A story that $55 million in Union gold was lost during the Civil War has long been dismissed as a myth — but this week, a team of FBI agents joined the search in rural Pennsylvania.
Alabama Rep. Sewell supported a short-term CHIP extension in December but just voted against a long-term extension. Here’s why:
Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) voted against a resolution on Thursday that would have extended government funding through February 16 and, among other things, would also have extended the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years.
“The congresswoman voted against the [resolution] this past week because she would like to see Republicans work with Democrats to pass a long-term funding bill,” Sewell’s communications director, Christopher MacKenzie, told Yellowhammer.
Sewell’s no-vote is notable because back in December, she broke with her party and voted for a short-term funding bill, chiefly because of CHIP.
“The government funding/CHIP bill that passed in December wasn’t perfect, but Rep. Sewell voted for it because she was not willing to let CHIP expire,” MacKenzie told Yellowhammer earlier this month.
So what has changed? Why was the Congresswoman willing to vote for a short-term CHIP solution back in December, but wasn’t willing to support this recent bill which had a six-year CHIP extension?
“In December, CHIP was facing a slightly different timeline,” MacKenzie said. “The vote on the CR happened on Dec. 21 as members were leaving for the holiday and the CHIP freeze was starting Jan. 1 – there was zero room for any additional votes to ensure CHIP had funding.”
“Also, the repeal of the individual mandate in the tax bill means that new cost estimates have come out this month about the price tag on extending CHIP,” MacKenzie said. “According to the CBO, extending CHIP for ten years would actually provide savings because fewer families would enroll in the federally subsidized healthcare marketplaces. So why extend for just six years?”
Alabama’s congressional delegation reacts to the shutdown
Late Friday, lawmakers were unable to pass an eleventh-hour effort to thwart a government shutdown, and as the clock struck midnight, “nonessential” federal government activities ceased.
The Senate effort failed by a 50-49 roll call vote and required 60 votes to pass. The legislation would have funded the federal government through February 16.
Both of Alabama’s U.S. Senators, Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) and Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook), voted for the bill. Jones was one of five Democrats voting in the affirmative, a position he made known earlier in the evening.
JUST IN: Sen. Doug Jones will be voting for the CR, @jonallendc reports.
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) January 20, 2018
In a statement released early Saturday, Shelby railed against his Democratic colleagues and accused them of “putting partisan politics” ahead of funding the government.
“It is unacceptable that Democrats would vote against a measure to keep our government open to do the work of the American people,” Shelby said. “I do not believe that shutting down the government is a solution to the problems we face as a country. A shutdown is destructive to the American taxpayer, no matter the circumstances. Republicans are working hard to keep the government running, and we also want to approve a long-term reauthorization of CHIP, which provides millions of children with needed health insurance coverage. While a long-term funding measure is preferred, this CR would allow Congress the ability to continue ongoing and proactive negotiations in an effort to approve a bipartisan, bicameral funding bill.”
“Democrats have chosen partisan politics over funding our government, funding our troops, and providing health insurance to low-income children and pregnant women,” he added. “The American people deserve better.”
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), who had been very active on Twitter in lead-up and the aftermath of the shutdown deadline, described the Democratic refusal to back the legislation “petty and ridiculous.”
“The so-called ‘resistance’ and Senate Democrats have shut down the entire federal government and put health care for over 85,000 Alabama children at risk over an unrelated illegal immigration issue,” he said. “This is petty and ridiculous, and I call on Senate Democrats to stop with the political games, come back to the negotiating table, and join us in passing a funding bill.”
Shameful. The #SchumerShutdown is now official. Deeply frustrated Senate Democrats have shut down our government over an unrelated illegal immigration issue.
— Rep. Bradley Byrne (@RepByrne) January 20, 2018
The #SchumerShutdown is now official. I urge @SenSchumer to stop with the political games, come back to the negotiating table, and get the federal government back open for business. pic.twitter.com/EYLlT795un
— Rep. Bradley Byrne (@RepByrne) January 20, 2018
Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) of Alabama’s 2nd congressional district expressed similar disapproval of Senate Democrats.
“While I continue to have serious concerns with short-term funding measures, I still voted in favor of the Continuing Resolution this week in the House because I believe it is critical that we keep the government open and running, especially as it relates to our military and reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP),” Roby said. “I am deeply disappointed that Senate Democrats chose to let the government shut down over an unrelated immigration issue that does not have an immediate deadline.”
“My congressional offices will remain open to serve the needs of those I represent. I will continue working with my colleagues to work towards a solution to properly fund our government,” she added.
The congressman for Alabama’s 3rd congressional district, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks), also condemned Democrats for “playing politics.”
“One of the fundamental purposes of our government is to provide for the common defense to protect our liberties,” Rogers said in a statement released early Saturday. “Unfortunately, Democrats chose illegal immigrants over our brave men and women who serve in uniform and forced our government to shut down. Their actions also hurt children across East Alabama and the country that rely on CHIP. Playing politics with those who defend our freedom and the health care of the kids who need it the most is unconscionable to me.”
The lone member of Alabama’s delegation to vote against the continuing resolution was Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham). Sewell had made it her intentions known she would oppose the GOP’s efforts on Thursday. In a tweet early Saturday, she deemed the shutdown the “Trump shutdown” and called on Republicans to do their job.
— Rep. Terri A. Sewell (@RepTerriSewell) January 20, 2018
Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.
Alabama Democrat Rep. Sewell ties MLK Day to tax policy in Democrats’ national weekly address
In this week’s national Democratic Party address, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) commemorated the upcoming Martin Luther King Day holiday and touted it as a time to emphasize income inequality given in her view King’s vision of equality included economics.
“Dr. King saw economic success for all Americans as a keystone of equality,” Sewell said. “He recognized that economic issues were civil rights issues. ‘The struggle for genuine equality means economic equality,’ Dr. King told a rally of sanitation workers in Memphis, barely two weeks before his death. He said, ‘For we know now that it’s not enough to integrate lunch counters. What does it profit a man to be able to integrate a lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?’”
Sewell railed against the tax legislation recently signed into law by President Donald Trump by maligning it for what she said favored the wealthy and not the middle class.
“An estimated 83 percent of the tax bill’s cuts go to the top 1 percent of America’s wealthiest households,” Sewell said. “Meanwhile, the tax bill’s temporary benefits for the middle-class workers evaporate after just a few years, resulting in a tax increase for 86 million middle-class families.”
According to an estimate from the Tax Policy Foundation, the bill will create 4,632 jobs in Alabama raise the middle-income family “by more than $519.”
Sewell remains convinced it is a net positive and vowed to fight for better legislation.
“Instead of simplifying the tax code or making it fairer, the GOP tax bill sticks working Americans with $1.5 trillion in debt in order to pay for corporate tax cuts,” she added. “While passage of the GOP tax bill will have tragic consequences for our working Americans, I can promise you this: I promise that our fight for middle-class Americans is far from over.”
Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.
The CHIP showdown: How will Congress fund health insurance for children?
2018 may shape up to be a more politically volatile year than last. Numerous issues, from Obamacare to immigration reform, will shape the political showdown of 2018. Among those will be the future of the recently — but briefly — reauthorized Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Congress passed a temporary spending bill on December 21 which extended CHIP’s authorization until March of this year, but it needs to find a long-term solution.
There is little, if any, debate about the essential function of the program. Both Democrats and Republicans support funding health insurance for children who, in the words of House Speaker Paul Ryan, “through no fault of their own” wouldn’t otherwise have it.
Debate arises when it comes to funding the program. Republicans want to offset the costs with cuts elsewhere, and Democrats don’t.
Last November, the House of Representatives passed the Championing Healthy Kids Act, which authorizes CHIP for five more years. Republicans overwhelmingly supported the bill, which also got yeas from 15 Democrats.
“The Championing Healthy Kids Act is a conservative, fiscally responsible approach to a five-year extension of CHIP as well as a two-year extension of community health centers and other key public health programs” Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) told Yellowhammer. “Unfortunately, Democrats have been blocking our plan in the Senate for months. While it has been frustrating for those who depend on this program, I’m hopeful that Congress can act early this year to bring forward responsible legislation that will give certainty to Alabama families.”
Mostly because of what the bill does to offset costs, 171 Democrats voted against it, including Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham).
“The bill… made significant cuts to other health programs, including the Public Health and Prevention Fund, and it cut the payment grace period for ACA marketplace premiums, a change that would hit low-income Americans the hardest,” Chris MacKenzie, Sewell’s press secretary, told Yellowhammer. “Rep. Sewell voted against the legislation because she doesn’t believe that cutting one important health program to pay for another is a winning strategy when it comes to strengthening our health care system.”
More than anything, the Championing Healthy Kids Act reinforces differences in the fiscal approaches of Democrats and Republicans. Congress will more than likely find a way to fund CHIP before March.
The question is, with what money?
Jeremy Beaman is a Yellowhammer News contributor in his final year at the University of Mobile. He also writes for The College Fix.
Follow him on Twitter @jeremywbeaman and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congress Responds to Alabama Day Care Death
The U.S. House of Representatives adopted an amendment this week that would block federal funding for day care centers with a history of injury or death due to safety violations. The amendment was proposed by Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell, in the wake of the death of 5-year-old Kamden Johnson – the Alabama boy who died in August after being left in a hot day care van. The amendment is attached to an appropriations bill that is set to be voted on later this week.
Sewell acknowledges the importance of the amendment in a press release:
“Kamden Johnson’s death this August was not the first child death at an unregulated day care center in Alabama, and it will not be the last so long as we continue to fund centers that violate health and safety standards.”
Alabama’s child care system has come under scrutiny over the past several years, as reports of death and injury among non-licensed day cares has risen. Alabama is one of the only states which allow day care centers to operate without regulation if they claim a religious exemption. Currently, there are 943 unlicensed centers statewide.
Kamden Johnson died in August after being left in a hot van at his preschool in Mobile. The preschool is operated by a church and was not licensed or inspected. The van driver, who has since been arrested, has a glaring criminal record.
If passed, Sewell’s amendment would block day cares with a history of death or injury from receiving funding through the Child Care Development Grant. The grant provides subsidies for low-income families to afford day care.
The grant does, however, already place restrictions on the day cares who receive funding. According to new federal rules for the grant, all day cares who take qualifying children must undergo basic safety inspections and criminal background checks. While these inspections are not as thorough as the ones that DHR-licensed facilities undergo, it does mean that many day care centers do indeed receive at least minimal regulation.
Sewell hopes that her amendment will provide day cares with an incentive to step up health and safety precautions. Her amendment received bipartisan support in Congress, including support from fellow Alabama Congressman Bradley Byrne. Byrne, whose district includes Mobile, tweeted his support “especially in light of the recent tragic incident in Mobile.”
Alabama’s lone Democrat in Congress is skipping Trump’s inauguration
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Alabama’s lone Congressional Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL7), will be skipping Donald J. Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States. Following Georgia Congressman’s John Lewis’ lead, Sewell cited Trump’s comments towards her colleague as the reason she refuses to attend.
“While I have a profound respect for the office of the President, and I accept the results of the election, I simply cannot accept the blatant disrespect shown by President-elect Trump towards American civil rights icon, my colleague, friend and mentor, the Honorable John Lewis,” Sewell said in a press release. “The ongoing attacks against Congressman John Lewis are a direct assault on the sacrifices of those brave men and women in my Alabama district who fought, bled and died for the civil rights and voting rights of all Americans. As always, I stand with my constituents.”
Recently, the President-Elect and Rep. Lewis have developed a political feud. Last week, Lewis announced he would skip the inauguration and questioned Trump’s legitimacy. Like many other Democrats, Lewis has placed the blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss on Russian interference instead of the campaign tactics used by the DNC.
In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Lewis stated that his would be “the first one [inauguration] that I miss since I’ve been in Congress.” However, this is patently false.
CNBC reported that John Lewis also boycotted George W. Bush’s 2001 Inauguration. While he has not yet released an official comment, his office said “His absence at that time was also a form of dissent. He did not believe the outcome of that election, including the controversies around the results in Florida and the unprecedented intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court, reflected a free, fair and open democratic process.”
Trump did not miss the opportunity to jump all over his latest rival in a series of pointed tweets.
John Lewis said about my inauguration, "It will be the first one that I've missed." WRONG (or lie)! He boycotted Bush 43 also because he…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2017
"thought it would be hypocritical to attend Bush's swearing-in….he doesn't believe Bush is the true elected president." Sound familiar! WP
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2017
With or without Lewis and Sewell, Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President on January 20.
The newly launched Congressional Football Caucus is led by an Alabamian, of course
WASHINGTON — A group of United States congressmen has tossed aside partisan politics and announced the formation of the first ever Congressional Football Caucus. Fittingly, the group will be led by a representative from the state that has taken home five of the last seven college football national championships.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat from Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, will co-chair the caucus alongside Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican from Texas whose home state has a rich college football history as well.
According to The Hill, the caucus’s primary goal is to “protect the $5 billion scholarship market for college football players, many of whom do not go onto play professionally and rely on their education to build a successful career.”
ScholarshipForAthletes.com breaks down the $5 billion in football scholarships available at the NCAA Division I, IAA, and II levels:
“At the Division 1A level, 237 universities have football teams. There are 85 scholarships available per team to be divided among the players. A total of 20,145 scholarships are offered in Division 1A football.
“At the Division 1AA level, 120 universities have football teams. There are 63 scholarships available per team to be divided among the players. A total of 7,560 scholarships are offered in Division 1AA football.
“At the Division II level, 164 universities have football teams. There are 36 scholarships available per team to be divided among the players. A total of 5,904 scholarships are offered in Division 2 football.”
The football crazed state of Alabama is home to nine Division 1 football programs (counting UAB’s resurgent program) and eight Division II programs.
The Congressional Football Caucus held its first event in Washington, D.C., last week featuring appearances by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Hall of Fame Coach Barry Switzer.
(h/t The Hill)
Alabama GOP congressmen vote to keep terrorists in Gitmo, Sewell votes against
WASHINGTON — The six Republican members of Alabama’s congressional delegation on Thursday voted to block the Obama administration’s attempts to transfer prisoners and close the prison at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The state’s lone Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell, voted against the measure.
For the last several years, Republicans have included language in the annual government funding package that prohibits bringing Gitmo prisoners to the United States, for which many Democrats have advocated. As a result, the Obama administration has instead shipped some of the prisoners to other countries, or released them all together.
The bill passed by the House Thursday would strictly prohibit both bringing the prisoners to the United States and transferring them to other counties, effectively making it impossible for President Obama to deliver on his campaign promise to shut down Gitmo.
“By attempting to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and release hardened terrorists, I fear this President is once again putting politics above national security,” said Rep. Bradley Byrne, a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “I fear he is more concerned about keeping a campaign promise than he is about keeping the American people – especially our service members fighting in the Middle East – safe.
“Today’s vote sends a clear message that there is bipartisan opposition to the President’s efforts to close the prison,” he continued. “Instead of letting terrorists free, the Obama Administration should be focused on ways to combat radical Islamic terrorism and defeat groups like ISIS.”
Reports indicate that some of the prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to terrorist activities. In fact, a recent report from Reuters indicates that two more former Guantanamo detainees have rejoined militant groups.
“Reports have indicated that it was a former Guantanamo detainee who helped organize and plan the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya,” said Rep. Byrne. “Four Americans lost their lives during that attack.”
There are currently 61 prisoners remaining at the Guantanamo Bay prison whom the government has deemed too dangerous to move.
Rep. Byrne spoke out on favor the Gitmo bill in a short speech on the House floor, which can be viewed below.
Alabama congresswoman pushes gun control with ‘sit-in’ on House floor
WASHINGTON — Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7) joined her Democratic colleagues on the House floor tuesday for a sit-in designed to force Republicans to vote on more stringent gun control measures.
Several proposals that would have expanded background checks in various ways failed to meet the 60-vote threshold needed to push forward in the Senate, sending Democratic lawmakers into a public meltdown.
Several Democrats openly said that Republicans’ refusal to pass new gun control laws in the wake of the recent Orlando nightclub terrorist attack meant conservatives would rather sell guns to the so called Islamic State than buck the National Rifle Association (NRA).
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 20, 2016
The NRA shot back with an email blast to its members saying, “They’re blaming you… for the terrorist attack in Orlando and taking advantage of this tragedy to push their gun control agenda while emotions run high.”
Democrats in the House then decided to stage a sit-in on the House floor, which they hoped would gain widespread coverage on television. However, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) put the House in recess, meaning the C-Span cameras that normally capture the action on the floor were turned off. Democrats then turned to social media apps like Periscope and Twitter to get their message out.
Sewell, a three-term House member from Birmingham, tweeted out an image of her sitting “in solidarity” with her Democratic colleagues.
— Rep. Terri A. Sewell (@RepTerriSewell) June 22, 2016
Second Amendment issues often unite conservatives and liberals in Alabama, where gun rights are deeply engrained in the state’s culture. This time, however, Sewell — the state’s lone Democratic member of congress — has put herself out on an island.
The sit-in is a misdirected attempt to distract the public from the true issue, radical Islamic terrorism.
— Gary Palmer (@USRepGaryPalmer) June 22, 2016
House restricts Confederate flag cemetery displays over Alabama Republicans’ objections
WASHINGTON — The GOP-controled United States House of Representatives has voted to restrict Confederate flag displays at national cemeteries over the objections of the vast majority of Republicans, including Alabama’s delegation.
Alabama’s lone Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL7) supported the measure, while the state’s six Republicans were opposed. The bill ultimately passed 265-159, with 84 Republicans joining all but one House Democrat in pushing the measure through.
The bill does not completely ban Confederate flags at national cemeteries, but limits the display of flags on individual graves to only two days each year — Confederate Memorial Day and Memorial Day — and bans the flags from being flown over large monuments or on flag polls.
“What we are seeing is a politically charged symbol being used to divide people along racial lines,” said Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL4). “But the truth of the matter is that the only people that are doing that today are the proponents of this amendment to remove flags from cemetery property.
“Every time the flag issue dies away from the news it is raised from the dead by people that seek to keep it alive for their own political purposes,” Aderholt continued. “It is time to let the dead remain dead. We should honor the dead in a peaceful way for their sacrifice instead of using them as a distraction from the important matters at hand.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan allowed the bill to come up for a vote in spite of it not having the support of the majority of Republicans. The relatively new speaker touted the move as an indication that the House has returned to “regular order” under his leadership and now allows open debate and votes on contentious issues.
“What changed is we have to get through these things, and if we’re going to have open rules and appropriations, which we have, which is regular order, people are going to have to take tough votes,” Ryan told reporters after the bill passed. “And I think people are acknowledging this — this is the kind of conversation we’ve had all along with our members, which is tough votes happen in open rules.
“People have to get used to that fact. That’s the way regular order works,” he added. “People realize the last thing we should do is derail our own appropriations process.”
A staffer for a Georgia Republican congressman compared the effort to ISIS’ terrorists destroying monuments in the Middle East.
“You know who else supports destroying history so that they can advance their own agenda?” Asked Pete Sanborn, legislative director for Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.). “ISIL. Don’t be like ISIL.”
Senator moves to block ‘revisionist movement’ from ‘whitewashing’ Alabama history
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama Senator Gerald Allen believes there is a “revisionist movement” seeking to “whitewash” Alabama history, and he plans to do something about it during the upcoming legislative session.
In a move first reported by the Montgomery Advertiser, Senator Allen has introduced a bill that would prohibit cities from removing “any object of remembrance” from public property without first receiving permission from the Legislative Council, a 20-member group of Senate and House members.
“This legislation is about protecting all of Alabama’s history for every Alabamian, which includes the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement,” Allen said Monday morning.
Senator Allen’s bill was first introduced this past summer, around the time Birmingham’s Parks and Recreation board voted to remove a Confederate monument in Linn Park, directly across the street from Birmingham’s city hall and the Jefferson County Courthouse.
Funded and erected by the Pelham chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy on April 26, 1905, the monument had remained in place through the Jim Crow era, the Civil Rights movement, and for the 50 years since the Voting Rights Act.
But in the fallout of the Charleston Shootings, when a white supremacist shot and killed 9 African-Americans in a South Carolina church, vestiges of honor or remembrance of the Confederacy began being threatened with removal from public property.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley also removed the Confederate Battle Flag from the Alabama Capitol Grounds, although the Confederate Monument still remains.
“There is a revisionist movement afoot to cover over many parts of American history,” said Senator Allen. “Our national and state history should be remembered as it happened. This politically-correct movement to strike whole periods of the past from our collective memory is divisive and unnecessary.”
Additionally, if Allen’s bill gains approval, renaming a “school, street, bridge, building, park, preserve, or reserve” that bears the name of “an event, a person, a group, a movement, or military service” would also require the Council’s approval.
The Alabama Senate voted last year to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which was famously crossed by civil rights activists on “Bloody Sunday” in 1965, the “Journey to Freedom Bridge.” The bridge was named after Edmund Pettus, a Confederate general, Grand Dragon of the Alabama KKK, and Democratic Senator.
“There are many things in our society to change that are more significant than the name of a bridge,” wrote Senator Hank Sanders (D-Selma), the resolution’s sponsor, “but removing this vestige of the past will serve as a parallel to the ongoing journey towards equal rights, fair representation and open opportunity.”
The bill did not gain approval by the full legislature, and sparked a backlash from both Republicans and Democrats, including Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7).
“I am strongly opposed to changing the name of the Edmund Pettus Bridge,” she said at the time. “The historical irony is an integral part of the complicated history of Selma — a city known for its pivotal role in Civil War and the civil rights movement.
“The bridge is an iconic symbol of the struggle for voting rights in America, and its name is as significant as its imposing structure. Changing the name of the bridge would change the course of history and compromise the historical integrity of the voting rights movement. As inheritors of the legacy surrounding the historical events that took place in Selma, we must safeguard that history–good and bad and resist attempts to rewrite it.”
Senator Allen’s bill to preserve history is expected to get consideration when the Legislature convenes for the 2016 Regular Legislative Sessions on February 2.
Aderholt only Alabama Republican to support $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill
WASHINGTON — A $1.1 trillion bill to fund the government through next September flew through the House (316-113) and Senate (65-33) on Friday, but only garnered support from two individuals in Alabama’s nine-member federal delegation. Alabama’s lone Democratic representative Terri Sewell (D-AL7) was joined in supporting the bill by Republican Robert Aderholt (R-AL4), while the other seven Alabama Republicans voted no.
“This bill is more known for what it is not than for what it is,” Aderholt told Yellowhammer in a statement. “While I was able to get some important language included for the pro-life movement, the bill does not contain other riders I had hoped for such as tying the President’s hands in the Syrian refugees and peeling back the EPA water regulation. That is a big disappointment.”
The pro-life language Aderholt had inserted into the 2,009-page bill blocks the genetic manipulation of human embryos. Aderholt said he was opposed to other portions of the bill, which included funding for Planned Parenthood, and according to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), President Obama’s “entire immigration agenda,” including the Syrian refugee resettlement program and expansion of foreign worker visas.
“There is a reason that GOP voters are in open rebellion,” Sessions said in a statement announcing his opposition to the bill. “They have come to believe that their party’s elites are not only uninterested in defending their interests but – as with this legislation, and fast-tracking the President’s international trade pact – openly hostile to them.”
Sessions was joined in the senate by his Alabama colleague Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who also voted against the measure while calling its final passage a “victory” for President Obama.
“Today I once again said ‘no’ to handing over a blank check to President Obama with this 2,000 page, trillion-dollar spending bill filled with liberal victories,” said Shelby. “Not only does this fiscally irresponsible bill allow the President to continue his dangerous Syrian refugee resettlement plan, it does nothing to stop funding for lawless sanctuary cities that protect criminal illegal immigrants. It also does nothing to end taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. Simply put, this bill represents a victory for President Obama and his liberal allies – not for the American people.”
In the House, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL7) said she voted for the bill “after a thoughtful and thorough review,” citing its funding for “Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and other minority serving institutions.”
“This is not a perfect bill,” she said, “but I am proud that both sides of the aisle were able to work out a compromise that benefits our nation, and helps us continue to grow.”
Conservative criticisms of the bill included familiar frustrations with the process used to craft it, in addition to the policy provisions. In spite of the bill being over 2,000 pages long, members were only given a couple of days to review it.
“The good news is that this bill is the last vestiges of Speaker Boehner’s style of leadership,” Aderholt said. “And in two weeks we will start putting together a bill with conservative principles that will pass with conservative votes.”
Aderholt is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and could play a significant role in crafting the next funding legislation.
Alabama’s lone Democrat joins Republicans, bucks Obama on Syrian refugee program
Defying a veto threat by President Barack Obama, Alabama’s congressional delegation unanimously backed legislation to halt the influx of Syrian refugees and intensify the security screenings of refugees going forward. The bill was approved by a vote of 289 to 137, with 47 Democrats including Alabama Congressman Terri Sewell (D-AL7), joining Republicans in creating a veto-proof supermajority.
The American SAFE Act would not allow refugees from Iraq or Syria to enter the United States until multiple U.S. national security and intelligence officials verify they do not pose a terrorist threat. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tx.) said the bill creates “the most robust national security screening process in American history for any refugee population.” The measure now proceeds to the Senate.
The White House maintains that the bill would create “unnecessary and impractical requirements” on persecuted families seeking refuge in the U.S. while adding no additional security to Americans.
Yellowhammer sources in Washington say the White House made a direct appeal to Rep. Sewell, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, urging her to stand by the president. Sewell said she supports the refugee program as a whole, but could not vote against the security of the American people.
“I am convinced that we must be more vigilant in our refugee screening and vetting processes,” she said. “The bill seeks to strengthen the screening process by prohibiting refugees from Syria and Iraq from being admitted into the United States without a more comprehensive background check and by adding government certification to our already robust security screening protocol.”
The office of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), however, characterized the bill is not the central focus of their efforts, saying Congress should use the power of the purse to defund the Refugee Resettlement Program altogether.
The current funding proposal before Congress would not only authorize the President’s plan to bring in 85,000 refugees on top of the current, historical annual immigration flow, but would also allow for an unlimited amount of money to be spent on lifetime welfare and benefits for refugees.
100 refugees are currently slated to be housed in Alabama by Catholic Social Services. The date of their arrival is uncertain.
Senator Sessions and Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) have taken the lead on the defund effort in the Senate.
The two conservative Alabama senators released the following joint statement Tuesday afternoon:
As Chairmen of Subcommittees on both the Appropriations and Judiciary Committees, we believe it is essential that any government funding bill cancel the President’s blank check for refugee resettlement. Long before the barbaric attacks in Paris, government officials and investigators have stated that we do not have the capacity to effectively screen Syrian refugees. The bloody assaults on the streets of France add new urgency to an already dangerous situation. Right now, our refugee program – like all of our visa programs – runs on autopilot. Each year, millions of visas go out the door without any input or action from Congress. We would not accept this policy for the federal budget, and we should not accept it for immigration. We therefore urge the inclusion of a provision in any omnibus spending bill that makes it absolutely clear that no refugee resettlement will take place without a separate, affirmative Congressional vote to authorize any resettlement and offset its huge costs.
MORE ABOUT THE SYRIAN REFUGEE DEBATE:
1. White House refuses Bentley’s request for classified info on Syrian refugees coming to Alabama
2. Byrne introduces bill to ‘eliminate all funding’ for Syrian refugee resettlement
3. More than 100 Syrian refugees could soon be in Mobile, given Medicaid and food stamps
4. Bentley to Obama: Evil exists, Alabama cannot risk accepting Syrian refugees
5. Shelby, Sessions tag-team Obama’s Syrian refugee program, move to revoke its funding
6. Bentley: Use ‘all lawful means necessary’ to keep Syrian refugees out of Alabama
7. Legal experts disagree on whether Alabama has a right to refuse Syrian refugees
8. Map shows Alabama has already received hundreds of Middle East refugees in recent years
9. Sessions moves to revoke funding for Syrian refugee resettlement
10. Condoleezza Rice sums up why allowing Syrian refugees into Alabama is a bad idea
On Veterans Day Alabama Lawmakers express gratitude for those who have served in the military
WASHINGTON — As thousands of Alabamians gather today to commemorate and celebrate the military men and women who have served the United States with honor. It’s more than a day off from work, or a parade bedecked with red, white, and blue banners. Veterans Day is a time for all Americans to reflect on the ways we can serve those who served us.
In that spirit, many Alabama lawmakers have released statements expressing their gratitude for the nation’s veterans.
Senator Richard Shelby (R): Today I proudly join my colleagues and Americans across the country in paying tribute to our nation’s veterans and their families. Without the selfless sacrifices of the courageous men and women in uniform, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans would not be possible.
On Veterans Day and every day, we must remember that freedom comes at a great price, and that we owe our active duty and retired servicemen and women a debt of gratitude. Our veterans’ unwavering commitment to defending security and prosperity should never be forgotten.
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1): “Today we celebrate Veterans Day, and we honor the men and women who have served in the United States military.
“These are the individuals who throughout our nation’s history have put country above themselves.
“As humans, it seems like we are programmed to avoid any situation that would put us in danger. That’s why there is something truly remarkable about the men and women in our military who choose to run toward danger. These American heroes aren’t afraid of a challenge; when faced with adversity, they simply push themselves harder and reach even higher.
“Despite their service and sacrifice, the Department of Veterans Affairs is leaving far too many veterans behind. The broken bureaucracy at the VA is failing our veterans, and reform is desperately needed.
Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL2): Today we celebrate and honor the men and women who have courageously and selflessly served in the Armed Forces.
On this Veterans Day, I encourage you to take a moment to thank not only those who have worn the uniform, but their families as well. We can never thank our soldiers and their families enough for the great sacrifices they make daily on our behalf, but today is a special opportunity for our nation to pause and express our sincere gratitude.
I remain committed to fighting in Congress to ensure veterans receive the care that they need and deserve. In fact, my bill to overhaul the accountability process for VA medical centers is before the Veterans Affairs Committee next week, a hopeful step towards a final vote.
It’s truly an honor to represent so many who have served this country in uniform and to work on their behalf.
Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL6): “I want to wholeheartedly express my appreciation to each and every one of our veterans, both in Alabama and throughout America,” Palmer said. “Our national anthem calls the America the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.’ A popular rephrasing of that is that America is ‘Land of the free because of the brave.’ It remains free because brave citizens choose to join our armed forced and serve their country sacrificially.”
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7): “Today we salute the selfless sacrifices of our nation’s 21 million veterans. These patriots have kept our nation safe while defending our nation at home and abroad. They have served our country with distinction, and we should honor them for their bravery and courage with actions — not simply words.
“Congress must continue to support and provide critical resources to the Veterans Administration (VA) to ensure that our veterans have access to quality health care, good-paying jobs, affordable housing, and opportunities to continue their education. We should not deny the very liberties they fought to protect, nor deny them any benefits they so fittingly deserve.
“I am committed to ensuring that we honor the promises that were made to these American heroes. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to them and their families by vowing to make sure they succeed. They deserve nothing less.”
This story may be updated.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015
The net worth of Alabama’s congressional delegation ranges from -$80k up to $4.2m (details)
Inside-the-beltway publication Roll Call just released its yearly ranking of Congress’s wealthiest and poorest members. Using publicly available financial disclosures, Roll Call created its “Wealth of Congress Index,” revealing interesting nuggets of information about members’ finances while also exposing how the current system often creates “the illusion of transparency.”
For instance, congressmen and senators are required to list the amount owed on their mortgage(s), but not the equity in their home(s). This makes many of them appear “poorer” than they actually are. Additionally, members are only required to report the value of their assets in broad ranges, rather than in specifics.
A few interesting stats from Roll Call:
The median net worth among all 535 members is more than five times that for all U.S. households, $81,400 in 2013. Half the senators and 140 House members are paper millionaires, but just 5 percent of all adults are, in the estimate of Credit Suisse Research.
And the richest 50 lawmakers were worth at least $7.3 million at the start of the year. The current threshold for being a member of ‘the one percent’ is a net worth of about $7.9 million, according to the most recent Federal Reserve study of census data.
For the third consecutive year, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is the richest member of Congress with a net worth of $255 million.
Roll Call explains how he built his fortune:
The backstory behind Issa’s fortune has become the stuff of congressional legend. After being charged — but never convicted — as a young man in two car theft cases, he invested $7,000 and loans from his family in a struggling Cleveland consumer electronics business in the early 1980s. Within a few years, he’d transformed his holdings into DEI, moved to California to take advantage of a surge in auto thefts and unveiled the enormously popular and profitable Viper car alarm. (He used his own sonorous baritone to record the system’s signature warnings: “Protected by Viper. Stand back,” and, “Please step away from the car.”)
For the second straight year, Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) is the poorest member of Congress, with massive credit lines related to his dairy farm leaving him $8.75 million in the hole.
Alabama’s delegation finds themselves scattered in between those two with net worths ranging from $4.2 million (Sen. Richard Shelby) on the high end, down to -$80,000 (Rep. Terri Sewell).
Here’s how each of Alabama’s congressmen and senators ranks overall. Head over to Roll Call to see the full list.
The net worth of Alabama’s congressional delegation ranges from -$80k up to $4.2m (details) https://t.co/5uYfJ7OadE
— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) November 2, 2015
Palmer breaks with Alabama delegation, votes against Ex-Im Bank’s ‘corporate welfare’
WASHINGTON — Six-to-one votes are not uncommon among Alabama’s congressional delegation. With six Republicans and only one Democrat, many votes fall along partisan lines. But a six-to-one vote this week was a bit more unusual. While Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL7) joined five Alabama Republicans in supporting the reauthorization of the controversial Export-Import Bank, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL6) broke with his GOP colleagues to vote against what many conservatives have called “corporate welfare.”
The Ex-Im Bank, as it is known, was originally chartered by progressive icon Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. It was a “federal government corporation” that provides taxpayer-backed loans to foreign entities who want to buy American-made goods, but cannot secure credit in the private sector because of the risks. The bank’s charter mandates at least 20 percent its outlays benefit small businesses, but that rule has been frequently violated over the years.
In 2013 76 percent of the bank’s spending went to its top ten beneficiaries. That year Boeing, the largest beneficiary of the bank for several years, received $8.3 billion in aid from the guaranteed loans taken out by the purchasers of their exports.
The Ex-Im Bank has received vocal support from many business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“The Ex-Im Bank plays a significant role in Alabama’s job creation efforts,” said William J. Canary, the CEO of the Business Council of Alabama. “More than 80 Alabama-based exporters in various industries including forest products, chemicals, transportation and fabricated metal products have used the agency when private-sector banks could not help.”
But in spite of an intense lobbying effort by business groups, President Barack Obama and Republican congressional Leadership, the bank’s charter expired after Congress did not renew it by the June 30, 2015 deadline.
Conservative organizations waged an intense campaign against reauthorizing the bank, but the most crushing blow may have been delivered by powerful Senate Banking Committee chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
“After years of efforts to reform the Ex-Im Bank, it has become clear to me that its problems are beyond repair and that the Bank’s expiration is in the best interest of American taxpayers,” Sen. Shelby told Yellowhammer at the time. “Nearly 99% of all American exports are financed without the Ex-Im Bank, which demonstrates that subsidies are more about corporate welfare than advancing our economy.”
However, 127 Republicans and 186 Democrats voted this week to bring the bank back to life. This time only one House Democrat voted against it, but 117 Republicans, including newly-elected House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), opposed it.
Congressman Palmer’s office said his vote against reauthorization speaks for itself and declined to comment further.
The bank’s future is now uncertain. Many congressmen and senators on both sides of the aisle are conflicted because, in spite of their philosophical opposition to “corporate welfare,” the bank has benefited exporters in their states.
Senate Democrats were blocked from reauthorizing it on Thursday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not allow a standalone bill to come up for a vote. The next move may be to attach Ex-Im reauthorization to a larger funding bill.
Palmer breaks with Alabama delegation, votes against Ex-Im Bank’s ‘corporate welfare’ https://t.co/hNaZnEXJf3
— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) October 30, 2015
Sewell helps secure for Birmingham $20 million federal transportation grant for rapid bus system
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL 7) announced Monday that a $20 million Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation has been awarded to Birmingham. Sewell advocated for the City of Birmingham’s application to use the money in order to construct a 15-mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. The project plans to connect 25 West and East Birmingham neighborhoods that are on opposite sides of the city.
This TIGER Grant, or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) is a competitive grant program that issues projects for economic development in a given area. The program will work to connect urban and rural areas stimulating employment, education, and workforce development growth.
“I am proud to have helped secure this $20 million TIGER Grant for this critically important project. Birmingham is a City on the rise, and this project will support our efforts to improve our public transportation, and revitalize the Magic City,” said Rep. Sewell.
The proposed route will connect neighborhoods as far west as Legion field and as far east as the airport to downtown, which could relieve interstate and highway congestion as well as provide an affordable public transportation option for those further from the city center.
The city’s public transportation situation has long been viewed as one of the obstacles most hampering Birmingham’s recent revival; as businesses and jobs have begun returning to the Magic City, so has bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic.
The BRT will use the new intermodal transportation hub, which will also serve Amtrak, intercity bus providers such as Greyhound and Megabus, as well as the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority’s MAX city bus service.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell says that Sewell’s successful mission will have a lasting positive impact on Birmingham communities for years to come.
“The significance of this funding is that it allows us to connect the eastern and western parts of town with the city center providing access to jobs, education opportunities and healthcare in a transformative way. This was a collaborative effort and our thanks go out to the team of people that worked to secure this grant, especially Congresswoman Sewell who made it her mission to get it approved,” said Birmingham Mayor William Bell.
“This is a wonderful day for the Birmingham-Jefferson County (BJCTA) area,” said Rev. Patrick Sellers, the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority Board Chairman. “We can now move towards the next generation of public transit in the area with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). This funding will help us continue toward our mission to provide world-class transit service that is convenient, reliable and safe.”
According to the Department of Transportation policy, applicants of the TIGER Grant must have detailed plans of their projects under five long-term goals: safety, economic competitiveness, state of good repair, quality of life, and environment sustainability.
Congress has enabled TIGER to receive more than $4.1 billion to fund projects since 2009. These projects are said to have had significant impact on the United States regional and metropolitan communities.
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— John James (@john_james_20) August 19, 2015
Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists
HOOVER, Ala. — Speaking to the predominantly black Alabama Democratic Conference on Friday, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential frontrunner insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its “Jim Crow past.”
“This is wrong,” Clinton said. “Fifty years after Rosa Parks sat and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched and John Lewis bled, it is hard to believe we are back having this same debate about whether or not every American gets a chance to vote and exercise his rights.
“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she continued. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley pushed back against Clinton’s claims, suggesting the former secretary of state is promoting a false racial narrative in an effort to advance her personal political agenda.
“It seems Mrs. Clinton isn’t as well versed in Alabama’s budgeting process as she is in exploiting a situation for her personal political gain,” Bentley said. “If she were, she would know the closure of 31 Alabama Driver’s License offices is based on a shortfall in funds appropriated by the state Legislature to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. To claim this decision is based on race is absolutely not true. Suggesting otherwise should be considered an effort to promote a political agenda, an area where Mrs. Clinton has often clearly demonstrated her expertise.”
Alabama’s photo voter ID law, which requires voters to present any one of fifteen forms of valid identification, went into effect in 2014.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has assured voters his office will work tirelessly to provide free voter IDs across the state, with a special focus on those counties now without a satellite license office.
“The closure of 31 DMV offices will not leave citizens without a place to receive the required I.D. card to vote,” said Secretary Merrill. “All 67 counties in Alabama have a Board of Registrars that issue photo voter I.D. cards. If for some reason those citizens are not able to make it to the Board of Registrars, we’ll bring our mobile I.D. van and crew to that county. By October 31 our office will have brought the mobile I.D. van to every county in Alabama at least once.”
The state government’s efforts have not, however, stopped Democrats both inside and outside of Alabama from seizing the opportunity to make a political statement.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, Alabama’s lone Democratic congressional representative, even called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Bentley administration’s decision to shutter rural DMVs.
“My office sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for a full, and thorough investigation into the decision to close 31 driver’s license offices across Alabama,” Sewell said last week. “This ill-conceived decision left 8 out of the 14 counties in my district – which is the only majority minority district in the state – without a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue an Alabama driver’s license. The real issue here is about access. Closing these license offices will severely limit access to the most popular form of photo identification used in voting – a state issued driver’s license.”
Jesse Jackson also flew into the state and called Alabama “disgraceful.”
Gov. Bentley dismissed the criticism and said Mrs. Clinton in particular should focus on issues she would actually have to deal with if she became President.
“Alabama will continue to work toward solutions to solve our budget shortfalls,” he said. “Meanwhile Mrs. Clinton can work to solve our country’s $18 Trillion deficit, in the unfortunate event she is elected President.”
The voter-ID fracas in Alabama is much ado about nothing (Opinion)
This op-ed was originally published by National Review Online.
By Hans A. von Spakovsky
Many on the left are in a ferment over Alabama’s closure of some part-time Department of Motor Vehicles offices. It’s being done for budgetary reasons, but liberals are claiming it’s being done to raise a “barrier for poor and minority voters” in getting an ID to vote, according to the Washington Post. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that “it’s a blast from the Jim Crow past” and Jesse Jackson claimed that “this new Jim Crow isn’t subtle.”
It’s really a sign of how desperate critics of voter-ID laws are that they would raise such inflammatory, ridiculous claims over a budget issue that has nothing to do with race, Jim Crow, or discrimination. After all, they’ve been steadily losing their fight against voter ID in the courts, with only a few exceptions, and in the realm of public opinion.
Alabama’s new voter-ID law for both in-person and absentee voting went into effect last year. Despite the outcries that it would “suppress” votes, there have been no problems or complaints that anyone has been unable to vote because of the new requirement. It’s been the same in all of the other states, such as Georgia and Indiana, that have implemented such ID laws. I’ve written numerous papers looking at turnout data in states after ID laws became effective — ID laws have no discernible effect on decreasing or preventing turnout.
Alabama has 44 driver’s-license offices throughout the state. It apparently also had 31 satellite offices that were open only part-time and that accounted for less than 5 percent of the driver’s licenses issued each year. Because of the budget passed by the state legislature, Alabama’s state government had to “allocate scarce limited resources in Fiscal Year 2016,” according to a letter sent by Governor Robert Bentley to Representative Terri Sewell (D., Ala). So the state government decided to close these satellite offices. Sewell is one of the critics whose “impulsive, ill-informed” comments about that decision were, Governor Bentley says, “based on irresponsible media reports.”
What all of the media and critics missed or deliberately ignored is that, in addition to being able to use a driver’s license to meet the voter-ID requirement, you can get a free voter ID in every single county in the state. In addition to DMV offices, the secretary of state offers free voter IDs in all 67 counties through the local election registrar.
Furthermore, as Governor Bentley points out, those satellite offices being closed are typically “located in the county buildings where the registrars and probate judges offices are located.” So individuals who would have used one of the part-time satellite DMV offices to get an ID will be able to simply walk to another office – in the same building — to get the ID they need for voting. And that is supposed to be the reimposition of Jim Crow?
Alabama even provides a free birth certificate or marriage license if you need it to get an ID. And if you can’t access a polling place because you are disabled or elderly, you don’t have to have an ID to vote by absentee ballot. Additionally, Alabama will continue to provide “mobile units to register and develop photo identification cards to those who need it throughout the state, and who may find themselves limited by lack of transportation,” according to Governor Bentley.
Finally, none of the critics mention that, in addition to driver’s licenses and the specially issued voter-ID cards, you can vote in Alabama also using an ID issued by any state or the federal government — a passport; a local, state, or federal-government ID; a student ID issued by any private or public Alabama college; and a military or tribal ID.
Jesse Jackson is headed to Alabama to protest what he calls an effort “to suppress the vote, skewed to discriminate against minorities.” And he is demanding a Justice Department investigation, although the only thing the Civil Rights Division lawyers would have to investigate is how many additional steps a voter will have to take to walk to the registrar’s office in the county government building to get an ID.
How many extra steps would it take to violate the Voting Rights Act in the view of the Obama Justice Department? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.
Hans A. von Spakovsky is an Alabama native and a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
Hillary Clinton, Democrats level racism charges against Alabama for closing Driver License offices
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) decision to handle budget cuts by closing 31 part-time satellite Driver License offices as “a blast from the Jim Crow past.”
The move by ALEA has invited national criticism, with Democrats and the media, in particular, calling it a large step backward in a state with a troublesome racial history such as Alabama’s.
The controversy is aggravated by Alabama’s Voter ID law, first implemented in 2014, which requires voters present one of fifteen forms of valid identification.
Though Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill assured voters his office would work relentlessly to provide free non-driver voter IDs across the state, with a special focus on those counties now without a satellite license office, Clinton and many others have seized the situation to make a political statement.
“I strongly oppose Alabama’s decision to close driver’s license offices across the state, especially in counties that have a significant majority of African-Americans,” said Clinton. “Just a few years ago, Alabama passed a law requiring citizens to have a photo ID to vote. Now they’re shutting down places where people get those photo IDs. This is only going to make it harder for people to vote. It’s a blast from the Jim Crow past.”
Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7), the only Democratic member of the state’s congressional delegation, who has endorsed Clinton, also blasted the move, calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the decision.
“My office sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for a full, and thorough investigation into the decision to close 31 driver’s license offices across Alabama,” said Sewell in a statement released Monday morning. “This ill-conceived decision left 8 out of the 14 counties in my district – which is the only majority minority district in the state – without a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue an Alabama driver’s license.
“The real issue here is about access. Closing these license offices will severely limit access to the most popular form of photo identification used in voting – a state issued driver’s license.”
ALEA Director Spencer Collier rejects the idea that the decision had any political or racial undertones, stating that it was simply the solution to the budget that impacted the fewest number of people.
The State Legislature’s black caucus has been “the strongest supporters of ALEA and what we’re trying to do,” said Collier. “I can assure you there’s nothing political in this. If that was the case, those are the places I would want to keep open.”
“In July, I announced several advancements that will help the Driver License issuance process, including online scheduling, online driver license renewals and duplicates, self-serve kiosks, digital licensing for smart phones, and statewide equipment upgrades. Since making that announcement, we have had over 40,000 transactions online,” Collier said in a statement last week. “The impact of the changes due to the budget cuts will be lessened because of the implementation of these technology-based services, including online renewals.”
The 31 offices closed, Collier added, processed only 5 percent of Alabama’s 1.2 million drivers licenses every year.
Regardless of the implications of Clinton’s weighing in on the subject and Sewell’s plea to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, there is some question whether the complete closure of the offices is legal, given the language of the budget law Governor Bentley signed in September, which explicitly prohibits the Alabama Law Enforcement Association from closing any drivers license offices that were open as of October 1st, 2014, and that any reductions in force focus on areas that don’t directly serve the public.
The Alabama Supreme Court declined Governor Bentley’s request for the judicial branch to weigh in on whether or not the law’s directive usurped the executive branch’s authority.
In addition to Drivers Licenses the following, unexpired, unrevoked forms of identification are acceptable as well:
Nondriver ID, Alabama Photo Voter ID card, State Issued ID, Federal Issued ID, US Passport, Employee ID from the Federal Government, State of Alabama, County, Municipality, Board or other entity of Alabama, Student or employee ID from a public of private college or university in the State of Alabama, Military ID, or a Tribal ID.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015
Ala. Republican delegation votes unanimously against funding Planned Parenthood
WASHINGTON — Though Congress ultimately passed a “continuing resolution” (CR) Wednesday funding the federal government, including abortion provider Planned Parenthood, for the next two months, it wasn’t without significant pushback from Alabama’s congressional Republicans, who all voted against the bill.
The CR has become an oft-used short-term funding mechanism that essentially circumvents the normal budgeting and appropriations process by putting lawmakers into do-or-die funding situations. The CR passed Wednesday is particularly short term, running out on December 11th.
Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL5), in particular took issue with this method of appropriating federal funds. “Continuing resolutions are the absolute worst way to fund the federal government,” Brooks said in a press release after the vote. “They continue past spending habits that do not reflect changing circumstances and priorities. They continue America’s irresponsible deficit spending. They are last-second spending bills timed to risk calamity in order to force bad policy and pork spending down the throats of otherwise responsible Senators and Congressmen.
“Continuing resolutions wreak havoc on communities like those that surround Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center because they inhibit the ability of federal government contractors to let military and NASA contracts that provide jobs to more than 30,000 Tennessee Valley workers. How can government contracting officers award contracts when they only have funding for days, weeks, or, in this case, two months?”
Both of Alabama’s Senators voted against the bill as well.
“While I believe that it is critical for the government to stay open and running, I opposed this short-term funding measure because it does not put an end to taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood,” said Sen. Shelby. “Senate Democrats have continually blocked our efforts to ensure that taxpayer dollars are focused on women’s health care and protecting the innocent lives of the unborn. I will continue to support pro-life policies while also pushing for conservative priorities in our appropriations measures.”
Sen. Sessions delivered a speech on the floor of the senate last week imploring Congress to “do its duty” and use the power of the purse to defund Planned Parenthood and protect life, but his remarks fell on deaf ears.
Senate GOP leadership said they would not take drastic measures to pass a bill defunding the organization, fearing the blame would fall on Republicans if a partial shutdown of government services occurred because President Obama vetoed their bill.
Alabama’s Republican congressmen unanimously stood against the funding measure.
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL1): “As I have said before, I refuse to make a habit of voting for short-term spending bills that fail to address our nation’s spending issues and continue the dangerous cycle of governing from crisis to crisis. It has been over four years since the Senate has passed an individual appropriations bill, and that is the root of the problem. We must return to passing individual, targeted funding bills that allow Congress to set national priorities, and this bill failed to do that.”
“The federal government should not be sending a single penny to Planned Parenthood or any group that performs abortions. The House has now acted on multiple occasions to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and it is the Senate’s turn to follow our lead.”
Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL2): “I have always been upfront with those I represent about the low likelihood of defunding Planned Parenthood, especially in a stop-gap spending bill. Pro-life advocates in my state and around this country understand the math. And, while they hope Senate Democrats will change their hearts, they don’t really expect them to. What they do expect is for us to try; to fight to the end; to exhaust every possible option in our effort to stop their tax dollars from flowing to this organization.”
Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL4): “This afternoon I cast a vote against the Continuing Resolution that was before the House of Representatives. My no vote was for one reason; in that this legislation continues to fully fund Planned Parenthood. In good conscience I could not vote to continue the flow of taxpayer dollars to an organization that engages in something so horrific as selling parts of aborted babies.
“Let me be clear, I don’t support a government shut down. However, this was simply a vote to do what’s right. I, along with my fellow Republicans, was willing to fund every department, every service and every agency of the federal government except for Planned Parenthood. It is hard to believe the Democrats in the Senate would filibuster continued government funding for the entire federal government for one program like Planned Parenthood.”
Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7), Alabama’s lone Democrat, voted to approve the bill.
“Congress cannot continue to govern crisis-by-crisis. We narrowly averted a government shutdown with today’s vote, and that’s not a position where we should be. The American people should expect more from the leaders they elected to serve them.
“I voted in favor of a Continuing Resolution that maintains government funding through December 11, 2015. I am cautiously optimistic that Congress can come up with a long-term solution before the December deadline, and I urge my colleagues to put aside partisan politics in order to do what’s best for our nation.”
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015
Congresswoman Sewell visits Alabama National Guard Special Forces in Iraq
WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7) met this week with members of the Alabama National Guard’s 20th Special Forces unit while receiving briefings on the current U.S. Department of Defense training mission with Syrian fighters and the Iraqi Army during a four-day trip to Iraq.
“Our brave men and women in uniform play an integral role in Iraq, and my visit to Ebril and Baghdad deepened my appreciation for the sacrifices they have made to protect our country,” said Rep. Sewell I was especially honored to meet with members of the Alabama National Guard’s 20th Special Forces division, and to learn more about their vital mission in Iraq. I want to thank these remarkable Alabama National Guardsmen for their exemplary service to our nation during their deployment in Iraq. I am especially proud to acknowledge the critical role that Alabama troops are playing in the fight against global terrorism.
Congresswoman Sewell is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
On Facebook, Congresswoman Sewell said she wishes to salute the brave men and women working to keep our country safe.
National Guard’s 20th Special Forces are known as the “quiet professionals.” According to National Guard’s 20th Special Forces website, “The soldiers who make up the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) of the Army National Guard are unique professionals with an unconventional method for waging war and an innovative approach to winning…”They are the best at what they do. Their training, intelligence, courage and esprit de corps make them so.”
As part of U.S. Special Operations Command, The Alabama National Guard’s 20th Special Forces Group (A), are currently deployed in Northern Iraq in the Kurdish Region. They primary assignment is to advise and assist the Iraqi Army and Peshmerga Forces as they prepare to fight and ultimately defeat ISIS.
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— John James (@john_james_20) August 19, 2015
Civil Rights heroine Dr. Amelia Boynton Robinson passes away at age 104
A pioneer in the Civil Rights movement, Amelia Boynton Robinson, died Wednesday at the age of 104, (1911-2015).
Earlier this year Dr. Boynton Robinson suffered a stroke had been hospitalized at Nolan Hospital in Montgomery since July 10.
A victim of the brutal beatings on “Bloody Sunday” while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma fifty years ago, Boynton Robinson is also known for her contributions to the voting rights movements. Her home was used as a field office for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders amidst the voter drives in Selma during the 1960s.
Boynton Robinson ran for Congress in 1964, and though she was unsuccessful her candidacy made her the first African American and first woman to run. In 1990 Boynton was honored for her contributions to the civil rights movement with the Martin Luther King Jr. Medal of Freedom.
A 1927 graduate of the then-Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, she was depicted in the movie Selma by actress Lorraine Toussaint, and when her health precluded her from attending a screening of the film, Paramount Pictures arranged to host a private viewing in her home with some of her closest friends and fellow veterans of the movement. At the conclusion of the film the whole room was emotional, and Boyton Robinson—who has been critical of previous depictions of her place in the civil rights fight—proclaimed “It was good, the movie is fantastic.”
Dr. Boynton Robinson made headlines in January when she stole the show at the State of the Union Address in Washington, D.C. by telling former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, “People always talk about, ‘I stand on the shoulders of people like you.’ Get off my shoulders, do your own work.”
Dr. Boynton Robinson attended the event as a guest of Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7).
Congresswoman Sewell expressed her condolences in a statement Wednesday.
“Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson will not only be remembered for her invaluable contributions as a matriarch of the voting rights movement but she was also the first black woman from the State of Alabama to run for Congress. Without her courageous campaign for the 7th Congressional District, I know that my election to this seat in 2010 would not have been possible. Her sacrifices paved the way for me to walk the halls of Congress and I will carry my love and admiration for her in my heart each and every day.”
According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Boynton was born in Savannah, Georgia. In Georgia she worked as an educator and in Selma, AL she worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture teaching local residents how to grow food and about nutritional health care.
Even towards the very end of her life she remained a constant symbol and advocate of the civil rights movement. Bruce Boynton, her son, says this about his mother’s legacy, “The truth of it is that was her entire life.” He continued saying, “She was a loving person, very supportive — but civil rights was her life.”
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— John James (@john_james_20) August 19, 2015
Alabamians celebrate progress, fight for reforms on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law which outlawed discriminatory voting practices, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, which were adopted after the Civil War to prevent African-Americans from registering and exercising their right to vote. It also established new legal protections for minority voters at the polls.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R-AL) will join with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the historic legislation.
“The state of Alabama and her people played pivotal roles and were featured in defining moments in the civil rights movement,” Secretary Merrill said in a press release. “It is because of the courage shown in Selma, Alabama, that we have made progress not only as a state, but a Nation. The passage of the Voting Rights Act has allowed us to make significant steps toward voting equality. As Secretary of State, I will continue to remind our citizens the importance of exercising their right to vote, and I will work to ensure that all eligible Alabamians can exercise their right to vote.”
Originally, Alabama and other southern states were subject to federal preclearance of any changes in voting law under section 4(b) of the VRA. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that provision in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder as it violated the “equal sovereignty of the states” by requiring that only some states get approval from the federal government based on “40 year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.”
Contrary to popular belief, the Shelby County case did not completely eliminate the ability of the federal government to screen states’ voting laws under section 5, but merely eliminated Congress’ section 4(b) formula which was last updated in 1975. The federalism question surrounding the general idea of preclearance went undressed as the elimination of the formula rendered it inoperable.
Alabama’s sole Congressional Democrat, Terri Sewell (D-AL7), believes that the lack of federal oversight leads to discrimination. In a press release commemorating the VRA’s anniversary, Sewell specifically cited Voter ID laws as the voting rights issue of today.
“We need not count marbles in a jar or memorize the name of every county judge, but new barriers have replaced overt efforts to suppress voter turnout,” Sewell wrote. “These new barriers – such as voter ID laws or changing polling locations without public notice – have been passed off as measures needed to protect the vote, but in reality they have only made it harder to vote.”
In the 2008 case of Crawford v. Marion County Board of Election (Indiana), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that a statute requiring voters to present photo identification is constitutional as it is closely related to a state’s legitimate interest in preventing voter fraud, modernizing elections, and safeguarding voter confidence.
Last March, Alabama passed a Voter ID law requiring Alabama voters to show a photo ID before being allowed to vote. The law went into effect for the 2014 elections.
Numerous types of photo IDs can be used by voters, including an Alabama driver’s license or non-driver ID, college ID, military ID, government employee ID, federal ID or passport. However, the Alabama Secretary of State’s office said today that they believe roughly 250,000 adults in the state do not currently have any form of photo identification.
For those folks, the State of Alabama is offering a free voter ID, which can be obtained at any local county board of registrars’ or Dept. of Public Safety office or at the secretary of state’s headquarters in Montgomery. Forms of non-photo ID that can be used to obtain a free photo ID include most IDs with a person’s full legal name and date of birth. Fishing and hunting licenses, social security cards, birth certificates, marriage records, military records, Medicaid and Medicare documents and school transcripts are all acceptable.