves step toward making Polk home part of National Park system

Press release from U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Today, the House of Representatives passed Congressman Scott DesJarlais’ bill to study the feasibility of placing the President James K. Polk Home and Museum in Columbia, Tennessee, under protection of the National Park Service. An Interior Department study would be a major step towards helping the charity that maintains the property to preserve and expand it.

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Democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais gets Wall Street Journal attention

In an article with a Chapel Hill, Tenn., dateline, the Wall Street Journal cites Mariah Phillips as an example of Democrats “fielding challengers for nearly every Republican U.S. House incumbent this year—a change from the last midterm election in 2014, when 36 Republicans won re-election without facing a general election opponent.” She’s running in the 4th Congressional District, now held by Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais.

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Special election provides fodder for statewide races

The outcome of Tuesday’s special state Senate election in the 14th District won’t make much difference in the how the upper chamber of the General Assembly is operated. The GOP supermajority will be firmly in place regardless. But both parties are hoping that the race will hurt opposing candidates in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races.

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Blackburn, DesJarlais rally for Reeves; another Republican urges ‘protest vote’ for Democrat

U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Scott DesJarlais urged support for Republican state Senate candidate Shane Reeves on Saturday while the Murfreesboro Post reports a former GOP congressional and state Senate candidate is urging voters to cast a “protest vote” for Democrat Gayle Jordan instead.

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DesJarlais: If earmarks are restored, ‘I can be more of a spokesman for the people’

Even some conservatives – including Tennessee’s U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais — seem open to return to earmarks since President Trump floated the idea, reports The Hill.

But don’t call them earmarks: lawmakers say they’re in favor of “congressionally directed spending.”

In a sign of the changing attitudes on Capitol Hill, conservatives are divided on whether to reverse the earmark ban in place since Republicans took over the House majority after the 2010 midterm elections.

Conservative leaders like House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) reject the idea, warning that allowing lawmakers to carve out spending for projects specifically designed to benefit their districts would undercut Trump’s “drain the swamp” message.

…But even some Freedom Caucus members sound open to a return to earmarks ahead of House Rules Committee hearings next week on whether to revive the practice.

“I don’t know that I’m opposed to it,” Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), a Freedom Caucus member, told The Hill. “We’re spending more money than ever and it’s still going out, but it doesn’t seem to come to my district.”

If earmarks were restored, “I can be more of a spokesman for the people in Tennessee who need it,” DesJarlais continued. “There is an overpass in Rutherford County that we need to get funding for. We’ve got things up in Nashville, the Percy Priest Reservoir … so yeah, I would like to have a better voice.

“I don’t know if earmarks is the answer. I’ve never had them, so I don’t know if it’s good or not.”

Other conservatives also expressed openness to allowing earmarks or something similar, saying that ensuring money for specific projects would give the legislative branch more power.

… Trump said at a White House meeting with roughly two dozen lawmakers on Tuesday that Congress should consider allowing earmarks again.

He suggested that doing so would allow Congress to function better, lamenting that the “levels of hatred” among Republicans and Democrats are “out of control.”

“Maybe we should think about it,” Trump said. “Maybe all of you should think about going back to a form of earmarks. You should do it.”

“We have to put better controls because it got a little out of hand, but that brings people together,” Trump added.