The Wire

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

Byrne: Rural Alabama worth fighting for

(Pixabay, B. Byrne/Facebook, YHN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byrne: August recess roundup

(B. Bryne/Facebook)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byrne: Let’s dump Doug in 2020

(B. Byrne, D. Jones/FB)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byrne: Celebrating Alabama’s workers

(Wikicommons, YHN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byrne: We must stand with Israel

(B. Byrne/Facebook, PIxabay, YHN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byrne: To end violence, return to American values

(Wikicommons, YHN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byrne: A Washington success story

(B. Byrne/Facebook, YHN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly, the Trump administration was willing to listen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byrne: Taking care of our veterans is a top priority

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byrne: Through media attacks, border agents continue fight

(B. Byrne/Flickr)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byrne: In border battle, agents face growing crisis

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byrne: Border battle harms Alabama communities

(U.S. CBP/Flickr)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byrne: As Democrats fight, national security loses

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

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

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

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

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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.