When President Barack Obama swings through Chattanooga next week, the majority of federal lawmakers representing the region won’t be there to greet him.
Late Wednesday, the White House revealed Obama’s schedule for next week, which includes a trip to the Scenic City Tuesday to promote ideas for job creation and economic policy. When he arrives, Obama will be in a state whose 8.5 percent unemployment rate is higher than the national average of 7.6 percent.
Besides confirming that he will deliver a speech at the Amazon distribution center at Enterprise South, few details have been revealed regarding Obama’s plans for when he makes his inaugural trip to the city.
It will be Obama’s second visit to Tennessee since he was elected president in 2008. His first sojourn to the state came in May 2011, when he traveled to Memphis to give a commencement address at Booker T. Washington High School, a historically black school that had won a Race to the Top “commencement challenge.”
The last presidential visit to Chattanooga was in 2007, when President George W. Bush came to the city to deliver a speech on health care and eat at a downtown barbecue joint.
Rather than welcome the president to his hometown, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican who represents Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, will be in Washington D.C., to vote on legislation, his office said.
Responding to news of the president’s plans, Fleischmann issued a statement criticizing the president’s economic record and signature health law, the Affordable Care Act.
“Hopefully while in Tennessee, [the president] will talk to some of the businesses his health care law is crippling and pick up some tips from our strong conservative leadership, which has encouraged businesses like Amazon to move to our great state,” Fleischmann said.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, who makes frequent visits to Chattanooga, will also be in the nation’s Capitol Tuesday. The senator’s office said Alexander was already scheduled to co-host a roundtable discussion on policy relating to charter schools with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
In an emailed statement, Alexander offered a similar comment to Fleischmann, asking the president for an explanation to Tennessee employers for how the new health law would not adversely affect them.
“I’d like to hear the president explain to Tennessee employers how they’re going to add new jobs and at the same time pay all the additional costs imposed by the president’s health care law,” Alexander said.
The senator also reiterated concerns about the impact the president’s recent picks for labor appointments could have on businesses in Tennessee. On Wednesday, he voted against two National Labor Relations Board nominees.
“I hope he’ll reassure Tennesseans that his new labor secretary and National Labor Relations Board appointees won’t do anything to undermine our right-to-work law, which has helped Tennessee attract more than 100,000 auto jobs over the past 30 years,” he said.
Amazon, which opened its doors in 2011, is located across the street from Volkswagen Chattanooga, where talks of unionization have dominated in recent weeks.
The office for Sen. Bob Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, said the senator would not be able to attend Tuesday because of the Senate being in session and committee hearings he was committed to attend. Commenting on Obama’s plans to visit his hometown, Corker took a more positive tone than his colleagues.
“Chattanooga is one of those great cities in the world, so it’s easy to see why any president would want to visit,” he said in an emailed statement. “In addition to our outstanding Amazon facility, I hope the president’s trip will also highlight other things that make Chattanooga a great place to live and work: a vibrant downtown riverfront, the fastest Internet connection in the U.S., and the world’s first and only LEED Platinum-certified car factory . which has created more than 5,000 jobs in the region.”
Also among state leaders who won’t attend the president’s visit Tuesday is Gov. Bill Haslam.
Dave Smith, press secretary for Haslam, said the governor’s office was not notified of Obama’s trip until late yesterday, after the governor had committed to meetings in the state’s Upper Cumberland Region on Tuesday.
Updated @ 3:09 p.m. on 7/25/13 for clarity.