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

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    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

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    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: 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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Byrne: On abortion, we cannot remain silent

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

For most of the history of our country, it was widely accepted, as I firmly believe now, that life begins at conception, that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. The thought of prematurely ending a pregnancy was considered in stark, unreconcilable contrast to the principles of our founding of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Support for the rights of the unborn was not a partisan political issue. The taking of an innocent life created by God was wrong and always would be.

How times have changed! Since Roe v. Wade, support for abortion has steadily grown stronger within the Democratic Party. Today, with the party almost completely taken over by its radical, progressive wing, abortion has become a litmus test for candidates. Whether its late-term abortions or even so-called after-birth abortions – what we in Alabama would call murder – Democrats seem to be trying to outdo one another by how far outside of the mainstream they can fall on this issue.

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Earlier this year, President Trump’s call in his State of the Union speech for Congress to ban late-term abortions was met with almost universal condemnation from Democrats. Months later, to little surprise, Speaker Pelosi has yet to take any action to do so.

Just recently, the House Democrat campaign committee canceled a fundraiser for one of their members because he held pro-life positions. Truly there is no longer a place in the Democrat party for anyone who believes in rights and protections for the unborn.

There is even growing support on the presidential trail for eliminating the Hyde Amendment, in place for over 40 years, which bars Medicaid, Medicare and other federal health programs from paying for abortions.

Two of the most shocking displays of the newly emboldened radicalism within the Democrat party are bills in New York and Virginia that would extend abortion rights up until and, according to the governor of Virginia, even beyond the point of birth. This is outrageous, and my Republican colleagues and I are fighting back.

Last week, on the floor of the House of Representatives, I asked for unanimous consent for the House to consider a bill I have cosponsored called the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This bill ensures any infant born alive after a failed abortion receives the same protections as any newborn. Unfortunately, Democratic leadership denied my request, turned off my microphone, and refused to recognize me again.

Every American deserves to know where their elected representative stands on this issue. Democrats seem to think this issue will go away, but I promise you, I will not let it go away.

I believe we are coming to a point in America where the tide will turn and people will demand an end to the injustice and barbarism of abortions. Every single life is precious and worth fighting for, and I am proud to lead this fight for the unborn.

Rebecca and I are the proud parents of four children, Patrick, Kathleen, Laura and Colin. Each of them is an indescribable blessing, and we love them dearly. We taught our children to read, swim and ride a bike. We studied the Bible and shared our faith with them, and we helped them through their schoolwork and athletic pursuits. Now adults, our children have begun experiencing the blessings of parenthood.

I find it difficult to understand how someone can experience the joys of raising a child and yet support abortion.

While abortion is unpleasant to even think about, we owe it to the unborn to be loud advocates for them. It’s the right thing to do, and I am thankful to have the opportunity to fight for Alabama values like these in Washington.

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

Byrne: We deserve the whole story — Investigate the investigators

(Wikicommons, B. Byrne/Facebook)

It is fitting that last week, now-former special counsel Robert Mueller announced his resignation and return to private life and his shuttering the office of the special counsel.

Just the day before his announcement, I filed a bill to get some real transparency from those who undertook this costly, wasteful and pointless investigation and to ensure that something this unnecessary never happens again.

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I have read the entire Mueller report cover to cover, and it’s clear to me there was no collusion and no obstruction. Even with access to the full resources of the Department of Justice, Mueller was unable to find evidence to bring criminal charges on these matters.

With no legal requirement to release the report, President Trump and Attorney General Barr did so anyway. They should be commended for their unprecedented transparency, but then again, why wouldn’t they choose to release the report? Most fair-minded folks would come to the same conclusion after reading it: no collusion, no obstruction, time to move on. Unfortunately, partisan grandstanding over imagined Russian collusion continues, although most of the public has accepted the report’s results.

Every American was given access to see the special counsel’s report upon its release. This was important to give American citizens the information they need to come to their own informed conclusions about the investigation. Unfortunately, many troubling questions surrounding the creation of this investigation remain unanswered.

We must determine what led in 2016 to the authorization of this partisan witch hunt against President Trump and find out why, at the same time, Secretary Clinton was given a pass after clearly violating multiple federal laws. And, we need to make sure something like this never happens again.

My bill, the Investigate the Investigators Act, would set in motion a formal Department of Justice investigation into all the actions taken during the 2016 presidential election relating to the federal investigations of President Trump and Secretary Clinton.

Like many of you, I have questions I want answered. Were warrants obtained against President Trump’s campaign staff legal? Were they obtained with partisan, fabricated evidence paid for by Hillary Clinton? What was the role of politics in taking a pass on prosecuting Hillary Clinton after she clearly violated federal law and State Department regulations? How did the anti-Trump bias of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page affect the Department of Justice? Most importantly, what did President Obama and his team know about this and when did they know it? My bill would require Attorney General Barr to get the answers to all these questions and release them in a public report within six months.

My bill would also help prevent us from ever again suffering through politically-motivated investigations to influence elections. If the Department of Justice ever opens an investigation into a president or a presidential candidate or an elected federal official, an independent oversight investigation would automatically be launched. Don’t get me wrong, the vast majority of the people at the Department of Justice are honest, hardworking, and good folks. But, having safeguards in place is critical to making sure a few bad apples don’t cause a repeat of 2016.

We must know what happened in 2016 and also ensure no high-placed government officials ever abuse their position again. The Investigate the Investigators Act will enable the Department of Justice to determine what President Obama and his administration knew and when they knew it and why numerous questionable decisions were made in 2016 and beyond.

The American people deserve the truth, and we as elected officials in Washington should hold ourselves to higher standards than political gamesmanship.

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

Byrne: All who have gone before

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

War-time letters throughout our nation’s history can offer us a window into the personal sacrifices of our fighting men and women. Perhaps one of the most famous was by Major Sullivan Ballou of the Second Rhode Island Infantry, written just before the First Battle of Manassas in the Civil War.

In it, he talks of his love for his wife, Sarah, and his deep devotion to the cause for which he is fighting. He also expresses his worries and fears over the coming engagement and his sorrow that, were he not to return home, he will miss his sons growing up to “honorable manhood.”

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“I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in this hazarding the happiness of those I loved, and I could not find one. A pure love of my country, and of the principles I have often advocated before the people, and ‘the name of honor, that I love more than I fear death,’ have called upon me, and I have obeyed. … But, O Sarah, if the dead can come back to this earth, and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you… always, and, if the soft breeze fans your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air cools your throbbing temples, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone, and wait for me, for we shall meet again.”

Oliver Reed of the 20th Continental Regiment wrote to his wife of the hardships of Valley Forge, the Battle of Long Island and a number of skirmishes, saying, “God grant that we may Live to [meet] again in this World: if not tis my [desire] and Prayers to God that we may met in the Heavenly World whare thare is no more Deth [sic].”

Staff Sgt. Eugene Lawton was one of the thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force landing in Normandy in June of 1944, only 75 years ago. Writing to his parents, “For right here was history in the making. Events taking place that kids will be reading about in future at school. Yes, I for one was proud that I had the honor of helping in my small way in this present conflict.”

Two weeks after writing his letter to Sarah, Maj. Ballou was killed by cannon fire at First Manassas. Oliver Reed died in October of 1778 in a hospital in Connecticut after falling ill in camp. Sgt. Lawton was killed only a few months after D-Day during the Battle of the Bulge.

This week, many will celebrate Memorial Day. For some, it is a day to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy with barbeques, pool parties and fireworks.

For you, though, I hope you will take time to reflect on the countless dead who, in service and devotion to their country, gave up their desires of freedom and happiness for those they loved and those that would come after.

Memorials to the fallen are not obelisks standing in fields. They are not towering statues or roadside markers. They are not marble tombs or stone walls.

The real memorials to those who surrendered their lives for our freedoms are the farmers plowing their fields. They are towering skyscrapers and roadside markets. They are marble counters and stone floors in our homes and churches.

We owe all that we are, our very way of life, to those who gave all they had.

For as long as it takes to walk to your car, or to microwave popcorn, or to listen to the national anthem at a ball game, say a prayer of thanks this week for all who have gone before.

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

Byrne: Give them an inch, and they’ll take your rights

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

Last week I had the great experience to join my colleagues in a little friendly competition at the Congressional Clays Competition hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. It was great to express our Second Amendment rights with some healthy rivalry, but it reminded me of those in this country who cannot express this right freely.

Our Founding Fathers enshrined the right to keep and bear arms in our nation’s Constitution. Throughout our history, we have seen the importance of the Second Amendment for people to make a living, to provide for their families, and to protect their life and liberty.

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Unfortunately, there are those in the United States who want to limit our Constitutional rights and infringe upon our freedoms. One place, in particular, trying to restrict the rights of gun owners to defend themselves is the city of New York. Based on their unconstitutional regulations, a court case, N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, has been underway to right this egregious wrong. After several appeals, this case will determine if New York’s ban on transporting a handgun to a home or shooting range outside city limits is constitutional.

When I heard this case was heading to the Supreme Court, I knew something had to be done. That is why I led 120 of my House colleagues in filing an amicus brief before the Court in support of the right to bear arms. An amicus brief, known as a “friend of the court” brief, is filed by parties not in a case to provide the court with information, expertise, or insight on an issue.

Our Constitution is clear: the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. This case will provide the Supreme Court the first significant Second Amendment case in nearly ten years. Importantly, this will be the first time President Trump’s nominees, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, will get a chance to rule on the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms for protection and sport.

It is vital the Court use this opportunity to rein in out of control liberal legislatures and judges who are trying to destroy the Second Amendment rights of Americans.

As a gun owner and avid hunter, I know how important it is for folks to express their rights. Many people I have heard from in Alabama over the years feel the same way. It seems far-left Democrats throughout the nation have lost touch with our founding principles many still hold dear.

Some people might say that this is only a New York issue that the Supreme Court should stay out of. But, when it comes to our Constitutional rights, it only takes an inch for a mile-wide divide to start. It doesn’t make sense that people of New York be held to a different standard than the people of Alabama, New Mexico or Montana.

We must be constantly vigilant against such encroachments. This is a matter of privacy, telling you what you can and cannot carry in your own vehicle, and this is a matter of the sanctity of one of the oldest freedoms we know as Americans.

The Second Amendment enshrines an individual and fundamental right of citizens to protect themselves from violence and tyranny. Courts should block attempts to restrict those rights based on disingenuous arguments like those made by the city of New York. My colleagues and I were proud to call on the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of American citizens to own firearms.

No matter what, I will continue to be a strong advocate for gun owners throughout the United States, standing up to out-of-touch Democrats and fighting for our rights.

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

Byrne: Stop the crisis — Close the loopholes

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

Since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, they have turned a blind eye to infanticide, promoted overregulation of American businesses, and sought socialist measures in the United States, oftentimes at the expense of the taxpayer.

They have also made it clear that they stand for open borders by ignoring the ongoing crisis at the southern border.

In the past five months, we have read story after story of illegal immigrants taking advantage of our weakened border and broken immigration system to commit horrendous, preventable crimes.

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In March, there was a 230 percent increase in illegal border crossings in the Yuma Sector of Arizona alone.

That same month, a man who had been deported two times made his way back into our country and raped and killed an innocent woman in New Jersey.

And in Southwest Alabama, a beloved educator at Living Word Christian Center Kingdom Academy, Sonya Jones, was killed in a head-on wreck in Mobile by an illegal immigrant who failed to appear at a court date for his immigration case.

Too often our system allows foreigners to come into our country illegally, slip through the cracks, and commit horrific acts.

If Democrat House leadership would stop stonewalling and act, we could prevent these tragedies, and innocent Americans wouldn’t be needlessly put at risk.

I stand with President Trump and his continued calls to fund national security improvements at our border and fix our broken system. We owe it to the American people.

That is why I cosponsored the Fix the Immigration Loopholes Act. Congress must close the loopholes that continue to allow historic numbers of illegal immigrants to enter our country.

This legislation includes three reforms to prevent illegal immigration: fixing the Flores settlement, closing loopholes in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), and improving the asylum system.

The Flores case settlement, reached in 1997, states that children who come into the country illegally must be released into the U.S. after only 20 days. This terrible legal settlement, put in place by the Clinton administration, caused the family separation problem last year. This bill will ensure children entering the country illegally are not separated from their parent or guardian while their claim is processed. It also contains measures to ensure that the accompanying adult truly is their parent or legal guardian, reducing the incentive for illegal immigrants to smuggle children to increase their chance of release into our country.

Closing loopholes in the TVPRA will do much to ensure that unaccompanied minors are quickly and safely returned to their home. Current policy only allows expedited action to be taken for children from countries that border the U.S. Children from other countries must go through a long court process, during which time they are released into our country. Oftentimes, they disappear before their court proceeding occurs. This bill will make sure they receive a hearing within 14 days and that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is provided with biographical information about the person or persons they are released to, helping to prevent human trafficking.

Lastly, this bill closes loopholes in the asylum process by tightening the “credible fear” standard which promotes frivolous and fraudulent claims of asylum. It also increases penalties for making false or frivolous claims in asylum proceedings. Currently, only about 20 percent of asylum claims are granted.

Illegal immigrants committing heinous, preventable crimes and smuggling children clearly constitutes a crisis. Our porous border must be secured by eliminating loopholes that incentivize illegality.

While Democrats stand idly by, I will continue to fight for your safety.

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

Byrne: American values leave no room for socialism

(Rep. Byrne)

Last week, I was honored to address a group of newly naturalized citizens of the United States. It was an experience that gave me the opportunity to reflect on a question as old as our nation itself: “What does it mean to be an American?”

In the United States, we don’t define citizenship as being part of the dominant ethnic group. And we do not define citizenship as being part of the dominant religion or hound out those with whom we disagree. Nor are we defined as the subjects of a monarch or strongman dictator.

Indeed, we Americans believe that “we the people” can govern ourselves.

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It has been said that democracy acts as a mirror: the government you get in practice often reflects the virtues of its people. Benjamin Franklin is said to have acknowledged the burden of our system when asked what type of new government the Constitutional Convention had created. His answer? “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Unfortunately, there are some today that are losing sight of what our founders intended when our country was established.

Our federal government was designed to be limited because our Founders had been the victims of a despotic king and an uncaring parliament. So, the first words in our Constitution are, “We the People.” Note that those words aren’t “We the Government.” Over and over, the Constitution limits what the government can do and how it can do it. Why does it look so difficult to pass a law in Washington? Because it is supposed to be difficult, a byproduct of the Founders’ skepticism of consolidated government power.

In Washington today, though, there are those who are trying to turn away from these founding principles. Instead, they want to turn toward measures that create a more invasive and overreaching government. In short, they are looking to socialism to answer the problems that face us today, rather than a return to our founding principles.

Policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal attempt to use the government to fix problems in broad-sweeping, all-encompassing acts that forget about the individual, the economy, and our responsibilities as citizens of the United States.

Last week, socialism received a reality check in the form of a report proponents of these policies ordered themselves. The Congressional Budget Office issued an analysis on transforming our healthcare system in the United States to a single, government-operated system. Not only would it cost trillions of dollars for decades, but it would also be “complicated, challenging and potentially disruptive.”

We don’t have to look far to see the problems caused by socialism. The issues currently facing the country of Venezuela stem from their socialist policies and government overreach. Socialism took a country that has the largest proven oil reserves in the world and drove it down to the point that people are getting their drinking water from sewage ditches.

Yet when President Trump said that America is not a socialist country, half of Congress sat on their hands. The American people do not want what they have in Venezuela here in the United States.

Through our continuing great American experiment, certain longstanding values must continue to define us. Americans believe in hard work and honesty. We think common sense is more important than dollars and cents.

As I said, there are some here in America who want us to change. Change has always been a part of our country and our national identity. But the fundamentals, these values that underlie our national character, should never change. In fact, we should continue to build on them to, in the words of the Preamble to the Constitution, “form a more perfect union.”

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

Byrne: A big win for Alabama rural hospitals

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

A handful of stories in Washington generally get about 90 percent of the media’s attention. Don’t get me wrong, many of those stories are important, but much of my time in Washington is also focused on getting things done for Alabama that don’t make the front page.

This week we got a big win on just one of those many issues. Over the last ten years, Alabama has seen a string of hospitals close. Today, 88 percent of our rural Alabama hospitals are operating in the red. This is unsustainable and represents a major challenge.

When a rural hospital closes, it can be devastating for the surrounding area. High paying jobs are lost. Folks must drive much further for their healthcare. And, it makes it harder to attract new jobs and opportunity to our rural communities, one of my major goals.

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A significant driver of the hospital closure problem is a broken Medicare formula known as the “Wage Index.” Under the Wage Index, hospitals are paid different amounts for doing the exact same work. Some difference in payment makes sense, but Alabama hospitals are often paid thousands less than similar hospitals as nearby as Georgia or Florida. Some hospitals in areas like California and New York can be paid almost three times as much as Alabama hospitals. This is simply unfair and makes no sense.

For nearly three decades, Alabama hospitals have been facing declining Medicare reimbursement due to this fundamentally flawed reimbursement system. It has put an incredible strain on Alabama hospitals that has culminated in our rural hospital closures over the last decade.

To make it worse, under the Wage Index, the difference grows every year. The more your hospital spends, often the more it gets from Medicare. Only in Washington would we reward hospitals that bloat their costs with more money while punishing those who operate efficiently, but that is exactly how the Wage Index works. It has been a problem for Alabama for almost 30 years.

When President Trump came into office, one of the first things I did was meet with his Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma about this issue. Administrator Verma promised that she would look into the Wage Index. For nearly two years, my office continued to work with CMS looking for a solution. Representative Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) and I organized 45 House Members whose districts have this same problem to make suggestions on fixes to the Trump administration.

Based on that hard work, the Trump administration put forward an exciting new proposal last week to reform the Wage Index. Under the administration’s plan, Alabama hospitals are set to receive approximately $34 million more per year from Medicare, with much of that money going to rural hospitals that need it the most. Even better, none of this is new spending. It’s simply redirecting federal funds that Alabama hospitals are owed that have been unfairly going to places like Los Angeles.

This is a huge win for our state and will help with the rural hospital problem. Like I said, you probably won’t hear much about it in the news. It’s not flashy, it’s not something that generates views and clicks, but things like this are critical to my work in Washington to move things forward for Alabama.

For years I have been calling for greater protections for our rural hospitals. It’s about more than just healthcare: it’s about jobs, it’s about growth, and it’s about our communities. Too often, rural America is forgotten in Washington. As long as I am there, I will always advocate for our rural communities here in Alabama.

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

Byrne: Alabama the Beautiful

(B. Bryne/Facebook)

As the weather continues to warm and summer temperatures approach, I am reminded of the incredible natural beauty that lies here in Alabama.

For many schools throughout Southwest Alabama, April marked Spring Break for students and teachers, and so many families take advantage of that time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors throughout our state.

As a hunter and outdoorsman, I know the importance of managing our wildlife areas and natural resources – private, family-owned and public lands – to ensure they are around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy for decades to come. That is why I have once again joined the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to protect and advance our national heritage of hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and trapping.

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As anyone who lives here knows, along the Gulf Coast we are blessed with an amazingly diverse and important ecosystem.

This week, I will be visiting the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge along the Fort Morgan Peninsula to celebrate the completion of a significant land conservation effort within the Little Point Clear Unit. Bon Secour is home to countless species and is a favorite outdoor spot for many Southwest Alabamians.

Just across Mobile Bay, I’ll also have the privilege of participating in the Lightning Point Restoration Project groundbreaking in Bayou La Batre, another successful coastal restoration project made possible by local leadership and public-private partnerships.

With miles of trails and plenty to do and see, I am committed to preserving these important resources and habitats for future generations.

Just here in our backyard of Southwest Alabama, we also have Gulf State Park, Meaher State Park, Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines, Frank Jackson State Park, dozens of walking trails, outdoor spaces and campgrounds.

It is up to us to take care of our area. Just a few weeks ago, Orange Beach was named the cleanest town in Alabama. What an accomplishment for Orange Beach residents!

It is also up to Congress to ensure that we take care of our natural resources as well. That is why I have continued to fight for just compensation in cases of natural disaster or human error.

The RESTORE (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States) Act has provided funds for the cleanup from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that greatly impacted our shores and communities. It is important that the entirety of those funds are distributed as intended to the impacted communities and that such a disaster is not repeated in the future.

Similarly, I am grateful to President Trump for maintaining the funding for the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). This legislation provides for fair compensation to Alabama by creating revenue sharing provisions used for coastal conservation, restoration and hurricane protection.

Enjoying the beauty of mother nature along the coast also means having to recover when she turns violent.

We are unfortunately all too familiar with hurricanes and other violent storms in our area. Being prepared goes a long way to riding out the storm, but it is how we recover that defines the spirit of resilience that we have here in Alabama. When the worst does happen, I always fight to ensure that the people of Alabama have access to the necessary funds and resources to recover from those natural disasters.

I have lived my whole life in Alabama, and I believe we live in the most beautiful state in the country. Whenever I am out in nature with my kids and grandkids, hunting, fishing, or simply enjoying God’s creation, I understand why we call it “Alabama the Beautiful.”

This year, as the Spring turns into Summer, make sure you take time to enjoy nature and get out and enjoy our parks, history and everything Alabama has to offer.

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

Byrne: The light of Easter

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

For those of us who are Christians, this week is the most important and holiest of the year.

We begin the week remembering Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, walk with Him through his last teachings in the Temple, watch the last supper with His disciples, sadly witness His arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, view with tears his torture and crucifixion, and sorrow over his death and burial — only to wake up on Easter Sunday to the miracle of His resurrection.

There is so much meaning in this week that it is hard to pull out just one message.

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His suffering wasn’t just physical, although Roman flogging and crucifixion were brutal even by the standards of that brutal time. He was betrayed by one of his disciples, a close friend. He was arrested, beaten and tried by his own people, who ultimately turned Him over to the enemy Romans, demanding the death penalty. Pilate gave the people the decision to save Him, and they, after praising Him effusively just a few days earlier, call for His execution.

On the cross He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” not so much for the physical pain He suffered but because at that point He took on the sins of all people. Sin is ultimately the separation of each person from God. Earlier in the Gospels, Jesus said “I and the Father are one.” To take on the sins of the whole world meant the ultimate separation from God, and that was the worst torture for Jesus.

And yet He took it all on willingly, fulfilling the Suffering Servant prophesies of Isaiah. That suffering and death were just the prelude to the true triumph over sin and death in the Resurrection.

In our much too busy world, where we are easily distracted from the Truth, and our ultimate calling as the hearers and beneficiaries of the Truth, we need to not just hear this story but let it sink deeply into our lives. If God loves us so much that He will allow His Son to be tortured and killed, surely we can return the favor by loving Him and one another.

As I have noted in years past, we are truly a blessed nation with the freedoms we enjoy. We have the freedom to worship or not worship as we please, without interference from the government.

Sadly, there are many throughout the world who do not have that freedom.

In 1630, John Winthrop addressed a group of colonists bound for Massachusetts in the New World. He told them, “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.”

This imagery came from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)

Many Americans are familiar with this same “shining city on a hill” idea President Reagan used throughout his presidency and his life.

There is an inner light, shining to the world, that comes from the people of the United States thanks to the freedoms we enjoy, the love and kindness that we share with one another, and our strong foundations.

Much of that light permeated the early beginnings of this country. Our nation was built upon a strong foundation of Biblical values and morals and laws that shine brightly to the rest of the world.

The ancient Easter greeting resonates with me every day:

Alleluia! The Lord is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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

Byrne: 100 days of Democrats

(Wikicommons, YHN)

This week will mark 100 days Democrats have held power in the House of Representatives in Washington.

I considered listing tangible Democrat achievements so far this Congress, but that would result in a blank page.

Instead, all Democrats have managed to do in 14 weeks is obstruct what is best for the American people, pander to their far-left base and, generally, nothing constructive.

Luckily, some in their own party are starting to realize that it is time to get to work and get things done for hardworking Americans.

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Rep. Kurt Schrader, an Oregon Democrat, said last week, “It’s time to move off the talking points and on to legislating. I haven’t heard about anything that deals with the economy or some of the other issues.”

He went on to add of the House Democrat legislative agenda, “I assume this is just playing to the left wing of our base.”

My colleague across the aisle is right. We were elected to work for you, not tick off messaging bullet points.

I made a prediction last year that this will be a crazy session on the part of Democrats, and in their first 100mdays, they have proven it time and time again.

The year began as an entrenched Democrat party refused to budge on funding for President Trump’s plan to reinforce our southern border and get a handle on the ongoing national security crisis there.

Months later, the true nature and extent of the illegal immigration crisis has become painfully clearer: drugs, violence, human trafficking and many preventable crimes have escalated. Yet Democrats have not taken action.

From denying the national security crisis at the border, Democrats moved on to supporting infanticide.

For weeks, my Republican colleagues and I have been calling on Democrats to stand up for life and allow a vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. By vocally expressing support of abortion, refusing to comment, or not signing our discharge petition filed last week, Democrats have made clear that they support infanticide.

There are not words strong enough to express how barbaric and reprehensible it is to kill an innocent infant. I believe God makes every person in His image, that we all are important and have worth, and that life begins at conception. There should be no question that so-called after-birth abortions are murder, plain and simple.

In January, a Marist poll found an overwhelming number of people support substantial restrictions on abortion. Because of the position that many on the left have taken, and in light of the laws proposed in New York and Virginia, many Americans have realized how far we have strayed from our nation’s values.

Throughout these past one hundred days, there have been countless small and large ways that Democrats have pandered.

The “Green New Deal,” an ill-thought-out and colossally expensive plan that has since fallen by the wayside, backfired drastically.

“Medicare for All” has been shown to be nothing more than an incredibly costly way to remove quality healthcare coverage people already have and replace it with government-regulated insurance.

And time and again, we have seen the radicals of the Democrat party speak out against our allies, show blatant disregard for the office of president and our nation’s institutions, and discard longstanding American values to appease activist progressives.

The American people have had enough as Democrats have shown the people do not matter as much as political messaging.

As long as I represent the people of Alabama in Washington and can carry our values and ideals to Congress, there will be a cool head amongst the angry and counter-productive mob.

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

Byrne: Time for Democrats to remove their ‘gone fishin’ sign

(Pixabay, YHN)

There is an old expression that goes: “The worst day of fishing beats the best day of working.”

As an avid fisherman myself, I can certainly understand the feeling behind that saying.

But, sometimes, fishing is the worst thing to be doing, especially when there is important work to be done.

This past week, in the wake of the Mueller report finally being completed, Democrats hung the “Gone Fishin’” sign outside the Capitol.

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Not satisfied that special counsel Robert Mueller had reported that there was no collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, Democrat leadership dug-in on their calls for more investigations by Congress, fishing for more evidence even though years of looking found nothing.

After the first fishing expedition led by Mueller failed to bring in the “big catch” that Democrats hoped for, they are doubling down, somehow expecting different results.

According to Mueller, no additional indictments are expected and Mr. Mueller will soon be leaving his position.

It is over.

This fishing trip was started all the way back in the Summer of 2016 and lasted until this March. It cost American taxpayers millions of dollars, the time of 40 FBI agents and 500 witness interviews, 22 months of unsubstantiated lies about President Trump from the liberal media and a lifetime of divisiveness.

It seems like the worst two years of fishing would have been much better spent focusing on working for the American people.

We have heard for years from Democrats that the American people want answers. Finally, we have one: There was no collusion. The Democrats are not satisfied with this answer and they never will be. I think the American people deserve to know answers, just not the false ones my Democrat colleagues want.

What I want to know now is what was known by the previous administration when calls for this investigation began. What did President Obama and his officials know when the FBI investigation was authorized all the way back in Summer 2016? Why did Democrats promise to deliver evidence of collusion when, after two years, nothing has been found?

Attorney General William Barr will be releasing a version of the report compiled by special counsel Mueller to Congress soon.

I very much look forward to reading it.

But I will continue to ask the tough questions the people of Alabama really want asked. We stand by our president, and we still want answers.

For now, I call on my Democrat colleagues to take down the “Gone Fishin’” sign, listen to the American people, listen to the truth and let’s get back to work.

There are a lot of real things to worry about right here in our own country, not made up stories about spies and espionage.

Instead of fishing, let’s work on fixing our broken immigration system. We have thousands of foreign nationals pouring over our Southern Border every week. We have senseless murders at the hands of immigrants in our country illegally. We have violent crimes that can be prevented, if only Congress were to act.

Let’s work on taking better care of our nation’s veterans. Let’s work on improving educational opportunities and choices for our young people. Let’s focus on the people we were elected to represent: the hardworking citizens of the United States of America.

President Trump and conservative policies have spurred American economic growth to amazing new heights in the last two years, and through the national emergency declaration, we are in the starting phases of getting the border under control.

There is still much work to be done for our country, and I’m ready to work. For the people of Southwest Alabama, “The Congressman is IN.”

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

Byrne: Caring for the brave in the land of the free

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

It has been years in the making, but finally, the veterans of our area will be able to get the care they have long deserved.

On Monday, March 18, I had the honor of participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new VA Outpatient Clinic located in Tillmans Corner.

Many veterans from Southwest Alabama were on hand to witness the ceremony and tour the new facility. As someone who has deep respect and appreciation for our veterans, it was very exciting to watch the veterans tour their new facility.

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My brother, Dale, was a veteran, who served in the Alabama National Guard, so I know the importance of caring for those who have given so much of themselves to our country.

Just before I was elected to my first term in Congress, Dale passed away. His legacy has always been something that has driven me every day to fight for our military members, both past and present. I couldn’t help but think about Dale as we were cutting the ribbon on that new VA clinic.

I am so proud of the hard work over the past two decades to reach this point. Work on this project dates back multiple congressmen and shows just how complicated and frustrating the government bureaucracy can be.

As soon as I took office in Washington, I began pushing for the construction of this new VA facility. I held meetings and sent letters demanding a better clinic for our veterans. Thanks to the efforts of many people, we now have a clinic that truly reflects how we feel about our veterans.

Our area is home to over 50,000 veterans. They have served our nation honorably, and they are deserving of everything we have to give them. Shouldn’t we, as a grateful nation, be able to give them the very best? Thankfully, the new clinic is state-of-the-art, modern, and offers several services that won’t require veterans to drive to the VA hospital in Biloxi.

The new, 65,000 square feet clinic is conveniently located right off I-10 in Tillmans Corner. This location should be easy for local veterans to access, and the clinic has adequate public parking.

The new clinic provides space for primary care, audiology and speech pathology, education, eye clinics, mental health, patient advocacy, radiology, Veterans’ Service Organizations and women’s health.

The region’s primary inpatient facility is still in Biloxi, but this new outpatient clinic in Mobile represents a huge improvement for our veterans.

Service in the military is so much more than just a job. It is a dedication to support and defend the Constitution and the people of the United States, both at home and abroad. That service is immeasurable, and I am humbled to represent so many of those who have fought for our freedoms.

There is still much work to be done to make life better for veterans. So far this year, I have thrown my support behind fifteen bills focused on making life better for veterans, military families or active duty service members.

Many of those bills have to do with getting veterans and their families the services, benefits and recognition they have literally fought for.

There is a great quote from Elmer Davis, a renowned news reporter and civil servant during World War II who knew the importance of informing the public of what service in the military really meant: “This will remain the land of the free so long as it is the home of the brave.”

As long as we remember to take care of the brave, we will remain the land of the free.

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

Byrne: Supporting state and local government

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

Last week, I was honored to host some of our local mayors, city council members and city officials from Southwest Alabama in Washington to hear about what they do every day for our communities.

I am a firm believer that the best people to run our towns and our communities are not the bureaucrats in Washington or the federal government. The best people to do that are the people who live, work, and play in the same place as the neighbors they represent. That is why I come home to Southwest Alabama every weekend, to be in touch with the people I serve in Washington.

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Everyone wants a great quality of life. Part of that comes down to having good roads and bridges, having high-quality schools, knowing that the fire department, police, EMS and other first responders will be there when we call, and countless other things that happen on a local level.

The federal government is not the best place to regulate those things. Heavy-handed government mandates and rules that impose “we know best” policies on our local communities don’t work. What works in Robertsdale, Brewton or Chatom might not work in Nashville, Boston or Anchorage.

One of the things that has always worked best is to have a strong partnership between our local, state and federal officials. My mission has always been to assist our local leaders on projects when they need our help, but it is not my place to tell our local mayors how to do their job or what will be best for their community. I want to be a part of their team.

This teamwork approach has worked incredibly well when it comes to bringing new jobs to our area. When a prospective business is looking at locating in a new place, they want to know that officials at every level of government are willing to work with them to support their business and their employees.

A good example of this is saving our rural hospitals. In most places, these hospitals are the bedrock of a community. No major business will locate in a town that doesn’t have a hospital. So, that’s why I have been working with our local and state officials to do everything in my power to save our rural hospitals from closing. But, this requires a total team approach from all levels of government.

Another prime example of giving more power back to the local level is Alabama’s Red Snapper recreational fishing season.

In years past, the federal government has put stringent regulations on Gulf Coast fishing that has ended up hurting local fishermen. Those of us in Alabama best understand Alabama issues, and after years of continuous advocating, this year we received great news that the 2019 Red Snapper season for recreational fishermen will take place on three-day weekends (Friday-Sunday) from June 1st through July 28th, including July 4th.

As I have said repeatedly, this issue is about more than just fishing. A full Red Snapper season helps boost our coastal economies due to everything from fuel sales to hotel and condo rentals. We must continue pushing for greater state control over our fisheries.

Fixing our Red Snapper season wasn’t done by just one person. From the city councils to the state Department of Conservation to the halls of Congress, it took a total team effort to make a positive impact for our residents.

As long as I have the honor of representing Alabama, I promise to always be a part of the team to make life better for people in our communities. I am dedicated to doing what is best for Alabama through policies that give back to, not take from, our communities.

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

Byrne: Giving our students the best education possible

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This question is probably the single most-asked question of any child throughout the world. Here in the United States, many children are able to achieve their dreams through hard work, dedication and a quality education.

But, for some here in our own country, hard work and dedication are not enough when it comes to circumstances out of their control like where they live or how much their family makes. Too many students find themselves stuck in failing schools.

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Every child has boundless individual potential, and we must do everything we can to ensure they have the opportunity and freedom to realize that potential. To do that, we must ensure all children have access to choice in education.

Education has always been a passion of mine. In fact, concerns over public education first motivated me to run for office and work to make a difference. As a first-generation college graduate, I’ve seen firsthand the power a quality education can have on an individual’s life.

So, I have always been an advocate for public education and worked to make sure our schools have the resources they need to do help educate our students. I’ve also fought to limit the heavy hand of the federal government in our classrooms, in an effort to make sure decisions are made by local and state officials who best understand their students.

Whether it was serving on the Alabama State Board of Education or more recently as a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, I have made it a priority to put forward solutions to create a better future for our nation’s children.

Most recently, I worked with the Trump administration to introduce the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act. This legislation will give students and parents in Alabama and around the country the freedom they deserve to make educational decisions that are right for them.

The Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act was developed in consultation with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Senator Ted Cruz as the Trump administration’s leading education proposal. Our bill responds to President Trump’s State of the Union call for greater school choice and builds upon the model that has already been successful in Alabama.

Every student in America should have the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, and we can help accomplish that goal through a new federal tax credit. Our bill will create a non-refundable federal tax credit for contributions from individuals and businesses to state-identified nonprofits called Scholarship Granting Organizations.

These scholarships can be used to expand students’ access to a variety of educational opportunities, from advanced or remedial courses to private and homeschooling to CTE opportunities.

It puts control in the hands of states and localities rather than the federal government when it comes to educational choice and scholarships.

Very important to me, the bill does not take a single penny away from public education. I know the vast majority of students in Alabama and in the United States attend public schools, like my children did, and I will remain steadfast in fighting for our traditional public schools, teachers, and students.

Through the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, we will increase opportunity for families to make informed decisions that work for them and their individual needs, rather than cookie cutter solutions that don’t work.

By providing greater freedom in education and continuing to fight for our nation’s children, we can help every student realize their goal of “what they want to be.” In doing so, we can make our state and our country even stronger.

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

Byrne: Defending the Second Amendment

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

This past week, Democrats in Congress again launched an attack on our Constitution and the rights we cherish as Americans. This time, they came after the Second Amendment and our right to bear arms.

H.R. 8, the latest Democrat-led gun control bill does absolutely nothing to prevent criminals or violent persons from getting their hands on firearms.

What H.R. 8 does do is violate the Constitutional rights of millions of Americans, ignores the mental health crisis behind actions of mass violence and limits the Constitutional rights of millions of responsible gun owners.

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I’m a gun owner and hunter myself. I’ve talked to lots of folks from all around Alabama who proudly own guns for sport, work and protection. Congress should not and cannot limit the rights of the American people in the name of politics.

Under the Democrat bill, almost every time a lawful gun owner wants to transfer or sell a gun, he or she will have to go through a government-sanctioned middle-man. Under this bill, no longer could I sell my gun to my cousin or my neighbor in a private transaction.

If this bill were to become law, millions of law-abiding gun owners could suddenly be subject to federal prosecution. Of course, we all know that criminals are going to do what they already do: make illegal transfers of firearms. So, this won’t make any difference in cutting down on crime.

I have a long track record of supporting commonsense bills to provide Alabamians a way to protect themselves while offering smart background check programs and mental health services to those in need. My grandfather was shot and killed by someone suffering from mental illness. I know the importance of providing important resources for those in need without infringing on the rights guaranteed by our Founding Fathers.

The so-called solutions in the Democrat gun control bill do nothing to prevent mass violence. We should not punish law-abiding citizens. Instead, we should listen to responsible gun owners and work on solutions that protect our Second Amendment rights.

I have news for the out-of-touch Democrats: Gun owners of America are watching this debate. They know what H.R. 8 is all about, and they know that this bill is just a sham to chip away at the Second Amendment and our Constitution.

Instead of trying to attack the Second Amendment, we should be trying to protect it. During the debate last week, Speaker Pelosi blocked my amendment to strip out this anti-gun legislation and replace it with nationwide concealed carry reciprocity. Instead of trampling on our Constitution, Democrats could have accepted my amendment and allowed a vote on a bill that would have actually made our country safer.

Our Founding Fathers enshrined the right to keep and bear arms in our nation’s Constitution. Throughout our history, we have seen the importance of the Second Amendment for people to make a living, to provide for their families, and to protect their life and liberty.

It is clear that this bill was nothing more than yet another sham show vote from the Democratic leadership. The gun control bill promises much but delivers very little.

I opposed this bill, and I will oppose any bill that goes against the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. It is my duty as a citizen of the United States and representative of the people of Alabama to defend our Constitution against any effort to roll back the important protections enshrined within it.

One thing is for sure: I will always stand up for our Constitution, the Second Amendment, and the rights of law-abiding gun owners in Alabama and around the United States.

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

Byrne: The nation is at a crossroads on immigration

(CBP/Flickr, B. Byrne/Facebook)

Growing up, my parents taught me the basic values of fairness and following the rules. I think these values were common in households all across our state and country.

In today’s society, those two basic values need to be applied to the ongoing debate about illegal immigration.

In terms of fairness, we have people who are going through the legal process to enter our country, which takes time and effort, only to have people skip that entire process and just walk across our border illegally. That goes against the basic value of fairness.

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Also, we are a nation built on laws, but currently illegal immigrants openly disregard the rules and laws of our country. By not holding them accountable, we are further encouraging a culture where the rule of law does not matter.

Currently, we find ourselves at a crossroads as a nation.

Down one path is the status quo of broken immigration policy, porous borders, and a steady flow of drugs, violence and human trafficking across the southern border.

Down another path is what Democrats advocate for: open borders, limited funding for national security measures at the border, and disregard for the rule of law.

But, down the final path is strong border security, including increased funding for a border wall, cracking down on criminal aliens in the United States, and reforming our broken immigration system in a way that works for American citizens, not for foreign interests.

Unfortunately, the Democrat leadership in Washington is pulling the nation down the path to the left, the path that threatens our national security.

Because of this, the president was recently left with no choice but to declare a national emergency to secure the funds necessary to adequately secure our border. As much as I wish that it had not come to this point, I stand with President Trump on this action to get a handle on our immigration crisis.

If the Democrats in control in Congress will not act in the best interest of the American people, then it is up to the president to take the necessary steps to keep our nation safe.

I have heard from countless people throughout Alabama that they are worried about the influx of drugs and violent crime across our Southern border due to illegal immigration.

We see story after story each week of criminals arrested by the dozen trying to enter our country illegally, murders committed by illegal immigrants who are members of violent gangs and the myriad of deaths caused by overdose from drugs originating in Central and South America.

This must stop.

Once we can get a handle on the countless illegal crossings each week, we can move to reforming our broken system, combatting sanctuary cities, and encouraging people down legal paths to citizenship.

For the officer killed in California at the hands of an illegal immigrant, I will fight this fight. For the three Americas killed in Missouri by an illegal immigrant released without the knowledge of ICE, I will fight this fight. For the young woman raped by a previously-deported illegal immigrant in Shelby County, I will fight this fight.

For the people of Alabama, and for the people of the United States, I will remain committed to seeing this fight through to the end to secure our borders.

We need to return the commonsense, family values of fairness and following the rules to the immigration debate. By doing that, we can take our nation down the path toward secured borders, safer communities and a more prosperous nation.

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

Byrne: Staying focused in a crazy Washington

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

Before the new Congress began at the start of this year, I made a prediction: With the new Democrat majority, we could expect crazy season from the left, with Democrat members taking every chance they could to undermine President Trump.

I don’t claim to have a crystal ball, but I think I hit the nail on the head in this case.

So far in just the first month and a half of the 116th Congress, the Democrat Party has become the Obstructionist Party: They have stood in the way of strong national security measures, our American values, and President Trump.

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We saw a prime example of this just last week when the president was left with no other option to secure our borders and get a handle on the national security crisis there than to declare a national emergency.

Ensuring the safety of the American people is a fight worth fighting, and while I wish it hadn’t come to this point, the Democrats have left President Trump with no choice. We must secure the border and build the wall.

But it seems that Democrat craziness is totally unbounded this year, not just when it comes to border security but on issues of abortion, the environment, and the Second Amendment. They have completely lost sight of our core American values and are not listening to the millions of Americans who still hold fast to those values.

As long as I am in Congress, I will continue to do everything in my power to keep focus in a crazy Washington. I remain dedicated to the issues that matter most to Alabamians, and I will continue to fight for you.

The crisis at the southern border is real, yet Democrats seem intent on doing everything they can to push their open border policies. They want to put a cap on the number of people ICE can detain, but they don’t want to do anything to secure the border. In other words, it seems they just want to let criminals get away without any consequences. We are a nation of laws, and they need to be enforced.

A few weeks ago, House Democrats blocked Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) from testifying during a committee hearing on gun violence. Democrats are pushing new gun laws that would restrict the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans without doing anything to actually prevent crime.

As a victim of gun violence himself, it only seemed appropriate that Congressman Scalise should share his views. The issue, however, was that he still believes in supporting the Second Amendment, as do I, but this was not what the Democrats wanted to hear.

Then we have the “Green New Deal,” which is nothing more than unserious, unfocused political messaging, proposed at the expense of the American people. This plan is poorly thought out, horribly expensive, and puts partisan politics over the American people. Let’s call it out for what it is.

And far too many Democrats in Congress have made it clear they support infanticide, either with outright statements of support for radical abortion measures or through their silence in not condemning late-term and live-birth abortion. In fact, we have attempted to pass a bill to ensure a baby born alive after an attempted abortion receives appropriate medical care, but Democrats even object to that bill.

On every one of these issues, it seems common sense has lost out and Democrats are most interested in pandering to the far left than solving problems.

No matter how out-of-touch, crazy, and disconnected Washington, D.C., and the Democrats get, I will remain steadfast in fighting for the values we hold dear in Alabama.

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

Byrne: Choosing American greatness

(Rep. Byrne's office)

Last week, President Trump gave the State of the Union address to the nation. I can say that in all my time in Washington, this was the best State of the Union I have had the honor of attending, and it seems most Americans agree.

The president’s message was clear: if we stop with the political games and focus on solutions, American greatness knows no bounds. By supporting President Trump’s clear and bold agenda, the American people will be stronger, safer, and more prosperous.

He began by charging us to choose greatness in all that we do as lawmakers and as Americans. The guests the president and First Lady invited to the speech – including war heroes of World War II, relatives of victims of illegal immigration, and those who suffered from drug abuse – were expertly woven throughout the address to demonstrate the greatness that resides in our country.

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It takes these reminders of our greatness to underscore the need to come together to work on issues that matter most to the American people.

Most notably, President Trump again outlined a commonsense strategy to secure our border. After decades of inaction by both parties, it is time we finally fix our broken immigration system, restore the rule of law and keep the American people safe.

He also outlined many issues important to Alabama. From strengthening our military to expanding rural broadband to lowering prescription drug costs, under President Trump’s agenda the people of Alabama stand to benefit, and our state will become even stronger.

I appreciated the president’s call to rebuild American infrastructure. As we know in Alabama, the need for a stronger infrastructure system is vitally important to the overall success of our economy. With better roads, bridges and waterways, we can unlock the extraordinary potential of our economic future.

Rural broadband access is something that folks throughout the state will benefit from. People in rural areas deserve the same economic opportunities as those in urban areas when it comes to Internet access, and I will continue to advocate for greater access to rural broadband in any infrastructure bill put forward by Congress.

Similarly, President Trump is dedicated to the American workforce, something Congress echoed last year through a number of laws to protect workers and. In the same vein, as the president mentioned, lowering the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs will benefit our workforce as well. With month after month of continued growth and positive economic news, it is clear that our conservative policies continue to pay off.

I was thrilled President Trump mentioned the importance of protecting the unborn in his speech. As he said, “Let us reaffirm a fundamental truth: all children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.” I couldn’t agree more.

Lastly, President Trump’s call for protecting America’s national security in conjunction with safe and legal immigration is a commonsense approach we as a nation can get behind. Border security is national security. It only makes sense that we should advocate for greater national security and strong borders.

Recently, Democrats have obstructed what is best for the American people: opposing border security measures, supporting infanticide and proposing ill-thought-out and costly plans for our environment.

It is time to stop with the politics of resistance and instead focus on realistic solutions to the problems facing our country.

President Trump is right when he said that great bipartisan achievements in this Congress are possible, especially when we rally behind a commonsense agenda building American greatness. Let’s get it done.

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

Byrne: Supporting our military, repaying our veterans

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

One of the highest honors from my time in Congress has been the many interactions I’ve had with members of our nation’s armed forces and our veterans.

Throughout the long history of the United States, countless Americans have served our country honorably in the military. Many made the ultimate sacrifice.

There is no greater way to say “thank you” to our fighting men and women and our veterans than by ensuring they are taken care of both during and after their service, with the most up-to-date weapons systems and funding to carry out their missions, and with commonsense solutions to veterans issues.

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I am proud to once again serve on the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces and Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. These are two important roles that directly impact the state of Alabama and our country.

My work on the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee is important to the 4,000 people working at Austal shipyard in Southwest Alabama and the 2,000 Alabamians who work at Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula, Mississippi. These two shipyards are crucial to the U.S. Navy’s goal of a 355-ship fleet.

My work on the Strategic Forces Subcommittee is crucial for Alabama as many of the missile defense systems are designed and built in places like Huntsville and Troy. Having a strong missile defense program is obviously vital to the security of our entire nation.

Not only is it necessary to take care of our servicemembers while they are on active duty, but it is our responsibility to care for our veterans as well. A career of service never ends for members of the armed forces, and we cannot fail them.

One of the ways I am continuing to advocate for our veterans is by supporting policies that will get them the benefits they deserve. For example, I am proud to support the Retired Pay Restoration Act to ensure all military retirees with service-connected disabilities get their military retirement and disability payments concurrently.

Currently, veterans with under a 50 percent service-connected disability rating have their disability pay deducted from their retirement pay, even though they are completely different benefits. I will continue to fight for this legislation until our veterans get all of their disability and retirement compensation.

I continue to fight for veterans who were exposed to the toxic herbicide, Agent Orange, during the Vietnam War. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act allows the thousands of veterans of the Vietnam War who served in “blue-water” Navy posts off Vietnam’s shoreline to receive benefits for this service-connected disability.

And last Wednesday, I joined 20 of my colleagues in sending a letter to the Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery and the Secretary of the Army to allow American flags to be carried by visitors in Arlington Cemetery.

It only makes sense that in one of the most sacred places in the United States Americans should be able to represent their patriotism openly and clearly through the display of an American flag. It is just a small way we can express our gratitude for those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom our flag represents.

Ensuring our service members can adequately defend and protect our nation both at home and abroad, taking care of our veterans, and honoring those who have given their all is the least we can do as Americans.

Alabama’s role in the defense of our nation, both past and present, is something we should all take immense pride in, and I am glad to know that our great state is paving the way for a safer world and a stronger America.

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