Democrats host picnic at Gibbs Ferry Park on Saturday

Anderson County Democrats

Anderson County Democrats are pictured at a picnic in June 2012. (Submitted photo)

The Anderson County Democratic Party and Democratic Women’s Club will host an annual picnic from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, June 21, at Gibbs Ferry Park.

All who are interested are invited to bring family an friends, join the festivities, and meet Democratic candidates seeking office in upcoming elections, a press release said. Hot dogs with condiments and cold drinks will be provided.

“Please bring a side dish, chips, or dessert to share,” the release said.

Gibbs Ferry Park is on Highway 61 between Oak Ridge and Clinton, along the river. The park has a covered pavilion with picnic tables, a boat ramp, and fishing pier.

House spending bill avoids government shutdown, provides fiscal certainty, Fleischmann says

U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann

Chuck Fleischmann

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill funding the federal government for 2014, avoiding government shutdowns for the rest of the fiscal year and providing some fiscal certainty for the weak economic recovery, Congressman Chuck Fleischmann’s office said in a statement Wednesday.

“For too long Congress has jumped from crisis to crisis, and that is neither good for the economy nor the American people,” said Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge. “The bill, which passed the House today with bipartisan support, provides zero new funding for Obamacare, protects all current pro-life policies, and provides real fiscal oversight. This bill was a compromise and is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction and holds the line on spending priorities.”

The vote for the $1.1 trillion spending bill, which will fund the government through October, was 359-67, with 64 Republicans and three Democrats opposed in the Republican-led House. The legislation now goes to the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, and it is expected to pass it easily this week. [Read more…]

Corker also says ‘no’ to budget deal

U.S. Senator Bob Corker

Bob Corker

Both U.S. senators from Tennessee have now said “no” to the two-year budget deal expected to be approved by Congress, an agreement that would avoid a second government shutdown in mid-January.

Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said he will vote against the budget deal because it “busts budget caps without making meaningful changes to mandatory programs.”

Earlier Wednesday, Sen. Lamar Alexander, who is also a Tennessee Republican, announced that he too would oppose the budget bill.

The legislation passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday in a 332-94 vote. U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge, supported it. [Read more…]

Alexander will oppose two-year budget bill being considered by Senate

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

Lamar Alexander

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said he will oppose a two-year budget agreement that cleared a key Senate hurdle on Tuesday and is expected to keep the government open through 2015.

The bill passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Thursday in a 332-94 vote. It’s now being considered in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, and could win congressional approval this week.

“I will vote against the budget agreement because it avoids the federal government’s most urgent need: reducing the growth of runaway entitlement spending,” said Alexander, a Tennessee Republican. “Instead, it spends savings that should be used to strengthen Medicare, pensions, and the air transportation system.”

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge, supported the legislation last week.

Passage of the bill is likely to offer relief to federal employees and government contractors in Oak Ridge—and to the businesses that support them. Many reported impacts during the last partial government shutdown in October. [Read more…]

House-passed budget could avoid second shutdown; Senate may vote this week

Y-12 National Security Complex Sign

A bipartisan budget bill being considered in Congress could avoid a second government shutdown and provide relief to federal employees and government contractors in Oak Ridge, including at the Y-12 National Security Complex, which was prepared to furlough up to 3,600 workers during the first shutdown in October.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a budget bill that could avoid a second government shutdown in mid-January, a development that will likely offer some relief to federal employees and government contractors in Oak Ridge—and to the businesses that support them.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican, said he supported the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 in the House on Thursday.

“Tonight, the House took a modest step toward reforming spending and setting our government on a more stable path,” said Fleischmann, a second-term congressman whose district includes Oak Ridge.

But the bill still has to pass the deeply divided Senate, which is preparing to take up the budget bill this week. The Washington Post reported that Democrats are still trying to come up with the 60 votes necessary to break a GOP-led filibuster in the Senate. [Read more…]

Budget cuts cause concern in research community, including at ORNL

Thom Mason

Thom Mason

The budget deal that Congress approved earlier this month to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling kept in place automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.

But those across-the-board cuts are causing concern in the scientific community, including at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

In August, ORNL Director Thom Mason said the lab had been, up to that point, mostly immune from the cuts because of steps that UT-Battelle, the managing and operating contractor, had already taken to cut costs, including through workforce restructuring, reduced staff and overhead budgets, and benefit changes.

“We’ve just been doing everything we can to prepare for lean budgets,” Mason said. [Read more…]

Alexander calls for resignation of U.S. Health Secretary Sibelius

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

Lamar Alexander

Kathleen Sebelius

Kathleen Sebelius

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should be asked to resign because of the “disastrous rollout of Obamacare,” Sen. Lamar Alexander said Tuesday.

“No private sector chief executive officer would escape accountability after such a poor performance,” said Alexander, a Tennessee Republican.

The Affordable Care Act of 2010, commonly known as “Obamacare,” set up health care exchanges, and the new HealthCare.gov website that rolled out Oct. 1 was designed to allow people to sign up for them. But the site has been plagued by technical problems, although officials have said they would be fixed by the end of November.

Alexander expressed skepticism that the problems would be resolved that quickly. [Read more…]

Shutdown ends: Oak Ridgers relieved, but frustrated with Congress

Dean's Restaurant and Bakery

Dean Russell, co-owner of Dean’s Restaurant and Bakery in Jackson Square, has put up a sign expressing frustration with Congress over the government shutdown. Pictured above are restaurant servers Cassandra Prater, right, and Andy Tatum.

The end of the government shutdown last week brought relief to Oak Ridge, especially at the Y-12 National Security Complex, where up to about 3,600 workers were expected to be furloughed starting last Thursday unless a deal was reached.

Chuck Spencer, general manager of B&W Y-12, which manages and operates Y-12, told workers on Thursday that a shutdown to minimum staffing had been averted and the furloughs would no longer be necessary. There had been reports that only about 900 workers might have remained starting today.

Spencer said the nuclear weapons plant, which started an orderly shutdown two weeks ago on Monday, Oct. 7, will begin planning to resume normal operations.

Normal operations resumed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on Thursday, Director Thom Mason said in a message to staff. ORNL had enough funding to continue operating through October and into November, but officials had started preparing for a possible temporary shutdown and unpaid furloughs in case the shutdown continued.

Oak Ridge residents remained frustrated even after Congress and the White House reached a last-minute, short-term spending agreement late Wednesday night that averted the shutdowns and furloughs, just hours before a deadline to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and after some local businesses had already reported that the shutdown had affected their operations. [Read more…]

With thousands of Oak Ridge jobs at stake, union leader, nonprofit urge Congress to reopen government

Organizing for Action and Steve Jones

About 3,600 workers at the Y-12 National Security Complex could be furloughed starting Monday if Congress doesn’t reach a budget deal, and Steve Jones, center, president of the Atomic Trades and Labor Council, urges legislators to reopen the government during a Tuesday press conference at the ATLC union hall.

With the clock ticking on negotiations and thousands of Oak Ridge jobs at stake, a union leader and nonprofit volunteers on Tuesday urged Congress to reopen the federal government, now shut down for more than two weeks.

If Congress can’t settle its budget disputes by Monday, roughly 3,600 workers at the Y-12 National Security Complex could be furloughed, said Steve Jones, president of the Atomic Trades and Labor Council. Thursday would be their last day at work.

The high-stakes negotiations between Democrats and Republicans continued Tuesday, with the U.S. Senate moving toward a deal, just two days ahead of a possible default on the nation’s debt. But it remained unclear whether the House of Representatives, particularly its conservative Republican members, would support the deal by the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

Jones said Y-12 will go into a “safe and secure” shutdown mode starting Thursday if Congress hasn’t passed a budget for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1. [Read more…]

Congressman: House votes to fully fund Y-12 during government shutdown

U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann

Chuck Fleischmann

Note: This story was last updated at 5:22 p.m.

The federal government remains shut down over a funding dispute, but the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Friday morning that would fully fund the Y-12 National Security Complex and other security functions, Congressman Chuck Fleischmann said.

Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge, called it a matter of national security. Y-12 is one of the nation’s nuclear weapons plants, but it started an “orderly shutdown” on Monday because Congress has failed to pass a spending bill in the fiscal year that started Oct. 1.

Fleischmann expressed concern about the shutdown in a speech on the House floor. [Read more…]

Federal contractors, agencies consider shutdowns, furloughs as funding dispute drags on

Joe L. Evins Federal Building

The U.S. Department of Energy will soon start shutting down nonessential operations, resulting in employee and contractor furloughs, unless Congress passes a spending bill. Pictured above is DOE’s Oak Ridge Office at the Joe L. Evins Federal Building.

Furloughs possible at DOE, UCOR, other federal contractors; some SAIC employees on leave

The government shutdown is now in its second week, and the U.S. Department of Energy could start shutting down nonessential operations soon—resulting in employee and contractor furloughs—unless Congress quickly approves a spending bill, officials said Tuesday.

Federal contractors with operations in Oak Ridge are also considering possible shutdowns and furloughs because congressional Democrats and Republicans have failed to reach an agreement on a spending bill to keep the government operating in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

In a Tuesday message to employees, UCOR President Leo Sain said the company, the government’s cleanup contractor in Oak Ridge, has not been told to shut down yet. [Read more…]

ORNL prepares for possible temporary shutdown, unpaid furloughs

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Central Campus

Officials at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, pictured above, are preparing for a possible temporary shutdown and unpaid furloughs in case Congress is unable to pass a federal spending bill. (Courtesy Oak Ridge National Laboratory/U.S. Dept. of Energy)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has enough funding to continue operating through this month and into November, but officials are preparing for a possible temporary shutdown and unpaid furloughs, Director Thom Mason told employees Monday.

The potential shutdown of ORNL would be triggered by Congress’ failure to pass a spending bill in the fiscal year that began Tuesday, Oct. 1. The federal government has already partially shut down, and the Y-12 National Security Complex started an “orderly shutdown” Monday.

Before the Sept. 30 end of the last fiscal year, the U.S. Department of Energy had told federal employees to continue reporting for work in the new fiscal year unless there is a lapse in appropriations and all available money is spent. And Mason told employees of UT-Battelle, which manages the lab, to report to work starting Oct. 1, even if the government shut down, because ORNL had enough funding to continue operating. [Read more…]