Live from Music Row, Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed United States Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to the newsmaker line to talk about her success at achieving bipartisanship legislation.
Leahy: We welcome to our newsmaker line right now, the senior senator from Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn. Good morning, Senator Blackburn.
Blackburn: Good morning!
Leahy: Senator Blackburn, I was just thinking about the first time you and I met, that would be 25 years ago when I took my five-year-old daughter to watch me vote and you were running for re-election.
I think you’re running for the state senate, and then it was at the Thompson’s Station Firehouse. You were the only person there. You had a table, and you would sit down, and we talked. You talked to my little daughter there for about 10 minutes. She’s now graduated from college, living in Nashville, and is married. That’s how long we’ve known each other.
Blackburn: (Chuckles) That is a long time. And I think it is so important for individuals that are in elective office to realize that this is public service. And as you know, I’ve said for years your business card should say public servant in the office of and whatever the office is and to listen to people.
I thoroughly enjoy being able to visit with Tennesseans. We do this every single week. We hear what they’re concerned about and work with them on those issues. And every day try to work with my colleagues to make the lives of Tennesseeans and indeed, all Americans better.
Leahy: That’s one of the things that’s interesting about how you’ve decided to be a United States senator first elected in I guess what, 2018? And what you’ve done is you’ve found some Democrats that you can actually work together with on a couple of issues. I guess one of the things that that I see is you’ve worked with Blumenthal on a couple of recent issues, and you’re also working to expand healthcare for veterans.
Blackburn: That’s exactly right. And with Blumenthal, we have done a couple of pieces of legislation, one that many of our neighbors and friends there in the Nashville area are pushing for us to get across the finish line is the Open App Market Act. And the Open App Market Act would remove Google and Apple as the gatekeeper on these apps.
As you know, Google and Apple don’t allow you to do this, Apple allows you to do no side loading, and then Google will allow you to do limited side loading on an Android. But we’ve got a lot of app developers there that are tired of paying 30 percent of what they make to Google and Apple that want to be able to work directly with their customer base in a business-to-customer relationship.
The other is the Kids Online Safety Act; this is what you hear so many people talking about. We have 100s of organizations backing it. And believe it or not, we refiled it a couple of weeks ago with 33 of the 100 senators in favor, their original co-sponsors, and that is unheard of in this day and age, and we’ve worked on this.
We got it out of committee last year on a unanimous vote and this year we are poised to finish it up. And as I said, already, 33 that put me on as an original co-sponsor. But this would put the bonus on social media platforms to remove this content that is pushing kids into depression, into anxiety, and that is promoting self-harm, suicide, bulimia, eating disorders, and putting kids in touch with pedophiles and drug dealers.
It would give parents a toolbox. And in that toolbox would be a portal where they can report these videos that encourage self-harm or allow cyberbullying, and they can get these postings and videos and things off social media platforms.
Leahy: Senator Blackburn let me ask, what is the secret to being able to work with somebody like Senator Blumenthal from Connecticut, who is pretty much a lefty, liberal type guy? How do you get these guys to work on something together? Is it being Tennessee nice? How do you do that?
Blackburn: I think a lot of it comes with talking about the issues and educating on the issues. We started on these social media things and indeed my online privacy bill when I was back in the House. And then in 2019 coming to the Senate I chaired the technology focus group task force, there’s the Senate Judiciary Committee, and pointed out the things that are wrong with this process.
And as a lot of my colleagues across the aisle didn’t want to tackle big tech and confront them. They have an army of lobbyists and lawyers that come at us every single day because of these legislative initiatives.
But if you stay at it long enough and you’ve got your facts and you can educate, I think that’s a way to do it. We’ve got a couple of other initiatives, as you said, I’ve been building support for community-based veterans’ healthcare and pushing that as a bipartisan issue.
And Senator Manchin and some of the others are joining me and opening up that community care outlet so that our veterans can show their cards, go to a healthcare facility in their neighborhoods, and receive the care they need without having to travel to Nashville or Memphis or Murfreesboro, Kingsport or Knoxville to get here from the VA. And the VA’s so frustrating because only 40 percent of their people are still working remotely. They don’t even show up at the office and we are quite concerned.
Leahy: Let me ask you this, Senator Blackburn. If you’re able to get Senator Blumenthal the Democrat from Connecticut to work with you on this Open App, bill, can you sit down with him and say, now Senator Blumenthal, we have been raising the debt limit for years and years and it has led to this crazy inflation.
Why don’t you, Senator Blumenthal agree with the House and say, yes. We’ll raise the debt limit but you’ve got to cut the rate of spending growth a little bit. Can you have a conversation with him like that and how does that go?
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
– – –
Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Marsha Blackburn” by Marsha Blackburn. Background Photo “U.S. Capitol” by Grant Page.