Attorney General Steve Marshall issued the following statement today praising President Donald Trump for introducing his Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand:
“I want to thank President Trump for his dedication to fight the terrible blight of opioid abuse in America. Opioid abuse is an epidemic that ignores cultural and political boundaries; it affects all of us—and thus demands a response that includes all of us.”
“While I am still reviewing the specifics of President Trump’s initiative, I am heartened to see that his outline includes many of the recommendations of Alabama’s Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council; recommendations such as improved prescription monitoring, increased access to treatment and recovery support for persons suffering from opioid addiction, and legislation targeting low-dosage, super-lethal drugs like fentanyl.”
“My hope is that, in the coming months, President Trump and Attorney General Sessions will work side-by-side with state and local officials to turn these ideas into reality. Together, we can conquer what the President has rightly called the ‘Crisis Next Door.’”
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
CUTS HIT HOME: Military population in Alabama will dwindle as Defense budget is trimmed
FORT RUCKER, Ala. — The United States Department of the Army announced Thursday its nationwide reduction of 40,000 troops by 2017 will include trimming its force at Fort Rucker by 186 soldiers.
The six percent reduction at the wiregrass-area base is actually much lower than the 40 percent cut many had feared, and significantly less than the reductions in force at other Army posts, such as 3,400 soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia and 3,350 soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas.
The Fort Benning cuts could ultimately have an even greater impact on Alabama than those at Rucker. Although the base is located in Georgia, many of the military families stationed there live across the Chattahoochee River in Alabama towns like Phenix City.
“A six percent reduction at Fort Rucker is not nearly as devastating as the 40 percent cut some had projected,” said U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, who represents the congressional district in which Fort Rucker is located. “And, as of right now, this won’t affect the aviation student load. Those are both positives. However, we don’t need to be cutting our force at all. We need to be growing and making sure our military has what it needs to meet global threats.”
Other members of Alabama’s delegation have in recent years warned about the potential negative effects of cutting the Pentagon’s budget, including Sen. Jeff Sessions who in 2013 called the cuts “unwise.”
“We’ve got a difficult situation and we’re not having any leadership,” Sessions said in a budget hearing on sequestration. “I’m beginning to wonder if the president isn’t quite happy to see the Defense Department to take this much [in] cuts. If he was sincerely worried about it, why isn’t he providing more leadership to confront it? I know a lot of his supporters are quite happy to see the Defense Department to take these cuts.”
In spite of the cuts, many south Alabama business owners, elected officials and soldiers are sleeping better Thursday night after they had feared the worst.
In February of this year, roughly 1,600 wiregrass-area residents attended a forum with Department of Defense representatives to voice their concerns over impending budget cuts that could effect their base. Their efforts paid off.
The uncertainty is not completely over, though. Another round of cuts to the civilian workforce is expected soon, and those could impact additional military installations around the state as well.
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Alabama’s military mission will be impacted by committee chairmanship election in DC
Behind-the-scenes battles between budget hawks and defense advocates inside the Republican majority in Congress have spilled into the public several times in recent years, with tea party-aligned budget hawks coming away victorious more often than not.
The two Republican factions have, in this instance, been split between members who have continually pushed hard for across-the-board cost-cutting measures, and national security hawks who have fought to stop defense cuts to what they believe are critical military areas.
The two sides squared off most notably over sequestration, which were automatic spending cuts designed to be so drastic — at least in Washington’s view — that they would force Republicans and Democrats to compromise on a broader, more targeted deficit-reduction plan. The highly polarized parties, of course, did not reach a deal and the cuts went into effect.
Most of the Pentagon cuts caused by sequestration remain on the books today, even though House GOP Leadership promised sequestration would never happen.
So how did it happen?
There are a variety of reasons, but one of the primary ones was the influence of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), the largest group of conservatives in the U.S. House. All of the Republican members of Alabama’s congressional delegation are members of the RSC, with the exception of Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2), as are about three-quarters of all House Republicans.
Although the RSC does not have an official spot at the leadership table inside the House Republican Conference, it has been a powerful force in pushing the House in a more conservative direction, especially on budgeting issues. And that’s exactly what happened on sequestration. Even as many Republican members wanted to roll back the across-the-board defense cuts, the RSC and its conservative allies peeled off enough votes to keep that from happening.
There are several reasons why all of this matters right now in Washington, D.C., as well as here in Alabama.
First, the RSC will elect a new chairman in early 2015.
The chairmanship opened up when former chairman Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) became House Majority Whip earlier this year. Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) was selected to replace Scalise in June, but only after he agreed not to run for another term as chairman.
The race is shaping up to be a particularly big deal this time around because of the budget wars expected to take place during the next session of Congress, and jockeying for the coveted post has already begun. The battle lines are once again being drawn between budget-focused members and defense advocates.
Two Alabama congressmen with significant defense industry initiatives in their districts already appear to have chosen their side.
Reps. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1) and Mike Rogers (R-AL3) both recently signed a letter encouraging the next RSC chairman to be a strong advocate for national defense.
The letter was written as part of a coordinated effort by defense hawks to make a strong push ahead of the impending budget wars, which could see sequestration returning again in full. They want a like-minded leader sitting at the head of the RSC — someone, according to the letter, who has “demonstrated a clear, principled and unequivocal voting record in support of our national security.”
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) is the presumed frontrunner, but defense backers are already questioning his national security credentials. At least twice in the past two years Mulvaney has backed billion-dollar cuts to defense spending bills, often siding with Democrats against the wishes of the majority of House Republicans.
Reps. Andy Harris (R-Md.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Tx) are also planning to run, but neither of them serve on the House Armed Services Committee, which defense advocates would prefer.
Alabama’s aerospace and defense industries include over 500 companies employing roughly 83,000 individuals, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce.
The Aerospace Industries Association predicted in 2011 that Alabama would lose 24,600 jobs if sequestration went into effect. And although the dire predictions appear to have been overblown, the companies operating in this large and growing sector of Alabama’s economy will be pushing members of Alabama’s congressional delegation to avoid another round of cuts next year.
That makes the RSC chairman’s election a bid deal for Alabama, no matter which side of the issue you are on.
Brooks ‘flabbergasted’ Dems want to slash defense funding to hand out aid to Ukraine
Rep. Mo Brooks, AL-05, is not happy about the idea of dolling out cash to Ukraine and the International Monetary Fund while slashing defense spending at home.
The “Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act of 2014,” which overwhelmingly passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday, would fund reforms at the International Monetary Fund to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, in addition to offering Ukraine $1 billion in loan guarantees, $50 million for “democracy, governance and civil society assistance,” and another $100 million for “enhanced security cooperation for Ukraine and other states in Central and Eastern Europe.”
House Republicans have already passed a bill to supply aid to Ukraine without the added costs of the IMF reforms, which they say would be paid for on the backs of America’s men and women in uniform.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle feel a sense of urgency to get an aid bill signed into law ahead of Sunday’s vote on secession in Crimea, which is currently occupied by Russian troops.
Congressman Brooks said he believes there are countless programs other than national defense that could be cut to fund the US efforts to stabilize Ukraine. Perhaps most notably, Brooks pointed out the country’s $1 trillion in annual welfare spending, as well as the billions of dollars doled out each year to illegal aliens who fraudulently obtain tax refunds.
“I am flabbergasted that the Democratic Senate seeks to pay for aid to the Ukraine by slashing national defense funding,” said Brooks. “President Obama and the Democrats have already hammered national defense funding to the point that America’s national security is at risk. National defense is the #1 priority of the federal government. Instead of again hammering national defense, President Obama and Congressional Democrats should cut the $4.3 billion per year paid by our Treasury to illegal aliens who use tax identification numbers to fraudulently obtain tax refunds, cut the more than $1 trillion per year the federal government spends on means-tested welfare give-away programs, or cut any number of other lesser priority programs.”
Brooks said defense cuts have only emboldened America’s enemies around the world.
“Further cuts to national security, on top of the cuts imposed by sequestration and the Budget Control Act, embolden Russia’s Vladimir Putin and America’s other geo-political foes while making America weaker,” Brooks concluded.
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.