The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

Byrne: Serious about corruption? Investigate the Bidens

(Wikicommons, Bradley Byrne/Facebook, YHN)

Speaker Pelosi, Adam Schiff and their Democratic colleagues have spent countless hours and taxpayer dollars to find evidence that President Trump was involved in corruption. At the same time, Democrats refuse to even consider the fundamental issue at hand – was President Trump right to question the activities of Hunter Biden in Ukraine?

Months ago, media reported Hunter Biden’s shady business dealings. But, once impeachment began, the mainstream media moved to kill the story. We’re told nothing to see there. Yet each week, new information continues to emerge demanding a full investigation of the facts.

We know that Hunter Biden essentially made his living as a high-powered lobbyist benefiting from his father’s career as a senator and vice president.

506

When Joe was elected vice president, Hunter claimed to leave lobbying, but really he just shifted his game. He formed a series of companies with Christopher Heinz, the stepson of Foreign Affairs Committee chairman and later Secretary of State John Kerry. These kids, trading on their fathers’ names and political ties, made a pretty powerful combo.

As the New York Times reported, Biden and Heinz pursued multiple foreign business investments “where connections implied political influence and protection.”

These guys closed lucrative deals with China right after Hunter visited China on Air Force II with his father. Importantly, they were working in Ukraine while Joe was leading Ukrainian policy for the U.S to fight corruption.

Ukraine is known for its corruption. A small group of oligarchs holds most political power. Hunter and his company went to work for one of these guys and his notoriously corrupt energy company, Burisma Holdings. Hunter was paid up to $50,000 a month to sit on its board.

We know Hunter knew nothing about energy or Ukraine. But, when you’re dealing with a corrupt country like Ukraine, and the son of the vice president of the United States is involved in a corrupt company, that sends a signal to government officials when considering pursuing investigations.

At the same time, Vice President Biden was threatening to withhold aid to Ukraine unless they fired the prosecutor allegedly looking into Burisma. Senior State Department officials raised concerns about Hunter to the vice president. Yet, the arrangement continued until recently.

The bottom line is that there are serious allegations here, they directly relate to impeachment, and Congress needs to find out what happened. In fact, I introduced H.Res. 631 directing the relevant committees to investigate alleged Biden corruption. Despite having a substantial number of cosponsors, my resolution has been bottled up by Speaker Pelosi.

Last week, Republicans on the Intelligence Committee echoed my resolution, requesting that if Hunter Biden is going to be the basis for impeachment, Congress should get his testimony in the impeachment inquiry. But, Democrats have signaled they won’t allow it. My question is, why?

We know the answer – this is a partisan witch hunt against President Trump. President Trump never once demanded a quid pro quo from President Zelenksy. You can read the transcript yourself. While the Democrats and their allies in the press have trashed President Trump for raising Burisma and Ukraine’s role in the 2016 elections, those are serious issues worthy of investigation.

I am proud to be a leader in the pressure campaign to expose the hypocrisy of the Democrats’ sham process. And I will continue leading the fight to investigate the Bidens and expose real corruption that may exist. If Democrats are serious about exposing corruption, investigating Hunter Biden cannot be ignored.

One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t win a fight you don’t join. When you fight, good things can happen. That is why I am going to keep fighting, to make sure the truth is out there.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Byrne: Star Chamber impeachment driven by Trump hatred — not American values

(WH/Flickr)

An abusive, unlawful practice of the English courts from the 15th to 17th centuries was so rampant and unfair that protections against it were written into our U.S. Constitution.

This hated and feared practice took place in the Star Chamber.

The creators of the Star Chamber described it as a tool to stamp out corruption and seek justice for those in English society who were so powerful that no ordinary court would ever find them guilty.

547

In practice, it was used to punish political enemies without the constraints of the law or the prying eyes of the public.

Sound familiar?

Our Founding Fathers were keenly aware of the abuses of the English government. They valued the rights of the individual so highly that they included a Bill of Rights – our first 10 amendments – to protect them.

One of the most important, the 5th Amendment, states that no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

The principles of due process and fairness towards the accused are not only enshrined into our Constitution but the very nature of our Republic. These are values held deeply by all Americans.

Unfortunately, in today’s House of Representatives, the Star Chamber is alive and well.

For weeks, secret impeachment proceedings held by Democrats in the basement of the Capitol have deprived President Trump of his due process rights.

Adam Schiff and his cabal of Democrats have monopolized the Intelligence Committee’s power, withholding facts, denying the President the right to participate, and extending the Republican Minority party little more than token rights.

The few Republicans allowed to participate are prohibited by Schiff’s arbitrary rules from detailing to their fellow Republican members – or the Americans they represent – what is going on behind closed doors.

Of course, Schiff and his Democrat staffers have shown no restraint breaking their own rules by leaking cherry-picked, misleading bits of testimony or outright lies.

I’ve had enough of this Star Chamber, and I chose to fight back.

Recently, my colleagues and I walked into the basement room of the Capitol where Schiff is holding his secret hearings. We demanded to watch the proceedings.

Schiff immediately shut them down, even though we only wanted to observe — a right required by House rules and normally extended to all members of Congress.

We may not have gotten to see the hearings, but the American people are beginning to see what’s going on. They are making clear they do not approve. And Democrats have been feeling the heat back home.

Last week, Democrats introduced a resolution supposedly to move forward with formal impeachment proceedings in the public eye. In reality, this resolution validates the Star Chamber proceedings we’ve seen so far and even instructs them to continue!

This resolution was nothing but political cover for Democrats. All Republicans in the House saw through Nancy Pelosi’s resolution and voted against it.

Importantly, two Democrats rejected this deeply flawed process by voting with Republicans.

Yet, Democrats continue taking a phony moral high ground. They insist Republicans only support the President because of a “personality cult for Donald Trump.”

Anyone looking at the facts, including the Democrats who voted against the joke impeachment resolution, know this is absurd.

Just watch five minutes of national mainstream news to see the “anti-Trump personality cult.” Trump Derangement Syndrome is an epidemic. For those who suffer from it, no step is too far, no rule too sacred, to eliminate President Trump. For them, the ends justify the means.

This Star Chamber fundamentally violates the principles of fairness and due process Americans value so dearly. It should never be used against Democrats or Republicans.

This scheme is flat-out un-American, and I won’t stop fighting against it and defending our values.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Byrne: To fight impeachment, Republicans must get off the sidelines

(CBS Evening News/YouTube)

For weeks, Democrats have been holding secretive impeachment proceedings behind closed doors, out of sight of the American people.

Chairman Adam Schiff of the House Select Committee on Intelligence has been interviewing witnesses in a restricted area deep beneath the Capitol in a small room called a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, known as a SCIF.

The SCIF is specifically designed for classified briefings and other extremely sensitive committee business, not for non-classified witness interviews.

548

It shouldn’t be this way.

In the Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings, the House held a formal vote to begin. In addition to giving the inquiry legitimacy, the vote outlined the rights not only of the minority but of the accused.

In the Nixon and Clinton impeachment hearings, the respective minority parties were allowed to call witnesses, issue subpoenas, and access hearing information. Additionally, each president and their teams were allowed to participate to ensure fairness and due process.

How can someone defend themselves – in this proceeding or in the mind of the public – if they do not know what those accusing them are even saying?

Nancy Pelosi and Schiff’s reasoning for enacting this scheme is obvious. By locking down impeachment proceedings, Democrats control what information the public receives.

Open hearings have been disastrous for Democrats. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony was an embarrassment. Sometimes the truth hurts!

But by choosing to interview witnesses in a classified room – even though they admit the information is not secret in nature – Democrats hold all the cards.

The public receives only whatever Democrats leak to their media allies. Lies, misinformation, and cherry-picked snippets are all the public – even most members of Congress like myself – can access.

Efforts to impeach a duly-elected president behind closed doors require all Americans to get off the sidelines to end this scheme.

Republicans want to get the truth out. Americans deserve it.

I’ve had enough, and I took action.

Last week, a group of Republicans led by my colleague Matt Gaetz held a press conference outside the entrance to the SCIF to bring attention to the Democrats’ scheme to hide the truth.

After the press conference, leaving the media behind, Republicans entered the restricted area outside the hearing.

Once inside, a staff member informed me I was unable to enter the hearing but would not say why or what rule prohibited me and the Members of Congress with me from entering.

So I led my colleagues in.

Once inside, we quietly and orderly prepared to observe the proceedings. Nonetheless, Democrats were dumbfounded.

Instead of continuing, Schiff shut down the proceeding. Despite me asking him to stay, he walked out of the room!

It is noteworthy how the mainstream media reported our actions.

Without being inside, the media was given free rein to report whatever they wanted with no accountability.

CNN falsely reported I yelled in the face of Adam Schiff. Other fake news outlets mistakenly claimed we refused to turn over our phones, which is not true. I turned over my phone to staff of the Intelligence Committee.

Could there be a better example of why we need to have open impeachment hearings in the public?

Our actions are working. Within hours, after public outcry, Democrats announced a tentative plan to open hearings in several weeks.

However, a vague promise for future transparency isn’t good enough. The public narrative is continuing to be misshaped through leaks and lies.

We must end secret proceedings now. Democrats cannot continue withholding non-classified information from members of Congress and the public.

The American people should be demanding open hearings. You can bet I’ll keep fighting in Washington for an open, fair process so the American people can have the truth. This is too important to sit on the sidelines.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Byrne: How do you solve a problem like Syria?

(WH/Flickr, Wikicommons, YHN)

Recent developments in Syria highlight the need for the United States to revisit its broader Middle Eastern policy.

Early last week, I joined a small meeting of House Republicans for an update on Syria from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper where he discussed a phone call from President Erdogan of Turkey to President Trump.

During that call, Erdogan notified President Trump that after years of waiting at the Syrian border, Turkish troops would finally cross over. He assured that Turkey was not coming after our troops but targeting certain Kurdish factions they consider terrorists. He gave President Trump 48 hours to relocate the two dozen or so American troops stationed on the border.

508

President Trump was faced with a difficult decision. Ultimately, he decided to remove American servicemembers from harm’s way to prevent a full-blown conflict with Turkey.

Turkey’s incursion into Syria is wrong and very troubling. Erdogan should never treat our president and our country the way he did on the phone call. There will be serious consequences for his behavior.

I support seeking methods of leverage with Turkey that do not endanger our troops.

After President Trump proposed harsh economic sanctions, the administration negotiated a cease-fire with Turkey. The cease-fire has been shaky at best, but it probably prevented many more deaths in the region.

This is happening in the context of a greater strategic problem in the Middle East. For at least a decade, we’ve lacked a well-defined mission. What are our interests in the Middle East? What do we do to pursue and protect those interests?

Since coming to Congress and serving on the House Armed Services Committee, I have not seen a strategic, conventional interest for the U.S. in Syria, other than destroying the ISIS caliphate.

To be sure, Kurdish forces were the largest part of the successful campaign against the caliphate, and we need to stand by them as best we can under these challenging circumstances.

But Syria is a failed state. It is bewildering the number of groups in some form of combat. With so many factions, it is often difficult to know who the good guys are. Problems between the Turks and Kurds will persist for generations, but this dispute is one of many combustible problems in the Middle East today. Just weeks ago, Iran attacked our Saudi Arabian ally.

We need to work with our allies to determine our strategic goals and how to reach them. We should continue providing assistance to our allies, including the Kurds, but progress requires buy-in from all of our allies in the region.

Turkey, as a NATO member, does currently play a role in supporting our alliance goals. Turkey is the home of an important U.S. airbase and many other critical NATO assets including U.S. nuclear weapons.

However, Turkey’s actions cast serious doubts on whether they will honor their NATO commitments going forward, and frank discussions between Trump, Erdogan and other NATO leaders are needed.

We must be tough with Turkey. I still believe strong sanctions to weaken and punish Turkey are needed, and I signed on as an original cosponsor to Liz Cheney’s resolution to impose very tough sanctions.

After the Turkish incursion, I was disappointed that the House hastily put forward a resolution condemning President Trump’s actions without knowing the full facts. The very next day, I received a classified briefing shedding more light on his tough decision. I think everyone in Congress should have access to these classified briefings to gain a fuller understanding of what happened.

Instead of attacking the president, we need to have sincere bipartisan conversations and propose concrete solutions for Syria and the Middle East. On critical national security issues, we must put America first.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Byrne: Congress must investigate the escalating Biden scandal

(Screenshot/FOX 10)

While Democrats recklessly intensify their partisan scheme to impeach President Trump, the Biden scandal has escalated to a level Congress can no longer responsibly ignore.

As more details come out regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings overseas, their connection with actions taken by his father, Joe Biden, in his official capacity as vice president raise new questions that must be answered.

For example, we have learned that Hunter Biden accompanied his father aboard Air Force Two to China six years ago. Ten days after the trip, Hunter Biden’s new Chinese private equity firm, formed in partnership with the communist government-owned Bank of China, received a license.

516

Hunter Biden admitted to meeting with his Chinese partner in the fund during the visit but insists they did not discuss business. That sure doesn’t pass the smell test.

At least one Chinese government-owned company Hunter Biden’s firm later invested in, Aviation Industry Corporation of China, exists primarily to compete with the United States and has a history of stealing American technology.

Think about that. Hunter Biden partnered with the Chinese government in a lucrative business venture whose purpose is to weaken the United States.

We still do not know where else Hunter traveled or who else he met with on this trip.

But Joe Biden may have played an even more direct role in promoting his son’s financial prospects in Ukraine.

Joe Biden has bragged openly about successfully pressuring the Ukrainian government to remove its top prosecutor or risk losing United States assistance. We’ve now learned this prosecutor was investigating Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian company on whose board Hunter Biden sat at the time.

Some reports have Hunter Biden earning as much as $50,000 per month on the board – a hefty salary for someone with almost no experience in foreign policy or business.

Democrats can’t in good faith continue investigating every single action the president has ever taken—many predating his time as a political candidate—while the Biden scandal stares them straight in the face.

But this gets back to the purpose of the Democrats’ impeachment effort. It was never about corruption or any high-minded ideals. Democrat Congressman Al Green told us back in 2017 why Democrats want to impeach President Trump: “I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach this president, he will get reelected.”

If the same facts in the Biden case occurred with one of President Trump’s children, Democrats would have already launched a full-scale investigation. We must expose their hypocrisy.

This week I am introducing a House resolution calling for an investigation into the Bidens’ shady business dealings.

This resolution calls for the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Government Reform, and Financial Services to begin investigations of business dealings of Hunter Biden during the period in which his father Joe Biden served as Vice President of the United States, whether those business dealings resulted in improper conflicts of interests, and whether Hunter Biden’s work affected United States foreign policy or a foreign government or foreign entity’s response.

As more information comes to light regarding Hunter Biden’s business dealings with the Ukrainians and Chinese and his father’s apparent actions to use his position as vice president to facilitate his son’s financial pursuits, it stretches all credibility to deny an investigation is warranted.

Instead of neglecting all their legislative responsibilities to investigate President Trump, Democrats must acknowledge a serious scandal festers in their own ranks and take appropriate action.

We need to stop playing politics and look to get to the bottom of a potentially real scandal.

If Democrats continue to ignore the Biden scandal, this impeachment inquiry will be haunted by a legacy of illegitimacy, and the American people’s faith in their representative government will suffer a demoralizing blow.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Byrne: The consequences of impeachment

(WH/Flickr)

In the summer of 1973, as a student intern in Washington far from my home in Mobile, I got a firsthand view as the Senate held its Watergate hearings. For a young person, it was an amazing introduction to politics, and I was fascinated by what I saw.

I followed the subsequent impeachment proceedings in 1974 carefully. Unfortunately, as the facts came out, it was clear President Nixon couldn’t continue in office.

During the Clinton impeachment drama, I was a busy father, attorney and part-time state school board member. I could not pay as close attention, but I still watched everything unfold with great interest.

490

Clinton was, and is, a perjurer and abused his office by having sexual relations with a young intern – literally in his office in the White House.

Even so, I worried that the Republicans were overreaching with impeachment, and the voters told us we were.

After the House impeached Clinton and he was acquitted by the Senate, Republicans lost seats in the House and Newt Gingrich was forced to resign as speaker.

Fast forward to November 2016 and Donald Trump’s election as president.

Since Day 1 of his presidency, factions in our nation have called Donald Trump an illegitimate president. Many Democrats in elected office have publicly called for his impeachment for over two and a half years.

They’ve tried almost every trick in the book to manufacture something worthy of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” our Constitution requires for impeachment.

Look no further than Adam Schiff’s recent statement before the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff used his position as chairman of the committee to describe to a captive American audience a completely fabricated phone conversation between President Trump and the president of Ukraine.

This is the same Adam Schiff who spent months on cable news networks promising some vague bombshell in the Mueller Report. By now, all his credibility is in shambles.

I was proud to co-sponsor a resolution to condemn and censure Schiff for his blatant attempt to mislead the public through lies and deception. The American people deserve better.

The Ukrainian deal is just the latest impeachment flavor of the week after earlier attempts fell flat.

As with all the manufactured scandals from Russia to Justice Kavanaugh, Schiff and his allies in the national news media do not give the full truth in order to keep scandal in the headlines.

With regards to the President’s phone call to President Zelensky of Ukraine, the Department of Justice reviewed all the evidence in August, found no evidence of a federal crime, and closed their case. What do Democrats in the House think they will find that our nation’s criminal division could not?

The national news media won’t tell you that because it weakens the impeachment narrative. They are complicit with efforts to impeach at all costs.

We must stand up during tough times like these.

This process we are following now is unprecedented, bad for the country, and, ultimately for the Democrats, bad politics. The substantive basis for the present line of the impeachment “inquiry” is ludicrous.

Today, I have a much closer seat for impeachment than I did as a student in 1973. I have followed it as closely as anyone.

Next year, voters will have the opportunity to repudiate the Democrats for their baseless impeachment efforts. Speaker Pelosi, Schiff, the Squad and other Democrats would be wise to pay attention to history.

If not, and Democrats continue their impeachment crusade, Speaker Pelosi might be looking for another job as President Trump is sworn in for his second term.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Byrne: Holding their feet to the fire

(G. Skidmore, majunznk/Flickr, YHN)

With her announcement that the House will finally move toward impeachment, Nancy Pelosi has set in motion what the Democrats have wanted to do since election night of 2016.

They will seek to remove President Trump at all costs.

It is frustrating for me that Washington is focused on these partisan impeachment proceedings when there is so much we could get done for the American people. For example, the president’s trade deal has bipartisan support but has not moved forward in the House.

547

Of course, the border security crisis continues as well. Last week, I participated in the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s (FAIR) “Hold Their Feet to the Fire” radio row. Radio hosts from all over the country, including several from Alabama, assembled in our nation’s capital to discuss the urgency of solving the border crisis and fixing our immigration system.

This should be a priority for Congress. Instead, Democrats are offering plans to cater to their base that make things worse.

Democrats brought a bill to the House floor last week that would create a new government agency to provide vast new services to illegal immigrants. Common sense suggests we should end policies that drive illegal immigration, but what could encourage illegal immigration more than the promise of millions of additional dollars from American taxpayers?

Unfortunately, there is no appetite in the House for solving real problems like border security. And while we are distracted by impeachment, little else will get done either.

This entire charade is politically orchestrated theater. Looking at statements made by Democrats during the Bill Clinton impeachment in 1998 reveals the hypocrisy of the Democrat impeachment fantasy.

Back then, Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor “we are bringing dishonor to it with our hypocrisy here in this chamber. Today, the Republican majority is not judging our president with fairness, but impeaching him with a vengeance. … We are here today because the Republicans in the House are paralyzed with hatred of President Clinton; and until the Republicans free themselves of this hatred, our country will suffer.”

Is there any doubt that the current impeachment efforts are driven entirely by hatred of Donald Trump and his policies? There is a clear double standard!

Jerry Nadler, who as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has been one of the fiercest proponents of impeaching President Trump, said in 1998 that “there must never be a narrowly voted impeachment or an impeachment supported by one of our major political parties and opposed by the other.”

Those comments from two decades ago should destroy any fabrications that today’s partisan impeachment probe is driven by principles.

Maxine Waters, who famously encouraged Democrats to publicly confront and harass Trump officials, said in 1998, “I am greatly disappointed in the raw, unmasked, unbridled hatred and meanness that drives this impeachment coup-d’etat, the unapologetic disregard for the voice of the people.” Her colleague Sheila Jackson Lee said after the impeachment vote that “we leave here today void and empty because our president will have been toppled against the will of the people of the United States.” Rosa DeLauro, a close Pelosi ally, said impeachment “is wrong and it is unfair. It denies the American people their right to representative democracy.”

Clearly what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. These representatives seem to think that the will of the voters should be honored, but only when those voters select Democrat candidates.

Those of us who remember the Clinton impeachment battle know that impeachment sucks all the air out of the room. Everything else in Washington will stop. The American people deserve better.

Democrats will continue to be distracted by their impeachment fantasy, but I will continue fighting to hold their feet to the fire.
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Byrne: Americans want results, not impeachment

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

The first year of Democratic control of the House of Representatives is almost up, and we have nothing to show for it.

For the first several months, perhaps some of this lack of results was understandable. After a decade in the minority, Democrats were anxious to vote on issues they prioritized. In other words, they could hold some political show votes to please their base before moving on to serious efforts at governance.

Nine months later, it is clear this initial aimlessness was not just a case of backlogged priorities. House Democrats continue to prioritize messaging for the 2020 elections.

526

When traveling throughout Alabama, I consistently hear two concerns: border security and the high cost of healthcare. While both issues are complex, there is room for compromise and results.

I visited the border earlier this year, and after seeing the crisis firsthand, I can tell you how serious it is.

For years, there was bipartisan support for building a wall. After President Trump took office by promising to get serious with our border security, Democrats flipped. They insisted there was no crisis. Many refer to a border wall as “Trump’s vanity wall” despite voting only years ago to build it!

The fight for border funding has even stymied Congress’ ability to fund our government on time.

There is widespread agreement that our healthcare costs are too high. Clearly, Obamacare did not deliver on its promises. To me, the commonsense options are to repeal and replace it or improve it.

I was proud to vote in 2017 to repeal Obamacare. This bill was the result of months of compromise between the House and Senate. Unfortunately, that bill did not pass the Senate. It is one of my biggest disappointments since coming to Washington.

Although repealing Obamacare is not an option with Democrats running the House, for now, making improvements to our healthcare system to benefit working Americans is an area where both parties should have interest. Sadly, we have not seen efforts to pursue this option either.

Instead of trying to pass meaningful legislation with a chance of becoming law, Democrats have put all their eggs in the impeachment basket.

This isn’t a good way to run Congress. I don’t believe it is wise politically either. The American people want us to get something done on the issues they care about. After all, that is why they elected us. They don’t want us to spend all our efforts to impeach the president they elected lawfully. They want results.

Yet almost every committee in the House is pursuing some sort of investigation against President Trump. Many of these investigations are looking into Trump’s activities as a private citizen well before he ran for office.

For two years, special counsel Robert Muller’s report was all Democrats and their national media allies talked about. They promised the American people the report would be damning to the president.

When Mueller’s report and Congressional testimony landed with a whimper, many who had predicted bombshells were left looking silly or downright dishonest.

Democrats went into damage control mode. Nonetheless, many decided to double down. Instead of accepting the report, Democrats expanded their probe.

They are even seeking to impeach Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Recently, The New York Times reported allegations from Justice Kavanaugh’s time at college. These were similar to the baseless charges we heard during his confirmation hearing. But right on cue, many Democrats immediately began talks of impeaching Kavanaugh.

When the Times embarrassingly revealed they had knowingly withheld the fact that the alleged victim did not recall the incident, stunned Democrats went back into damage control.

If Democrats continue pursuing their impeachment fantasy at the expense of getting their job done, they’ll be doing damage control in November 2020.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Byrne: Rural Alabama worth fighting for

(Pixabay, B. Byrne/Facebook, YHN)

Our rural communities truly are the backbone of our nation. They clothe us and feed us, and they manufacture many of the goods we use every day.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 60 million Americans live in rural communities.

For too long, these 60 million Americans have been fighting global forces alone. Thankfully, we now have a fighter in the White House for rural America.

547

Not only has Washington neglected to fight for rural Americans. It has often been part of the problem.

During the Obama administration, officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) conspired to propose a new Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule. This rule would redefine the term “navigable waterways” to include everything from family fishing ponds to small backyard ditches.

I pride myself on championing commonsense policies to protect our natural resources. But to call a ditch that only holds water after a heavy rain a “navigable water” does not pass the smell test. Some of these bureaucrats hidden away in Washington should take a ride up the Alabama River to see a real navigable waterway.

This vast expansion of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction to areas never intended by Congress was, at best, misguided. It may have violated the law.

It would have subjected farmers, foresters, municipalities and small businesses to additional federal regulation and added compliance costs. It was a job killer that did little to protect our environment.

Let’s call it what it was – a power grab by an overzealous federal government.

Last week, the Trump EPA and Corps finalized a rule repealing the Obama-era WOTUS rule.

It is difficult to overstate the significance of this victory. It was a promise made by President Trump in his campaign to overturn the harmful WOTUS rule, and he truly delivered here.

The Trump administration has done much more for our rural communities, including in health care.

If you live in a rural community, you know how vital a hospital can be. In addition to treating us when we are sick and caring for us in an emergency, rural hospitals are a critical selling point to prospective employers and job seekers.

You also are aware of the struggles so many of our rural hospitals have faced. A significant driver of these hardships has been an outdated wage index formula that gave millions of dollars in Medicare reimbursements that should have gone to Alabama to large urban centers.

This issue has been a priority of mine. Thankfully, the Trump administration was willing to listen to me and other colleagues on the severity of the wage index problem. Earlier this year, after over two years of working with the administration, the decision was made to implement a much more equitable formula.

This means millions of dollars will be sent to Alabama hospitals. These dollars will mean so much to our rural hospitals and the communities they serve.

Another area our rural communities have lagged is broadband access. Broadband is almost as important today as electricity was a century ago.

Not only is it essential for most modern jobs, but our schools increasingly rely on high-speed internet to teach our children. Without access to broadband, our rural communities lack access to much of the modern technology of today.

I’ve been proud to support President Trump’s actions to aid rural broadband expansion by expediting federal permitting and making it easier for wireless operators to put cell towers on federal lands.

With government out of the way, our rural broadband infrastructure will continue to grow.

Our rural communities are worth fighting for. I promise to continue advocating for our people and our values in Washington.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Byrne: August recess roundup

(B. Bryne/Facebook)

It is a very old tradition for Congress to recess during the hot and humid month of August. Years ago, Congress had completed its work by this time and took the rest of the year off. However, we now reconvene after what has become known as the August District Work Period.

This time has always been valuable for me to spend listening to my constituents. This year, with Speaker Pelosi setting aside six whole weeks for my colleagues and me to spend in our respective districts, I took advantage. I was glad to be able to see so many old and new friends and speak directly with people I represent throughout the district.

498

During the first week of the District Work Period, Alabama got some good news. That week, I received a call from Seema Verna, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Administrator Verma informed me that the Trump administration had finalized a new rule containing reforms to the Medicare Wage Index I have fought for since coming to Congress.

These reforms mean millions of dollars that should have been coming to Alabama hospitals will now come our way. In the past, these dollars were going to hospitals in more populated areas like New York and Los Angeles. This important news will especially aid our rural hospitals who have struggled for too long.

Our district has a diversity of interests including our Gulf fisheries, manufacturing and industry, diversity small businesses, and agriculture. I held an Economic Development Roundtable in my Mobile office with community leaders from the district to discuss all the issues and challenges they face. I also attended a franchise roundtable at CertaPro Painters in Daphne.

Fortunately, the Trump economy is benefitting small businesses and local economies, and tax cuts and reduced regulations have freed business owners to do what they do best.

Of course, the water resources in our district are second to none. It was a pleasure to speak at the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Conference about our port and waterways and the need to responsibly manage these valuable resources.

In Spanish Fort, I was able to speak to the Society of Military Engineers about all the work they do for our national security. And I was able to make the drive to Ozark to speak with members of the Association of the United States Army.

As you probably know, I enjoy hosting town hall meetings so I can hear directly from constituents. Since taking office in 2014, I have held over 100 district town halls. In August, I held lively town halls in Grand Bay and Atmore.

Even when I am not in the district, my staff is working for you. They hold monthly community office hours in each of the six counties I represent. Here members of my staff can personally help you with any problems you may be experiencing with federal agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare and Social Security. We can help you with your passport too.

Of course, you can always call or email my office as well if you need our assistance. I am proud that we have helped hundreds of constituents navigate the federal bureaucracy. Little is more satisfying to me or my staff then helping a veteran get the assistance he or she deserves.

Speaking with Alabama nurses, farmers, mechanics, veterans, teachers and retirees over the past six weeks was a great pleasure. Getting the chance over Labor Day to spend time with my grandkids was a wonderful treat too.

With Congress reconvening this week, I look forward to continuing my service to you and bringing Alabama values to Washington.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Byrne: Let’s dump Doug in 2020

(B. Byrne, D. Jones/FB)

The people of Alabama deserve to know what’s at stake in this 2020 Senate election. Our state will face a choice: will we stand with President Trump and replace Doug Jones with a conservative who will fight for our Alabama values? Or will we send Doug back to Washington where he will fight against the president every chance he gets?

This question will be answered at the ballot box in November 2020 when Alabama voters elect their next U.S. senator. As Doug Jones kicks off his reelection campaign, now is an important time to make sure Alabama knows we have to Dump Doug. Because one thing is certain: he does not represent our Alabama values.

Doug and his Democrat colleagues want our free and strong America weakened, they want more government, and they want to tax and regulate our economy to death. They want to take our guns, kill babies right out of the womb, and open the borders for illegal immigrants. With people like Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez leading their party, Democrats have become increasingly radical and extreme.

301

The so-called “Squad” and socialism are a rapidly growing threat to our American values. These are Doug’s Democrat colleagues, and they want to turn the America that you and I love into a place where government infringes on every one of our God-given rights.

Doug is so out of touch with Alabama that he joined his Democrat colleagues in blocking a bill that would have ensured hard-earned American tax dollars could not be used to fund abortions.

Since I have been in Congress, I have consistently stood up for the unborn, and I will continue to stand up for life. Time and time again, I’ve gone to bat against the evils of Planned Parenthood and voted to ensure not a single penny of taxpayer money is used to fund abortions.

Doug is in lockstep with the “Socialist Squad” in opposing President Trump every chance they get. Doug betrayed the people of Alabama when he voted against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. On a critical Supreme Court appointment, Doug Jones voted against the will of Alabama because he said he was smarter than us.

I’m one of President Trump’s strongest allies, voting with him 97% percent of the time. Alabama deserves a senator who will fight alongside, not against, President Trump to defend the Constitution, build the wall, stand up for the unborn, push for lower taxes, make health care more affordable, and protect the Second Amendment. While Doug is focused on attacking President Trump, I promise to work with President Trump to make his pro-life, pro-wall, pro-worker agenda a reality.

We have a decision to make, Alabama. Let’s Dump Doug and elect a Christian, conservative reformer who will always fight for Alabama. That’s exactly what I promise to do.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope. He is a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Byrne: Celebrating Alabama’s workers

(Wikicommons, YHN)

Labor Day is a wonderful time to celebrate Alabama’s exceptional working men and women. From Tennessee River Valley engineers to Black Belt farmers and Gulf Coast shipbuilders, our workers are powering an economic boom that has reduced unemployment and raised wages.

President Trump and his commitment to prioritizing and empowering American workers continue to pay dividends in our state.

537

Commonsense pro-growth strategies like slashing unnecessary regulations and reducing taxes are keeping more money in the wallets of employee and employer alike. That’s more money to fill up your car with gas or buy school supplies for your children.

But we cannot be satisfied. As we deal with an evolving global economy, it is important we do what is necessary now to have the workforce we need tomorrow. Education and job training are more critical than ever.

I’m working to keep us prepared. This summer, I introduced the Modern Worker Empowerment Act with my colleagues Representatives Elise Stefanik and Phil Roe. This bill recognizes that the modern workplace has changed dramatically, and it updates or removes outdated laws and regulations that could hold back economic progress or limit job opportunities.

We must continue looking for opportunities to empower American workers instead of holding them back.

If you’re like me, your first experience earning a paycheck was as a teenager in a low wage job. The lessons provided by such opportunities are invaluable in teaching the dignity of work as well as the soft skills necessary to excel in the workplace, whether it’s a factory, a classroom, or an office.

Unfortunately, some in Washington are pushing to increase the current minimum wage by over 100%. While we all want our workers to earn more for a hard day’s work, such a drastic shock to the system would eliminate countless entry-level jobs. Employers would increase automation, outsource labor, or simply not hire additional workers. That is not the solution we need to help workers.

Instead, we must continue supporting pro-worker policies that reduce barriers to opportunity, help small businesses grow, and raise wages organically.

In 2017, I introduced the Save Local Businesses Act to eliminate the confusing and burdensome joint employer rule that hits our franchise businesses particularly hard. My bill, which passed in the House of Representatives, would provide important clarity regarding labor laws for both employer and employee.

I am preparing to introduce this bill again and hope it can pass the House again and go to the Senate.

President Trump’s efforts to help American workers extend globally. When he took office, he promised a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada that would repair some of the flaws of NAFTA. His goal to help our workers and create new markets for American goods is one I wholeheartedly support.

Many critics scoffed at him for trying to achieve the impossible, but nonetheless President Trump was successful in negotiating a new deal, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

This was a huge victory for American workers. USMCA would help many industrial sectors in Alabama, particularly our automobile manufacturing.

I am hopeful Speaker Pelosi will take steps this month to move this important deal through the House so it can be enacted. This agreement is too important for America’s workers for us to let politics get in the way.

With the parades and barbecues of Labor Day behind us, a transition to cooler weather, a new school year, and football season begins. But first, I hope you were able to enjoy time this Labor Day with your family and loved ones – the reason most of us labor so hard the rest of the year!

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: We must stand with Israel

(B. Byrne/Facebook, PIxabay, YHN)

Israel means so much to our nation. The American people have no better friend. As the only democracy in the volatile Middle East, Israel is one of our greatest partners on the global stage. And Israel, particularly Jerusalem, holds a close personal significance to many Americans of different faiths.

Israel is a very special place to my wife and me. Four years ago, Rebecca and I traveled together to the Holy Land in a visit that affected us deeply. On this transformational trip, we renewed our baptismal covenant in the River Jordan. From the Golan Heights to the site of Solomon’s temple, our travels reinforced our Christian faith.

483

Last week, I once again visited Israel. My visit coincided with a diplomatic dustup between Israel and two members of The Squad, Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.

The Squad’s hatred of Israel, support of the BDS movement, and denial of Israel’s right to exist weighed heavily on the minds of many Israelis who already live in danger. With all Israel faces, I respect Israel’s decision to block Tlaib, Omar, and their anti-Israel activism out of the country.

The week brought many moments of poignancy that provided important perspective. As part of our tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, we visited the Western Wall, which offered a meaningful opportunity for me to pray for our nation and state. This was a very special moment for me.

Looking down upon the City of David from the Temple Mount, one of the holiest spots in the world, it is difficult not to be overwhelmed. Being near the location where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac and walking the Southern Steps, where so many biblical figures traveled, was equally moving. And it was thrilling to see the Bethesda pool from the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John. Perhaps the highlight of the week occurred at the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane. Praying at the site where Jesus prayed to his father before being crucified was a truly amazing experience.

We met with several American and Israeli officials, including the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who provided unique insights on Israel’s challenges. Ambassador Friedman is a true champion of the U.S.-Israeli relationship

A highlight of the week was meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The opportunity to reinforce in person our two nations’ commitment to one another was of critical importance. He is a great friend of the United States.

Speaking with Israeli military officials about Israel’s missile defense programs like Iron Dome, Arrow and David’s Sling made it clear that Israel is in a tough neighborhood. Adversaries like Iran would wipe them out if the chance arose. Israel’s high-tech defense programs are impressive, and I’m proud of U.S. support for these programs.

Without question, President Trump’s steps to strengthen our alliance with Israel, including the bipartisan action of relocating the American embassy to its rightful location in Jerusalem, are beneficial and long overdue. Both parties should support actions to strengthen this alliance. I wish all my colleagues would visit Israel and talk directly with Israelis about the challenges they face. Israel is a special place, and we must stand firm in our alliance with its people.

Israel remains a crucial American ally in a dangerous world. Though anti-Israel sentiments are only held by a minority of Americans, I am increasingly concerned they seem to be finding a sympathetic mouthpiece from the mainstream media. Anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel cannot be tolerated or go unchallenged. I promise to continue proudly standing with Israel.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: To end violence, return to American values

(Wikicommons, YHN)

The recent violence in our country – and the passionate debates it has sparked – have led me to reflect on the emotional state of our country and the battle being waged between good and evil.

I thought back to comments I gave earlier this year at a naturalization ceremony. These new citizens were gifted with the opportunity to forge for themselves a new American identity, complete with all its blessings, possibilities and responsibilities.

548

That morning at the U.S.S. Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, I spoke of the American belief in self-government, that ‘we the people’ can govern ourselves. To successfully execute such a radical (at the time) idea, we had to found our nation on some basic values. From our adherence and loyalty to those values, our American character was created.

I quoted the words of the 19th-century French observer of early America, Alexis De Tocqueville, written several decades after our nation’s founding. He said “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

De Tocqueville knew that democracy, in many ways, is a burden upon its people. They cannot rely on the direction of an autocrat. In a democracy, more so than other systems of government, the nature of its people is reflected in their government. De Tocqueville knew that for a representative democracy like ours to remain, its people must be virtuous. That is a big responsibility!

With the goal of creating and preserving a virtuous society, our founders laid out fundamental principles. Our natural rights were given to us by God. Government is instituted by men to protect those rights. With our rights preserved, our values can flourish.

Those values have led to the traditions, vibrancy, and endurance of American culture.

We all know that our country is one of religious freedom. Each of us can practice any religion we choose or none at all. The establishment clause of our constitution prohibits an official state religion.

However, our nation has increasingly rejected our foundational beliefs in natural rights and moral absolutism – that there is universal right and wrong that does not change. Without these beliefs, law and order and even good and evil are subjective. Not only can these definitions change from generation to generation, but conflicting value systems will clash violently in the present.

Unfortunately, the post-modern world in which we live seeks not only to undermine religious freedom but moral absolutism itself. These attacks are no longer limited to the salons of liberal coastal enclaves. They are now taking place in the halls of Congress.

I’m also troubled by the weakening of an American quality that has served to keep our large and diverse nation together—our sense of community.

Communities are not made up of thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook friends. They are forged through the personal interactions all humans need. They are forged at neighborhood parties, Little League practices, Friday night football games and places of worship.

Unfortunately, in recent decades, our sense of community has been lost, and the consequences have been swift and severe. Technologies initially projected to bring us together have led to a growing epidemic of crushing isolation. Mental health issues have skyrocketed.

The result has been a fundamental breakdown of American society. To reverse the trend, we must return to the values and sense of community that made America strong.

These traditional American values are Alabama values. They have guided me as a son, brother, father and now grandfather. They are the values that guide me in Washington.

I will not remain silent while those who cherish these values are attacked and blamed for problems caused by the rejection of what made us great. American values – and our rights – must be defended.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: A Washington success story

(B. Byrne/Facebook, YHN)

One of the first actions I took after being elected in 2013 was to visit all the hospitals in Southwest Alabama. Big and small, rural and urban, I visited them all. And I spoke directly with doctors and hospital leadership about issues they and their communities faced.

I did this because the importance of hospitals to the communities they serve is so great. When industries look at potential locations to build or expand, they look for things like quality of life, education, and available healthcare. Areas without hospitals are often at a serious disadvantage for bringing in the types of jobs that can boost an area’s economic prospects. And most significantly, lives are put at risk.

485

During these hospital visits in my first few months in office, one of the biggest issues I heard about was the Medicare Wage Index and how a flaw in the formula was causing our Alabama hospitals to receive significantly less money for the same procedures as other hospitals around the country.

Some big state hospitals were being reimbursed nearly three times as much as Alabama’s hospitals for the exact same procedure. The discrepancy is a leading cause of the string of hospital closures in Alabama. This is wrong, and it needed to be fixed.

Though this issue had long plagued many states across the nation, we were not making significant progress finding a solution. It was clear to me we needed a new strategy.

In 2017, with a different kind of president in office more open to outside the box thinking and shaking up the status quo, I saw an opening.

I knew, with hundreds of senators and representatives from across the nation competing to press their priorities in the new administration, it would be a challenge. But, I got to work.

In the beginning of the year, I had a promising meeting in my office with Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).

Clearly, the Trump administration was willing to listen.

Administrator Verma pledged to look more closely at the Wage Index issue, and we and our staffs began working together to find a viable solution.

In January 2018, I coordinated a meeting with leaders of Alabama hospitals and Administrator Verma. I believe the discussions during this meeting on the undue challenges placed on Alabama hospitals left a firm impression on the Administrator. Her efforts to help us find a solution continued.

The most promising news up until that time came a month later when the administrator called me with news that CMS would be accepting comments in an RFI (request for information) in their 2018 rule on this issue. This was huge because it allowed CMS to explore the regulatory changes that could lead to a solution.

Through meetings, letters, and public events, I worked with my colleagues and other leaders in Alabama to continue the drumbeat.

Finally, early this month, after months of promising developments and incremental steps forward, I got a Friday afternoon call from Administrator Verma. The Trump administration was issuing a final rule that included the Wage Index reforms benefitting Alabama.

With this rule’s finalization, almost all Alabama hospitals will experience an increase in Medicare payments starting October 1st of this year. And it will help our rural communities join in on the economic development Alabama has enjoyed in recent years.

Securing this victory has been a long process with hard work from many in Washington and Alabama. But the work is worth it. These reforms will help our hospitals, particularly our rural hospitals, shore up their bottom line so they can better serve their communities for years to come.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: Taking care of our veterans is a top priority

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

My brother Dale is one of my heroes. He served our state and nation for decades in the Army and in the Alabama National Guard. Unfortunately, he contracted an illness while serving our nation overseas, and the illness ultimately took his life in 2013 at just 62 years old.

The issues that impact Alabama’s veterans are deeply personal to me. I always think about Dale when I talk with our veterans, and I consider my work to make life better for our veterans one way I can honor Dale’s legacy. Taking care of our veterans is a top priority.

Thankfully, Alabamians have an exceptional partner in President Trump when it comes to improving care for our veterans. President Trump has done more for our nation’s veterans than any modern-day president. Make no mistake: he inherited an absolute mess from President Obama. The VA system across the nation was in turmoil, and we were experiencing serious issues for veterans right here in Alabama.

457

The Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System in Montgomery was one of the absolute worst in the entire country. There were horror stories including extreme wait times to receive care, unread X-rays, falsified patient records, and unpaid bills. Most of you probably remember the horrible story of a Montgomery VA employee taking a recovering veteran to a crack house to buy illegal drugs. All these serious issues were happening right here in Alabama.

President Trump put his foot down and said enough is enough. He demanded accountability at the VA. He made changes in leadership, fired failed employees, made it easier for whistleblowers to report abuse, fixed backlogs in the system and ultimately reformed the culture of complacency that had plagued the VA for too long. I couldn’t have been prouder to vote for the VA Mission Act, which put many of these reforms in place.

He has also championed an idea that I am very passionate about. President Trump is a believer in giving our veterans choices and allowing them to seek medical care outside the broken VA bureaucracy. Instead of forcing veterans to drive hundreds of miles to a VA facility, President Trump is working to make it easier for veterans to seek medical care from doctors or hospitals in their local community. This is critically important for our veterans who live in rural areas.

Another example of President Trump’s commitment to our veterans is the Mobile VA outpatient clinic in Mobile. I have worked closely with the Trump Administration to make the new clinic a reality. After years of local veterans along the Gulf Coast being forced to receive care from an outdated facility in Mobile, just this spring we celebrated the grand opening of a new, state-of-the-art VA clinic that is making life easier for our veterans. It was on President Trump’s watch that we opened this new clinic.

The list of successes under President Trump goes on and on: a new 24/7 White House VA hotline, establishing a new VA Office for Whistleblower Protection and Accountability, enhancing and expanding post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, and an increased focus on ending veteran homelessness. There is zero doubt that our nation’s veterans are better off under President Trump.

There’s more that President Trump can do in his second term. As your senator, I promise to work with the president to hold VA bureaucrats accountable, increase veteran access to medical care in their local community, and ensure our veterans receive the best care possible.

I know I can’t bring my brother Dale back, but I can always honor his legacy by supporting and taking care of our Alabama veterans. And with the continued leadership of President Trump, that is exactly what I will do.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: Through media attacks, border agents continue fight

(B. Byrne/Flickr)

The border agents, military and law enforcement personnel at our southern border are doing their best in difficult circumstances to combat both illegal immigration and attacks from Democrats and the national media. Today, I’ll discuss the second half of my recent border visit.

After inspecting several points of entry and other spots along the border, our delegation traveled to Fort Bliss outside of El Paso to the Joint Task Force Crisis Response. Many of the active-duty soldiers here are working to free up border patrol agents to patrol the border.

525

The Crisis Response Force has provided security and engineering support supporting over 17,000 apprehensions. We have 1,300 marines operating Mobile Surveillance Cameras (MSC) across all Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sectors. Many sites would not be manned if not for this support.

Operation Guardian Support uses 1,100 10th Mountain Division personnel to fly helicopter surveillance missions. An additional 360 active duty personnel provide driver and other operational support.

The Texas Military Department headquartered here oversees most of the National Guard support units patrolling the border. They have nine Lakota helicopters from eight states, including one loaned from Alabama.

Alabama has 68 Guardsmen volunteering in Texas, the most out of the 13 states. They fly more hours here in one month than they would have in one year.

My final stop was an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention Center. Perhaps no one has been under more constant attack than ICE. Many Democrats have called to abolish this agency completely because of falsified stories and a desire for open borders.

As I saw firsthand, many of the unbelievable stories we’ve heard are total fabrications.

About 850 people who had illegally crossed our border were detained here. They were issued different colored outfits based on their criminal record. Most awaited an asylum decision or repatriation. Pro bono legal representation was provided, but more ICE trial attorneys and judges are needed. We’ve also seen more cases of mental issues that must be treated. Despite these challenges, all detainees were treated with humane respect and care.

The asylum process is a catastrophe that does not function as intended. The low bar for the “credible/reasonable fear review” means 90 percent who begin the process receive an eventual asylum hearing. In El Paso, after an often long, expensive legal process, 90% of these asylum cases are denied.

It falls on ICE to find individuals in the United States when they are denied. As you can imagine, many are never found.

Under President Trump’s “return to Mexico” policy, many migrants are now returned to Mexico to await their immigration case. In El Paso, there have been 9,000 waiting in Mexico for a hearing since March 28th.

When asylum is denied, migrants can stay in the country pending their appeal. Many appeal their decision until they can qualify for some other type of relief.

Through my firsthand experience and direct conversations with agents at the border, several things were made clear.

The accusations against the men and women doing everything in their power to care for these detainees are completely unfounded. This is an attempt to discredit President Trump and open our borders.

Military personnel and the supplemental border funding package have improved the situation, but they are insufficient. We need to reform our asylum laws and end other immigration loopholes that have led to this crisis.

Finally, walls work. The evidence is clear that walls, used in the right places, make border protection easier.

Our agents at the border have a difficult job, but Democrats’ refusal to take action has made our border crisis worse. I pledge to continue working with President Trump to solve this humanitarian, legal and national security crisis so the American people can be protected.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: In border battle, agents face growing crisis

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

Lately we’ve heard a non-stop narrative from the national news media and left-wing Democrats about the horrific conditions at our border. The never-ending insults directed towards our border patrol agents and law enforcement has outraged many of us who appreciate their invaluable service to us. Last week, I traveled to our southern border near El Paso, Texas, to talk with them directly and get a firsthand look at the conditions they face.

Early Monday morning I arrived at a border location called Monument III on the Border of Sunland Mark, New Mexico and Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and military personnel offered me an intensive behind-the-scenes look at their operations.

508

A shift in migration patterns in the last five years has led to many more border crossings in numbers that overwhelm our personnel and infrastructure. Just a few months ago, CBP agents had 2,000 illegal border crossings in downtown El Paso in a 24-hour period.

Most of these migrants, in a scheme that is rampant across our border, cross with their wrists out, waiting to be arrested so they can file an asylum claim. After processing, migrants are released. Few show up for court dates, and most asylum claims are rejected or found to be fraudulent.

Without question, most of these migrants experienced a long, arduous journey. Border areas are owned by various cartels, and as one agent explained, “nobody gets here without paying something.” Coyotes and cartels collaborate to extort migrants. Horrific physical and sexual abuse is widespread.

The wall sections here have made patrolling the area easier. At Monument III, the physical barriers were constructed in 2007 after the Secure Fence Act of 2006 was passed on a bipartisan basis (back when most Democrats supported a wall).

Fortunately, the Department of Defense is currently providing camera surveillance so more CBP agents are freed to make arrests. But personnel remain stretched thin. Oftentimes a single agent must arrest and detain dozens of migrants alone. I was told of three CBP agents making 400 apprehensions at one time.

My next stop was a tour of Bridge of the Americas (BOTA) Port of Entry (POE) with CBP OFO (Office of Field Opportunities). BOTA is a cargo, pedestrian and vehicular POE that sees an astounding 24,000 pedestrians and 30,000 vehicles daily.

CBP agents at BOTA told me they find a shocking amount of drugs including fentanyl, oxycodone, heroine, meth, and marijuana. Due to the growing strain on resources, the National Guard has been here on a voluntary basis since October 2018 providing valuable clerical work and technology support.

From here we traveled to the El Paso Paso del Norte (PDN) Point of Entry, a pedestrian POE. Recently most of the migrants here have been Mexican, coming to the United States for work.

But many have dangerous motives. Just days before, agents found 14 pounds of cocaine packed in a vehicle’s quarter panels. The increased traffic makes it extremely difficult to adequately screen all the crossers. Sadly, this lack of resources was a constant theme during my visit.

Without exception, the border agents, law enforcement and military personnel along the border were transparent and professional. The slanderous characterizations of these brave men and women from the Socialist Squad and their media allies is shameful. We can be proud of the work our border agents do, but they made clear the scope of the crisis we face. The numbers of people crossing our border are staggering.

We need additional resources, including technology, barriers and more border agents out on patrol. And we must change our asylum laws to eliminate the loopholes fueling this migration boom.

Another critical agency is Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I’ll discuss my visit to an ICE detention center next week.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: Border battle harms Alabama communities

(U.S. CBP/Flickr)

The detrimental effects of the humanitarian and national security crisis on our border extend all the way to Alabama communities. That’s why I’ve made it a priority to address our immigration policies.

One of the most obvious ways our insecure border harms our communities is the drug trade. Our porous border is perhaps the most significant contributing factor to the ongoing opioid crisis — the worst drug epidemic in modern American history. In 2017, over 47,000 lives were claimed by opioids. That’s more than those from car accidents and firearms. These deaths have affected families across our great state.

525

The drug problem is made worse by the unprecedented migrant surge. James Carroll, director of the U.S. Office of Drug Control Policy, said just last week that drug seizures are down this year because so much attention is being diverted to humanitarian needs.

Because of that diversion, border patrol agents and resources are unable to be allocated towards their fundamental law enforcement functions. According to Carroll, more drugs are coming in than ever before.

One of the primary drivers of the migrant crisis is our asylum policy. Through a combination of loopholes worsened by a legal settlement made by the Clinton administration, migrants are encouraged to cross our border and give themselves up to law enforcement.

After arrest, migrants claiming asylum are eventually permitted entrance into the country while their claims are processed. This is permitted even when migrants do not cross at a legal checkpoint.

Although, by some estimates, only around a tenth of asylum claims are found by our courts to be legitimate, the vast majority never show up for their court date and remain free inside the United States.

A disproportionate number of these asylum claims are made by able-bodied young men. Only a few months ago, a Mobile teacher was killed in a car crash by an illegal immigrant minor who had falsely claimed asylum but never showed at his court date to avoid deportation.

The coyotes and cartels, of course, have every reason to facilitate migrants along their journey and orchestrate lawlessness at the border.

Last week, one of the biggest points of entry at the Southern border had to be shut down after a wave of nearly 50 undocumented immigrants rushed the border into Texas. The group attempted to tear down barricades and assaulted several border patrol officers who were forced to deploy tear gas and pepper balls.

Let’s call these people what they are – criminals. And while border agents were able to keep these criminals out of our communities, many more slip through the cracks while agents deal with illegal stunts like this and the humanitarian needs of asylee claimants.

Last year, a 13-year-old girl in Huntsville was beheaded after witnessing the stabbing of her grandmother by gang members in a horrific incident involving members of the Sinaloa Cartel. It is disheartening that gangs like MS-13 have infiltrated communities throughout our nation, but stories like this reinforce the sad truth that the problem is impacting Alabamians.

There are other significant problems that do not receive headlines. I’ve spoken with Alabama sheriffs who have shared horror stories about the strain illegal immigration places on their deputies. And I’ve talk to incredibly frustrated school superintendents who must divert resources away from educating local students to deal with their illegal immigrant population. Our hospitals are also placed under enormous burdens by illegal immigration. And governments are forced to pay for services for illegal immigrants that could have gone towards roads, bridges and other services for Americans.

This is not just a Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California issue. This is an Alabama issue. I will continue standing with President Trump and work to get an immigration system that works for the American people.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: As Democrats fight, national security loses

(N. Pelosi/Flickr, A. Cortez-Ocasio Campaign, CBP/Flickr, YHN)

Protecting the safety of the American people is our must fundamental duty in Congress. In a city where few things receive bipartisan support, providing for the national defense has remained an area of compromise.

For 58 straight years, the House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Last month, the Senate did its job. By a vote of 86 to 8, it passed a bipartisan defense authorization bill. In the House, things were to play out differently.

537

If you’ve followed anything going on in Washington the past several weeks, you’ve seen the drama and infighting within the House Democrat Caucus. It truly is open warfare. Speaker Pelosi has had to deal with everything from radical socialist demands for legislation that won’t pass and even Twitter battles between her own members.

Recently the top staffer for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the leader of the radicals, called a group of Democratic Congressmen – several of them people of color – racists. Their crime in the eyes of the socialist regressives was supporting a bipartisan, Senate-passed bill to provide aid to migrants at the border.

However, to this new class who want nothing less than a complete breaking apart of our society and a restructuring of our entire way of life, nothing Pelosi offers them will ever be enough.

In a caucus meeting last week, Pelosi pleaded with her members to keep their internal battles private. It remains to be seen if the public spectacle will subside. Recent history suggests it will continue.

As the storm within the Democrat Caucus continued, the NDAA came to the House floor. I voted against this bill when we marked it up in the Armed Services Committee. This is a bad bill that does not provide the funding our military leaders insist is necessary to keep us competitive against China and Russia. It cuts personnel and nuclear deterrence spending. It strips aid from our allies overseas and limits President Trump’s military and diplomatic authority. It prohibits the funding of critical national security efforts at our border. It even begins the process of shuttering detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Republicans offered good faith amendments to improve the bill.

House Democrats blocked my amendment to prohibit the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States from even being debated on the House Floor. Forty detainees remaining in Guantanamo are architects of the September 11th attacks, Osama bin Laden body guards, and Al-Qaeda operatives. These are bad people who have done harm to the United States in the past and would again if given the opportunity. The fact that my amendment did not even get a chance to be voted on tells you a lot about the new Democratic party.

Even undercutting our national defense was not enough for many in the Democrat party. Speaker Pelosi did not yet have the votes to pass her bill.

Pelosi could have done what Speakers and leaders of the House Armed Services Committee have done for 58 years. She could have sought a middle ground to ensure our men and women in the military have what they need to protect us. Unfortunately, Pelosi caved to radical demands and went in the other direction.

For days, the House voted on amendment after amendment offered by Democrats. Dozens of items from the socialist wish list were added to the bill. In the end, the bill received enough votes from Democrats to pass, but this bill will never become law.

Despite this leftward turn, the most extreme House members still did not vote for the NDAA. For them, nothing will be enough except the radical remaking our country, even at the expense of national security. This war among Democrats will continue.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: Remembering the stories of our heroes

(White House/Flickr)

For Americans from coast to coast, Independence Day is a celebration of our nation’s birthday with friends and family. The day also offers an opportunity for reflection.

In Washington, President Trump held a “Salute to America” celebration on the National Mall in honor of our troops. The patriotic spectacle, featuring military bands, aircraft flyovers and fireworks, was highlighted by a speech in which President Trump praised our “truly extraordinary heritage” and recounted our unique American story.

532

“It is the epic tale of a great nation whose people have risked everything for what they know is right and what they know is true,” he said. “It is the chronicle of great citizens who never give up on the dream of a better and brighter future and it is the saga of 13 separate colonies that united to form the most just and virtuous republic ever conceived. As long as we stay true to our course, as long as we remember our great history, as long as we never, ever stop fighting for a better future, then there will be nothing that America cannot do.”

His speech was given during an important time in our nation’s history. Growing threats overseas represent significant challenges to our sovereignty and increasing danger to our military men and women and citizens at home.

In the Middle East, we have seen an escalation of Iranian provocations that began with repeated attacks on oil tankers and led to the Iranians shooting down an American drone over international air space. The United States came close to retaliatory strikes in Iran.

Iran now boasts it will continue enriching uranium in pursuit of a nuclear weapon. This longstanding threat will not go away soon.

During a time of so much geopolitical turmoil, it’s important for us to, in President Trump’s words, “remember our great heritage” of the men and women who fought and sacrificed so that this great American experiment can continue.

Like many of yours, my family has shared in this sacrifice.

On June 3, 1942, during World War II, my uncle Jack Langsdale, a merchant mariner, was stationed aboard the City of Alma as it was torpedoed by a German U-boat about 400 miles northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The explosion ripped a 40-foot hole in the side of the vessel, and she sank within three minutes. The radio operator, who died on board, did not even get a chance to relay a message.

Of the 39 men on board the City of Alma that day, 29 lost their lives. Sadly, my uncle was among the dead. I never got the chance to know him.

I recently had the opportunity to talk about my uncle’s story to the Captain Richard Phillips Lane Kirkland Maritime Trust as we honored three World War II veterans in attendance. It was a special experience to thank these brave men for their role in securing our freedoms and to hear their stories of crossing the sea to fight for our country.

Captain Phillips himself knows the dangers our merchant mariners face on the high seas. In 2009, as the captain of the USS Maersk Alabama, Somali pirates boarded and commandeered his vessel. After several tense days of negotiations, escape attempts and dangerous confrontations, Navy SEAL snipers eliminated the pirates and rescued Captain Phillips, who had heroically presented himself as a hostage to save his crew. A 2013 film starring Tom Hanks as Captain Phillips depicts his remarkable saga.

Countless sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen have given so much so that we can continue to celebrate Independence Day. Though we can never repay them, we must do what we can to remember their stories.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: Border battle reveals Democratic divisions

(A. Ocasio-Cortez/Facebook, YHN)

For months, Speaker Pelosi and my Democratic friends have denied a crisis on the border exists. Nothing to see here!

But the American people, our border agents, video footage and even the liberal media insisted otherwise and called for action.

The public pressure was immense.

544

Now, in a development as stunning as it is sudden, Democrats have dramatically shifted gears, speaking out against the housing of illegal immigrants in detention and the need for immediate action to improve conditions.

This comes after Democrats refused for months to give the Administration the funding it needs to provide food, medical care, and temporary shelter to the very people Democrats now claim to be so concerned over.

Over the past several weeks alone, Democrats repeatedly blocked a Republican bill that would have offered aid while also providing border security funds to alleviate this problem going forward.

Last week, to stave off the mounting public pressure, the Democrats rammed through a partisan border bill that catered to the far-left fringe of their party but offered nothing to address the underlying problem. The partisan bill stood no chance of passing the Senate, and the President would not have signed it into law.

On the other hand, across the Capitol, under the leadership of Senator Shelby, the Senate passed a $4.5 billion package with bipartisan support. The deal does not include everything Republicans and President Trump wanted. But, in addition to improving conditions for migrants, it actually offers some funding priorities of our border agents and immigration judges. Remarkably, 84 United States Senators voted for it, including 34 Democrats.

To demonstrate the bipartisan nature of the Senate approach, Senate Republicans brought up the Pelosi bill, too. It was easily defeated, only earning 37 votes. That is only three more votes received from Democrats than the Republican bill!

After gaining such overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate, the Shelby bill placed Pelosi in a difficult position with her Democratic Caucus. She was caught between many of her freshman members, who were feeling the heat from constituents back home, and her radical progressive wing. Those radicals, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, favor open borders and want to defund and even abolish ICE. They threatened an open rebellion if Pelosi moved a package that included any funds for border security.

After days of tense internal squabbling, Pelosi reluctantly brought forth the Senate bill, which passed and will immediately begin providing for some modest improvements of conditions at our border.

By refusing to bring the Senate bill to a vote, Speaker Pelosi would have turned down $2.88 billion for shelter for children in immigration custody, $1.2 billion for processing and medical care, and $200 million for the Department of Justice to process immigration cases. She would have blocked the very resources we need to address the humanitarian crisis on the southern border. Sadly, many in her caucus preferred that option.

I am glad we were able to send the bill to the president and give much-needed aid to the border, but the men and women patrolling that border are not out of the woods yet. More must be done going forward to solve our immigration crisis, including fixing our asylum laws. I will continue advocating for legislation to help alleviate the problem, including the Fix the Immigration Loopholes Act.

Unfortunately, as we have seen all year in the House, Democrats seem too concerned with impeachment to address the concerns of American citizens. And with the growing power of the Democrat’s radical wing, passing legislation will only get more difficult.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: Religious freedom is worth defending

(B. Byrne/Facebook, Fox News/YouTube, Wikicommons)

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled on an important case with significant implications for the future of religious expression in our republic.

The case, American Legion v. American Humanist Association, was brought by a nonprofit atheist organization seeking to remove an almost 100-year-old monument in Maryland’s Prince George’s County.

563

The 40-foot granite and cement cross, called the Bladensburg Peace Cross, was built on public land and paid for by local families, businesses and the American Legion in 1925. It has stood in memory of local residents who died in World War I for almost a century. A state commission now owns the land and pays for its upkeep.

On its face, the claims made by the American Humanist Association that the Bladensburg Peace Cross represents an unconstitutional endorsement of religion do not seem legitimate or offered in good faith.

While the cross unquestionably has origins as a Christian symbol, for centuries it has also represented memorialization, remembrance and respect for the dead at cemeteries, parks and public spaces around the world.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s first choice for the Supreme Court in 2017, wrote that he would have dismissed the case, saying that the challenger’s claim to be offended by the sight of the monument did not hold legal merit.

But the Court chose to issue a ruling and rejected the out-of-state organization’s legal arguments that the memorial cross located just outside of Washington, DC represented an endorsement of religion that violated our Constitution. In a 7 to 2 decision, the Court ruled that the cross may continue to stand on public land.

Justice Samuel Alito, recognizing that a court-ordered removal of the cross would be the true violation of the Constitution, wrote in the main opinion that “tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion.

“…[D]estroying or defacing the Cross that has stood undisturbed for nearly a century would not be neutral and would not further the ideals of respect and tolerance embodied in the First Amendment.”

The Court’s decision was met with cheer and relief in Prince George’s County where the Bladensburg Peace Cross enjoys broad support.

The ruling “ensures that this memorial — a dignified tribute to those who came before us and made the ultimate sacrifice — will stand tall and proud for the ages,” Republican Governor Larry Hogan said.

Thankfully, we live in a country of religious freedom where no one is forced to practice religion but can practice any religion they choose. That is one of our most fundamental freedoms as Americans.

What cases like these are truly about is undermining religion. Lawsuit-happy groups like the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation seek to advance their own agenda by making it more difficult for Christians and believers of other religions to publicly practice and share their faith.

With the rise of these lawsuits, it is more important than ever that we place jurists on our courts who will adhere to our Constitution and protect our religious liberties.

Regrettably, these attacks on religious freedom are taking place in Congress too. Last month, Democrats passed the so-called Equality Act which included an explicit carveout of Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protections. It was only a few decades ago that Democrats Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy shepherded this legislation through Congress, but times and the Democrats have changed.

Just this week, the Committee on Education and Labor, on which I sit, has focused its attention on the “misapplication” of RFRA. I see this for what it is: an attempt to undermine our religious freedoms.

Our Constitutional protections are worth defending, and I pledge to continue the fight.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

Byrne: Border crisis needs lawful fix, not amnesty

(CBP/Flickr)

Decades of bad immigration policies have undermined our laws and led to the worst conditions at our border we’ve ever seen.

U.S. Border Patrol agents have apprehended a staggering 56,278 unaccompanied minors this fiscal year. The Department of Health & Human Services, tasked with housing the largest number of children in its history, had 13,200 minors in custody this month, and they warn they will soon run out of funding for the year.

551

Yet Democrats refuse to support funding relief. Even the liberal New York Times Editorial Board has called for Congress to act, but House Democrats continue to block bills to provide humanitarian aid for the border.

Democrats seem content with blaming President Trump for the problem instead of providing funding needed to care for unaccompanied migrant children, jeopardizing the health and safety of the very children they claim they want to help.

Not only do we need to address the current crisis, but we must strengthen our laws and change flawed policies drawing illegal immigrants in record numbers. However, Democrats have other plans.

Earlier this month, House Democrats passed H.R. 6, the poorly named American Dream and Promise Act. This bill flatly fails to address the escalating humanitarian and national security crisis at our border and, in fact, will make it much worse by incentivizing the continued lawlessness and abuse of our generous immigration system that has resulted in 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States.

This bill will reward approximately 2.7 million individuals who have broken our laws with a pathway to citizenship. This is a fundamental injustice to the hundreds of thousands who are following our immigration laws, spending the time, money, and energy to come into this country legally.

Under this bill, illegal immigrants convicted of multiple crimes, including multiple DUIs, would be eligible for not only amnesty but American citizenship. Moreover, the limited exclusions in the bill for felonies only apply to convictions. If an illegal immigrant has been arrested for a heinous crime, he or she could still be eligible for amnesty. And, while the majority gives lip service to claims that the bill prevents gang members from receiving green cards, the majority intentionally has written the bill in such a way that the provisions will never work.

The Democrats know these issues, yet they rejected Republican amendments to exclude known criminal gang members, illegal aliens with firearm convictions, and illegal aliens convicted of two or more DUIs from receiving amnesty.

We know from history, when we provide mass amnesty, it only spurs additional illegal immigration into the United States. Without stopping the problem that led to this issue, in another 20 or 30 years we will be back in the same place – faced with providing additional amnesty for a new class of illegal immigrants.

In his famous pamphlet Common Sense, Thomas Paine said that “in America, the law is king.” John Adams, one of the most indispensable founders of our Constitutional Republic, sought to create “a government of laws not of men.” If our immigration laws are unjust or, as I believe, inadequate, let’s debate how to change or improve them. But to undermine the rule of law through mass amnesty will erode the very foundation of our Constitutional government, weakening the protections it offers both to Americans and those who will one day gain citizenship. That course of action is not compassionate.

Rather than reward those who have engaged in illegal behavior, we should be working to secure our border, end asylum abuse, and close loopholes in our laws that are contributing to the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America.

This bill ignores one of the most fundamental challenges of our time to pander to a political base. The American people deserve better.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.