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Sen. Corker gives Chamber members view from the Hill

Sen. Bob Corker came back to Blount County last week after having to cancel a previously planned trip to meet with President George W. Bush. At this week’s visit, Corker gave Chamber members and community leaders a view from Washington after his 18 months in office as Tennessee’s senator.

Corker talked about the committees he is on in his first experience as a U.S. senator and how the committees work, described the way his day goes in Washington as far as preparation for debate and preparing for votes and outlined his positions on some key issues the government is now dealing with.

The economic stimulus package that will distribute $160 billion to U.S. citizens in the form of rebate checks did not receive a “Yea” vote or any enthusiasm from the senator, who called it more of a “political stimulus package” than an economic one.

“I was so outraged over the stimulus package,” he told members of the Blount County Chamber Partnership during the Monday afternoon meeting in the Chamber board room. “It was like they threw $160 billion in a mud puddle. I felt it was primarily meant to engender good will toward politicians and not help the economy.”

The senator said that while he was happy any time Tennesseans got a rebate check, this package “will have a negligible effect on the economy.”

Corker said the government didn’t dip into its own reserves to pay the rebates. “Not one penny is paid for by us in Washington,” he said. “It compounds to $322 billion for the next generation and $700 billion for the next,” he said of the $160 billion.

Corker talked about his first time in Maryville as a young businessman in 1982 building a shopping center on West Broadway Avenue that he still owns. “I knew this was a place focused on economic development,” he said. “You all are doing all the right things.”

Corker described the devastation caused by tornadoes in Macon County, Tenn., and of touring the damage with President Bush. He said even the television cameras couldn’t capture the horror and devastation. “It seems like when we have these storms it happens to those who have the least amount of resources,” he said. “We were able to make it a federal disaster area.”

The audience in the packed basement conference room enjoyed a lighter moment when Corker recounted flying down from Washington D.C. to Tennessee with the President on board Air Force One. When Corker got on Air Force One, the president was reading the front page article in the New York Times in which Corker criticized the package. “We didn’t talk about the stimulus package,” he said as the audience laughed.

Serving in Washington D.C. now is important because of so many events that are occurring, Corker said. “I just felt this is a moment of time to make a difference.”

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