The Wire

  • ‘I could not in good conscience’ vote for spending bill — Gary Palmer

  • Bill passes House to allow terminally ill patients access to experimental drugs — Mo Brooks

    Excerpt from a news release issued by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks:

    “I’m proud the House passed Right to Try, and I was honored to co-sponsor of the Right to Try Act in the memory of Steve Mayfield, who died from ALS after being denied experimental treatments that could have prolonged his life and alleviated his pain. No American should have to suffer when their government holds the keys to lifesaving drugs. These terminally ill patients are already in the fight of their lives—they don’t need to fight their government, as well.

    Congressman Brooks was inspired to co-sponsor the Right to Try Act by the story of Steve Mayfield, a respected high school football coach at Central High School in Lauderdale County, Alabama, who in March 2017, died after a lengthy fight with both Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and a federal bureaucracy that denied him the right to try potentially life-saving experimental treatments.

  • Mayor Battle asks Gov. Ivey to appear with him at Huntsville and Birmingham area debates

    Excerpt from Battle for Governor advisory:

    Top Republican gubernatorial challenger Tommy Battle, emailed a letter addressed to Governor Ivey on Tuesday. The letter invited Ivey to appear with Battle at events throughout Alabama to discuss the qualifications of each candidate.

    Tommy Battle has committed to attend all of the following:
    — April 12 – 7 a.m. – A debate hosted by the Birmingham Business Journal
    — April 12 – 7 p.m. – A debate hosted by NBC 13 in Birmingham
    — April 14 – 8 a.m. – A candidate forum hosted by the Mid Alabama Republican Club in Birmingham
    — May 9 – 2 p.m. – A candidate forum hosted by the Association of Builders and Contractors in Huntsville
    — May 10 – 11:30 a.m. – A candidate forum hosted by the Moody Area Chamber of Commerce

2 years ago

Sessions says Boehner’s final budget deal with Obama is so bad it made his ‘knees quiver’

House Speaker John Boehner (left) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (right)
House Speaker John Boehner (left) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (right)
House Speaker John Boehner (left) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (right)

WASHINGTON — John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) final act as Speaker of the House will be to cut a budget deal with President Barack Obama that conservatives loathe–so much so in fact that upon hearing the details, budget hawk Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said it made his “knees quiver.”

Boehner has been working quietly to pass an agreement with Obama to fund the government until 2017 and raise the nation’s debt limit. The move would remove a potential debt crisis from the table for the entire 2016 election cycle and allow Boehner to take the arrows from conservatives that might otherwise be aimed at incoming House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The U.S. Treasury has set Nov. 3 as the date before which Congress must approve a debt limit increase or risk a default. Money to fund the federal government’s operations is also set to run out Dec. 11. Ryan is expected to be installed as Speaker on Thursday, but Boehner’s agreement with Obama appears to already be a done deal, assuming he can cobble together enough Democrats and moderate Republicans for the bills to pass.

Congressional leadership briefed their members on the deal Monday night. An exasperated Jeff Sessions emerged from the senate meeting clearly frustrated with the process, and with Boehner’s involvement.

“What does Boehner got to do with it?” Sessions rhetorically asked reporters of the lame duck Speaker. “I’m worried about how fast it’s moving. I see no reason for that. Based on what I know now, it appears the president got whatever he wanted.”

The deal busts the spending caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011, sending defense and domestic spending rocketing past sequestration levels by $80 billion over the next two years. A Medicare premium increase set to go into effect in January would be curtailed at the request of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Defense hawks are also among the advocates of the deal because it boosts the Pentagon’s budget at the expense of other programs and also sets aside an additional $16 billion for “war funds” that are exempt from budget caps.

The deal has already received support from leaders on both sides of the aisle, from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), but conservatives are once again coalescing in opposition.

“We’re not just here to take commands,” said Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, a member of the staunchly conservative Freedom Caucus. “We’re really tired of the top-down, micromanagement where you have just a few people, or in this case just the speaker and his team, determining the outcome. This is a fair reason to vote against the bill.”

“Looking at the information that we’ve gathered so far, I’m not necessarily in a position where I think that’s in the best interest of our country going forward,” added Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). “It’s just hard to justify that we’re not figuring out how to clamp down on spending.”

Asked about the tentative agreement as he walked out of the Capitol on Monday, Sen. Sessions summed it up by saying, “My knees quiver at the sound.”

3 years ago

Roby: Dangerous military cuts must be avoided (Opinion)

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2)
Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2)

Did you know that continued cuts to our nation’s military could, within just a few years, reduce our Army force down to where it was before September 11, 2001?

One of the main reasons I voted against the “Budget Control Act of 2011” was that it threatened dangerous, disproportionate reductions to military funding through what’s known as sequestration. Since then, I have worked with others in Congress to mitigate the impact of those cuts by passing a law allowing inter-branch spending flexibility and by supporting subsequent budgets that restored some, but not all of the funding.

However, those “Band-Aid” fixes are set to expire, and the full impact of sequestration will be felt beginning in Fiscal Year 2016 if Congress doesn’t act. That’s why I’m working to build a bi-partisan coalition of lawmakers willing to fix sequestration and stop the devastating cuts that would be so harmful to our nation’s military.

Recently, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and I wrote a bi-partisan letter to every Representative and Senator about the dangers of continued military cuts. In it, we highlighted an important study by the U.S. Army demonstrating how sequestration would affect as many as 30 installations throughout the country, including Fort Rucker in Alabama.
No area of the federal budget is immune from “belt-tightening,” and that certainly includes the military. However, any changes to our Armed Forces should reflect national priorities, not budgetary or political circumstances. The United States must first decide what is required to protect this country and its interests, and then budget accordingly.

Consider the growth and alarming advance of ISIS, or the implications of an increasingly-aggressive Russia. Should we really allow such a dramatic reduction to the Army’s force strength or similar reductions to the capabilities of other service branches?

Some believe more taxes are the answer. I do not. Last year, the federal government took in more revenue than ever before in the history of the republic.

Revenue is not the problem; out-of-control spending in other areas of government is. The answer is to set better priorities and make more responsible, conservative choices with federal spending. Budget discussions are just now beginning, but I am wasting no time making it clear to House and Senate leaders how important it is to fix sequestration before it devastates our Armed Forces and further compromises military readiness.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives

4 years ago

Roby to constituents upset she voted for budget deal: ‘I don’t blame you’

Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery
Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery

Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, took to Facebook Wednesday to respond to constituents who are expressing frustration and discontent with the Ryan-Murray budget deal that passed both the House and Senate in recent days.

Alabama’s representatives in the U.S. House voted in favor of the deal 5-1, with Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, casting the only dissenting vote. However, in the upper chamber, both Sens. Shelby and Sessions voted against the deal.

Shelby tends to vote against any piece of legislation that violates the Budget Control Act of 2011, which capped 2014 discretionary spending at $967 billion. The Ryan-Murray budget smashes through that cap.

Sessions’ opposition to the bill centered around its cuts to veterans benefits. Sessions tried to attach an amendment to the bill to “fix” the benefits, but Democrats refused to allow it.

Conservative groups in Washington and around the country have been extremely critical of the deal by pointing out that it does little to set the country on a path to fiscal sanity, especially when it comes to entitlements.

Republicans who voted in favor of the deal say they believe Republicans stand the best chance of winning in the longterm by taking a potential government shutdown off the table and keeping the focus on ObamaCare’s failures.

Rep. Roby addresses several of those points in her Facebook post, which can be read in full below.

I have heard from several who are displeased with the recent budget agreement, particularly as it concerns cost of living increases for military retirees.

This measure represents the first time that Washington has operated with a budget during divided government in 27 years. The legislation sets overall discretionary spending levels at $1.012 trillion, returning non-defense spending to Bush-era levels and restoring some, but not all, military funding cut by sequestration. One of the offsets used in the bill to find savings involved reducing by 1% the annual automatic cost-of-living increases given to working-age military retirees starting in 2015. That means those who have retired from the service but are between the ages of 40-62 will still get a cost of living increase, it will just be one percent less. Once you turn 62, the increases go back up to their original rate.

It is important to note that the plan in no way affects the base pension payment, veterans’ disability benefits, or the benefits of any retiree over the age of 62.

I don’t blame those who are upset about this. The plan is far from ideal. I would much prefer more of the savings come from elsewhere, including long-overdue mandatory spending reforms. I understand that people count on these cost of living increases, even if they are still working.

The fact is the agreement restores more than $30 billion in sequestration cuts to the military. That is very significant. That funding goes straight toward preventing furloughs and restoring our military readiness. The alternative would mean more furloughs, more corrosion of our military readiness, and new threats of a harmful government shutdown. My choice was not an easy one to make, but I believe in the long run that it was the right choice given the alternative.

So what do you think? Was it smart for Republicans to go along with this deal, or should they have fought for more?

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

4 years ago

Sessions fights to save veterans benefits ahead of budget vote

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, has spent the last several days fighting to undo cuts to veterans benefits that are included in the Ryan-Murray budget deal, which was passed by the House last week.

The current legislation cuts veterans benefits by $6 billion over the next decade.

The Senate is set to vote on the bill Tuesday morning. Both Sen. Sessions and fellow Alabamian Sen. Richard Shelby have said they are opposed to the current bill.

Although it sailed through the House on a bipartisan vote of 332-94, Senate Democratic leaders indicated over the weekend that the bill’s passage is far from secured in the upper chamber.

“The struggle is still on in the United States Senate,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, told Fox News on Sunday.

But progress was made on Monday, leading aides on both sides of the aisle to predict that they will have the 60 votes needed to pass a procedural motion on Tuesday. They will then move move for final passage later in the week, which requires only a simple majority.

Many Senate Republicans have cited the fact that the budget deal exceeds the Budget Control Act of 2011 as grounds for opposing it. The Budget Control Act capped 2014 discretionary spending at $967 billion. The Ryan-Murray budget smashes through that cap.

“I’d really like to stay within the (spending) caps,” complained Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas. “This busts the caps and as a result I’ll vote against it.”

But Sessions and several of his Republican colleagues have chosen to focus their attention on the cuts to military retirees and vets.

“We need to find a better way to save $6 billion than take it out of the hides of our retired veterans,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi.

Sessions’ plan to rescue veterans benefits involves saving money by closing a tax credit loophole that watchdog groups say has been frequently exploited by illegal immigrants.

The fix is simple. Applicants seeking to receive the child tax credit would have to submit their Social Security numbers. That way the IRS could easily weed out the illegal aliens taking advantage of the system. Sessions’ amendment would save the federal government roughly $4.2 billion, freeing up room for veterans benefits to remain at higher levels.

The handwringing in D.C. has already commenced with a budget deadline looming on Jan. 15. If a deal is not reached by then, another partial government shutdown will ensue.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

4 years ago

Sessions & Shelby ‘NO’ on budget deal, Senate GOP will filibuster

Sens. Jeff Sessions (Left) and Richard Shelby (Right)
Sens. Jeff Sessions (Left) and Richard Shelby (Right)

Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, and Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, will emphatically vote “no” on the Ryan-Murray budget deal that skated through the U.S. House Thursday by a vote of 332-94.

Sessions, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, went a step further and said he and his Senate GOP colleagues will filibuster the deal.

Democrats concede they need Republican votes to get the deal through the senate. Not a single Senate Republican to this point has indicated they will vote in favor of the measure, not even the usual suspects like Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina.

With 55 Democratic members of the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid will need to persuade at least 5 Republicans to break ranks and vote with him to get the deal passed through the upper chamber.

“We need Republican votes to pass the budget agreement. Period. We need at least five,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, the Senate’s second ranking Democrat. “There are not five Republicans who have announced they’re for it.”

The filibuster Republicans are planning will not be a “talking” filibuster like the ones Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul led earlier this year. Rather, it is a procedural maneuver that will simply require the bill to get 60 votes to proceed to final passage.

“They’ll need 60 votes on cloture and 60 votes on the budget point of order,” Sessions told The Hill.

Many Senate Republicans cited the fact that the budget deal exceeds the Budget Control Act of 2011 as grounds for opposing it. The Budget Control Act capped 2014 discretionary spending at $967 billion.

Alabama’s House delegation voted in favor of the Ryan-Murray plan 5-1. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, was the only Alabama representative to vote no.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims