The Wire

  • Fmr US Rep Jo Bonner named Kay Ivey chief of staff as Steve Pelham takes job at Auburn University

    Excerpt:

    In a move that had been rumored for the last few weeks, former U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner has assumed the role as chief of staff for Gov. Kay Ivey.

    Last November after Ivey was elected to a full term, Bonner was named a senior adviser to Ivey.

    Bonner is replacing outgoing chief of staff Steve Pelham, who will become Auburn University’s vice president for economic development and the chief of staff to Auburn University President Steven Leath.

  • Historic Inauguration Day in Montgomery heralds continued growth for Alabama

    Excerpt:

    It was a day of celebration, unity and tremendous optimism as Governor Kay Ivey and other statewide elected officials were officially sworn into office on Monday.

    The weather played into the symbolism of the occasion, as a cold, overcast day – a storm almost certainly imminent – gradually became sunnier and sunnier as the afternoon pushed on, much like the outlook of the state under Ivey’s steady guidance.

    Political insiders and everyday Alabamians from every nook and cranny of the state gathered in front of the Alabama State Capitol steps for the inauguration ceremony, which began promptly at 10:00 a.m. From the state’s richest man to the single mom who checked her little girls out of school just to see Ivey’s historic oath of office, it was a day that transcended the lines that divide us.

    Because Ivey’s inauguration message of “Keep Alabama Growing” is a theme meant for all. It is a message of hope – that even a little girl from Camden, Alabama can rise to be duly elected as the state’s chief executive through hard work and perseverance.

  • Ivey orders flags lowered to half-staff to honor fallen police Sgt. Wytasha Carter

    Excerpt:

    Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff to honor Birmingham Police Sgt. Wytasha Carter, who was killed in the line of duty on Sunday.

    “I am directing flags be flown at half-staff as a mark of respect for Birmingham Police Sergeant Wytasha Carter who was killed in the line of duty early Sunday, January 13, 2019,” Ivey said in a statement. “Sergeant Carter laid down his life protecting the people of Birmingham, and the entire state of Alabama mourns this tremendous loss.”

Byrne: Get the show on the road

(Screenshot / YouTube)

It is time for the Democrat leaders in Washington to stop posturing when it comes to border security and end the government shutdown.

The old expression “get the show on the road” is very apt in this situation. But, truth be told, the show is already on. There is no better way to describe the Democrat strategy right now than as a show, playing to their audience.

The Democrats have lost touch with what matters to Americans outside of their bubble. They continue to play to the far-left base of their party in order to placate the loudest voices. But the loudest voices don’t always have the best interests of the American people at heart.

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President Trump has made many efforts to work with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on a deal, but those efforts have fallen on deaf ears.

Last Wednesday, the president asked Speaker Pelosi if she would be willing to negotiate for a deal to open the government quickly and provide funding for border security at a later date. Speaker Pelosi answered “no.” If Democrats aren’t willing to negotiate, then what is President Trump to do? He can’t negotiate with himself.

I have heard from many folks in Alabama expressing their disbelief that Congress has not yet provided the necessary funds to secure our border, build a wall and reopen the remaining 25 percent of the federal government.

I cannot help put echo the sentiment of my fellow Alabamians: why would a member of Congress not support something as commonsense as border security to end the partial shutdown?

In the past, Democrats have supported these commonsense national security priorities such as fencing, barriers, and increased border funding, but there is something different going on here.

It appears that it is not enough for the Democrats to earn a win. Instead, it must be that President Trump gets a loss. And the sad part is, the people that lose the most in this situation are the hardworking American taxpayers contributing their time, efforts, and skills to the betterment of our communities.

Roughly 800,000 federal employees are currently on furlough, some continuing to work without pay. Last Friday, many of those people missed a paycheck. That is simply unacceptable, especially when the solution is one that both puts these people back to work and improves our national security.

More than this, Americans have been greatly affected already by illegal immigration and the crisis taking place on our southern border.

A big issue is the flow of illegal drugs. Hundreds of thousands of men and women in the United States have fallen victim to the evils and unbelievable effects of drug addiction and overdose. Many of those illegal drugs have their origins in Central and South America.

All throughout the country, we have heard horror stories of illegal immigrants committing horrendous crimes. We had an illegal immigrant in Shelby County, Alabama rape a young girl, and everyone has heard the story of the police officer in California who was murdered by an illegal immigrant. In many of these crimes, the illegal immigrant had even been deported before and managed to reenter the country illegally a second time.

Crimes happen every day, but these crimes were preventable.

We must act, we must enforce border security, and we must provide the funds necessary to get the job done. I call on Democrats to stop with the show, come to the table, negotiate with President Trump, and let’s get the government back open.

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

Byrne: What’s ahead in 2019

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

With 2018 behind us, it is time to start looking at what you can expect from Washington in 2019. Under Republican leadership, we in Congress aimed to make America better off, and thanks to our many victories through conservative policies, we accomplished that goal.

Under Democrat control, there is no telling what craziness will come out of the House of Representatives.

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We have already seen this past week the extent House Democrats will go to in undermining our president, with one going as far as to use profanity at an event in describing her efforts to impeach President Trump.

Even more have spoken out against commonsense initiatives to fund border security and lower taxes.

It seems that the new Democrat majority has gone so far out there that they, like Alice, have gone “Through the Looking Glass” into a world of topsy-turvy nonsense for which the United States will reap the consequences.

Rest assured, though, that in spite of this atmosphere of negativity I will continue to advocate for the American people. To give you an insight into how I will accomplish that, below are just a few of my priorities this year.

Strong leadership will be needed to support traditional family values, conservative principles, and to stand up for President Trump and his “drain the swamp agenda.” I will seek to provide this leadership in opposition to Speaker Pelosi’s liberal priorities that are out of line with Alabama values.

Advocating for sound national security policy is vital for the safety of the American people. Regardless of Democrat obstruction, I will continue to fight for a border wall and increased security measures along our southern border to keep Americans safe.

Rebuilding our military is essential for the safety and security of the United States both at home and abroad, and Alabama is vital to our country’s national defense efforts. I will focus on ensuring Alabama’s service members, military installations and suppliers receive proper attention from the Pentagon and resources necessary for them to fulfill their important missions.

I will also ensure that the needs of Alabama’s large veteran population are met and continue to advocate to give our veterans better care both inside and outside of the VA system.

Although the economy is improving throughout Alabama, our rural communities continue to struggle, and our agriculture community faces many challenges. I will support sound federal investment in Alabama’s rural communities in areas like agriculture, broadband, healthcare and infrastructure to continue their revitalization.

The core element of economic development is leadership. I will continue to provide that leadership for Southwest Alabama to marshal resources, advocate for Alabama workers and foster a climate of business development in our great state.

Another element of this priority is developing Alabama’s workforce and providing for our diverse educational institutions. We must remain committed to building and training a workforce to meet the needs of the 21st Century economy.

A key bipartisan goal of this Congress will be to work with the President on an infrastructure package. Starting with the I-10 bridge, Alabama has a variety of infrastructure needs that should benefit from any such package. I will continue to see that the infrastructure needs of the state are properly accounted for and that attention is also given to projects in rural areas.

Every day I take immense pride in representing the people of our state and the people of our great nation. I will always take my role to heart because you depend on it, and I will always take the interests of Alabamians to the Floor because we cannot let the insanity of the left negatively impact the course of the United States.

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

Bradley Byrne’s 2018 year in review

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

2018 was a landmark year in many ways for Alabama and the United States. From defense funding to town halls, agriculture to red snapper, there was much to celebrate this year and much to anticipate in the next. Join me as we take a look back at the past year.

I kicked things off in January by celebrating my 100th town hall meeting in Grove Hill. I always enjoy meeting the folks in our area and hearing about the issues that matter most to them. This year, I hosted 25 town hall meetings throughout Southwest Alabama.

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We made real strides in 2018 when it comes to our national defense, including passing much-needed funding for Alabama’s many defense priorities. I was proud to vote in favor of a funding bill that allows for the construction of three Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and one Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF), which are built by Austal USA in Mobile. This funding helps us move toward a 355-ship Navy.

This marked the first time in ten years that we were able to fully fund our military on time, and in a bipartisan way. We funded critical Alabama defense priorities like the Austal shipyard; additional UH-60M Black Hawk, Lakota and Apache helicopters, which are critical to the Army aviation mission at Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass; $22.4 million went to the Stryker Upgrade program, which supports the work at the Anniston Army Depot; we increased funding to address cyber threats to our missile defense systems, which is critical to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.

This year, we were able to celebrate great developments for our local fishermen and coastal communities. In April, a 47-day red snapper season for recreational fishermen was announced. And just this December, NOAA Fisheries published a new rule to increase the annual catch limits and annual catch targets for the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico. These latest numbers further drive us forward in the fight for greater state control over the red snapper fishery.

Thanks to bipartisan reforms to our career and technical education programs, we are better able to give students tangible skills that help them succeed in real-world careers. In July, the House passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which made reforms to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to ensure more Americans enter the workforce with the skills they need.

In 2018, we made real progress on infrastructure. We passed critical legislation to support our nation’s water infrastructure, including the Port of Mobile. We are also closer than ever before to building the I-10 Bridge.

And lastly, we were able to reach a bipartisan agreement on the 2018 Farm Bill to benefit our farmers and foresters in Alabama. The Farm Bill will allow for improved crop protections and loan options for farmers, incentivize rural development, support animal disease prevention and management, and will continue our nation’s commitment to agriculture and farmers. I am especially pleased to see the substantial resources provided to improve rural broadband access to communities.

The many victories we were able to secure for the American people cannot be condensed into this brief article, but rest assured that this year, Alabama and America are better off for the accomplishments made by the 115th Congress.

The next year will bring many changes with the Democrat majority in the House, but my New Year’s Resolution is simple: I will continue to fight for the people of Alabama each and every day.

From all of my staff, my family, and myself, we wish you a Happy New Year!

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

Byrne: Christmas traditions old and new

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

I was recently asked what my favorite Christmas tradition is and found that a surprisingly hard question to answer.

It seems that nearly every moment is a tradition with my family, and that makes it hard to pick just one.

From making gumbo Christmas Eve morning to wrapping presents to gathering on Christmas Day, there are so many individual moments that add up to make the season special.

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This year, we have added new traditions to our family’s celebration with our grandchildren, MacGuire and Ann-Roberts. There was no greater scene of pure joy than when we picked out our Christmas tree with them, and then as they helped Rebecca and me decorate the tree.

After I thought more on my what favorite Christmas tradition is, I reflected on why we celebrate the Christmas season in the first place.

The church’s liturgical calendar begins with the season of Advent. From the lighting of the first candle, the new year has begun, anticipating the birth of our Savior on Christmas. The entirety of the year depends upon the preparation for and celebration of the birth of Christ. Epiphany, Lent, and Easter all rely on that first candle’s light proclaiming the coming of the Lord, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

Similar, yet still very different, to our holiday preparations today, there were many small moments that added up to the joy of that first Christmas night. From the angel proclaiming the news to Mary, Mary telling Joseph, and the long trek to Bethlehem, many small parts had to come together in the Town of David.

My favorite Christmas tradition is without a doubt going to church as a family on Christmas Eve and worshipping Jesus on his birth.

From the light of the first candle, all those in attendance on Christmas Eve light their own candles. No one person’s candle could light the church, but together, we all fill the church with the soft amber glow.

In the same way, the good news of the birth of Christ cannot be proclaimed by one person alone. His light must be carried by millions, proclaiming His word and salvation.

After the readings, hymns, prayers, homily, and communion my favorite portion of the service occurs.

The first few bars of Silent Night are played, and the church joins in together with the choir. Slowly, all the lights in the church are extinguished, and we are left to sing the last verse in darkness.

The last line fades into the dark of the night, “sleep in heavenly peace…” and all is still.

That moment of calm reflection on the entirety of the past year, the highs and lows, rejoicing and tears, makes one think of how truly blessed we are in our daily lives.

Those living in the darkness of fear, illness, poverty, or other challenges this year, I hope you take comfort this Christmas season in the words written in John 1:5, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

For my family, friends, and staff, I am thankful for the past year we have shared together and anticipate the joys of the next.

And to the people of Southwest Alabama, I say thank you for your generosity, kindness, and prayers throughout the years. I look forward to hearing from you and serving you next year.

As you celebrate your favorite Christmas traditions this year, I hope you take a moment to give thanks for your blessings and remember the birth of our Savior.

From my family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

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

Byrne: A week of good news

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

There was much to celebrate this past week in Washington.

That sentence may surprise you if you just go off what you hear from the national news media, but the reality is we continue to get work done here in the People’s House.

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To be clear, there is still work to be done, and that starts with passing funding necessary to secure the border and protect the American people. That said, I think it is worth pausing for a moment and reviewing the wins from this past week.

One of the biggest wins last week was passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.

As I have said before, our farmers and foresters are our future. I am pleased to have voted for this bipartisan legislation to better support our farmers in Alabama and throughout the country.

The 2018 Farm Bill will allow for improved crop protections and loan options for farmers, incentivize rural development, support animal disease prevention and management, and will continue our nation’s commitment to agriculture and farmers.

I am especially pleased to see the substantial resources provided to improve rural broadband access to communities. Providing Internet access to people in rural Alabama is absolutely critical to economic development and the success of these communities in the 21st Century.

A few of the other provisions in the bill will greatly benefit the cotton and peanut growers here in Alabama; help maintain access to crop insurance through reduced premiums and waived fees; boost critical funding for feral swine control; and restore funding for trade promotion efforts in an attempt to keep pace with trading competitors around the world.

Most importantly, the 2018 Farm Bill will help equip and train the next generation of farmers both here in Alabama and throughout the United States. I was proud to support this bill, and I look forward to President Trump signing it into law.

Another piece of good news we received this week was the passage of a bill to help drain the Washington swamp.

The American people are sick of Congress being able to play under different rules than the rest of the country, and that must change.

That is why I am proud to be one of the leaders on the effort to reform the way sexual harassment claims are handled on Capitol Hill to increase transparency and accountability.

No longer will members of Congress be able to use taxpayer dollars to pay settlements for their own misconduct when it comes to sexual harassment. No longer will members of Congress be able to cover up their personal wrongdoings at the expense of the American people.

It was important for Congress to make this statement. With this legislation, we did the right thing. By doing the right thing, we not only do right by the people who work around us and for us, but we do right by the American people.

This has been a tough fight, but with these reforms, we will make the Washington swamp a little less swampy and shine light on what is happening in the halls of Congress.

With this week of good news, it is also important to remember that the best news of all will be celebrated next week: a small baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

This good news is the birth of our Savior, bringing God’s light directly into the world through His son.

It is easy to lose sight of the meaning of Christmas with all the bustle of daily life and routine. But this week, I challenge you to stop and remember what this season is about in preparation for the good news yet to come.

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

Bradley Byrne: The light and life of President George H.W. Bush

(AJ Guel/Flickr)

Our nation came together last week as we mourned the loss of a truly great American. No matter our race, religion, creed or political party, we were drawn toward the light that was President George H.W. Bush.

His life spanned nearly 100 years of American history and was dedicated to serving the United States.

History often records the works of great leaders. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill all led with a sense of service and devotion to their people. But what makes a leader truly special is humility, humor and a deep moral code guiding their every day.

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President Bush embodied those very attributes.

His biographer, Jon Meacham, summed up the Bush life code best in his eulogy, saying, “Tell the truth. Don’t blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Try hard. Forgive. Stay the course.”

In every walk of life, President Bush did just those things. Integrity guided everything he undertook, and his lifetime of achievements testify to this. He was a decorated war hero in the Navy during WWII, an extremely successful businessman in Texas, congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, chief of the U.S. Liaison to the People’s Republic of China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice President and president of the United States of America.

His sense of humor was always charming, sometimes teasing, but never out of malice or needling. He knew how to tell and take a good joke, and he loved to make people laugh.

He took everything he did seriously and with dignity. His first and foremost goal was to serve the American people to the best of his ability and let the thousand points of light in our communities shine bright by one small act of kindness and devotion to each other at a time.

In his inaugural address, President Bush emphasized this point: “What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship?”

Since his presidency, George H.W. Bush has remained an example of leadership. For him, it was never about accolades as much as it was about service to the American people.

He was the brightest of those thousand points of light in everything he did. The light that shone through him came from his devotion to his country, to his family, and to God.

I had the honor to pay my respects to President Bush in the Capitol Rotunda and attend the funeral service held in the National Cathedral last week. It was the most moving church service I have ever attended. The testimony shared by everyone there spoke to a life well lived and firmly grounded.

He loved life and loved the people he spent it with. As his son, President George W. Bush, said at the service, “The idea is to die young as late as possible. … As he aged, he taught us how to grow old with dignity, humor and kindness. And, when the good Lord finally called, how to meet Him with courage and with joy in the promise of what lies ahead.”

President George H.W. Bush will be remembered as a true American leader; someone who served totally, cared deeply, laughed fully and loved completely.

As we move on to the New Year, I hope that in some small way we can embody just a small measure of those traits. If we do, one can only imagine how much brighter the light of our nation will shine.

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

Byrne: ‘I am committed to trying to get a few more wins for Alabama and America before the next Congress starts’

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

Some of the greatest sporting events in history have come down to the wire. Those bottom of the ninth, fourth and inches, double-overtime plays are what stand out in our memories as the greatest successes or the worst defeats in sports history.

Similarly, we here in Washington are entering our own home stretch of the 115th Congress. It has been a long year filled with many victories for the people of Alabama, but there is still work to be done.

Next year, the game will change completely. With Democrats taking control of the House, things will be different.

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Where bipartisan progress can be made, we must take advantage of it. Instead of being the “resistance,” we should be the loyal opposition. Loyal to the country but opposing policies and ideas that do not match up with our conservative values and beliefs.

I promise you two things that won’t change no matter who is in charge of the House: I will put Alabama’s priorities first, and I will support President Trump and his pro-America agenda.

For now, the next two weeks will be like the bottom of the ninth in Washington. We still need to pass a Farm Bill that works for our Alabama farmers and foresters, ensure the national flood insurance program continues, pass a funding bill for the remaining portions of the federal government, and protect our Southern border.

As I have said before, our farmers are our future. Without the tireless efforts of farmers all across the nation, life as we know it would not exist. I am hopeful we can pass a strong Farm Bill by the end of the year to provide greater protections for Alabama farmers and ensure benefits for rural America.

The flood insurance program is very important for those of us in coastal Alabama, and I want to see the program reformed and strengthened in a way that protects our coastal communities. We cannot let the program expire, so I will be pushing hard to get the program reauthorized.

Similarly, we must work to fund the remainder of the federal government. We currently have around three-quarters of the government funded for next year, including the critical funding needed to rebuild our military. This was the first time in a decade that we have been able to reach this point on time and in a bipartisan way.

Now, we must address funding for agencies like the Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Homeland Security. I want to see a funding bill that reflects the need to rein in wasteful spending while also supporting programs and projects important to Alabama.

It is imperative that any funding bill also help secure our southern border. It is clear that our immigration system is broken, and we must fix it. First, however, we must build President Donald Trump’s border wall and stem the flow of illegal immigration.

I have a solution to provide funding for the wall: the 50 Votes for the Wall Act. By using the budget reconciliation process, we can avoid Democrat obstruction in the Senate and secure the funds necessary to complete this task. I hope my colleagues will make the right decision for the country and bring my bill up for a vote.

These next two weeks will be the last play of a tough-fought game. As we near the goal line, I am committed to trying to get a few more wins for Alabama and America before the next Congress starts.

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

Byrne: ‘Border security is national security’

(U.S. CBP/Flickr)

There are no two ways about it: illegal immigration is illegal. The images of a caravan of illegal immigrants trying to push across our southern border are deeply troubling.

We have laws in the United States for a reason. Everyone is bound by the rule of law, and we must all abide by the law to live in a civil society. There are ways to enter our country through clear, legal processes that have been in place for decades, used by those that show respect for our country.

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To this end, there are hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world who gain citizenship every year. According the Pew Research Center, around 19.8 million naturalized citizens currently live in the United States. We are a nation of immigrants and are proud of that fact.

But, there are correct, legal ways to become a citizen in our country.

Amassing thousands and marching on our southern border, or even just one person crossing the border illegally, is not the right way to gain citizenship.

No one is more frustrated by illegal immigration than those who followed the law and proper process to enter our country the right way. I’ve heard from these legal immigrants at various public meetings over the years, and they are some of the most passionate about strong border security. Many see it as a matter of fairness.

I visited Honduras and Guatemala at the beginning of October to learn more about what is driving much of the illegal immigration. It is true that there is much corruption, crime and hardship in Central America. But, it cannot be stressed enough: illegal immigration is illegal.

Also according to the Pew Research Center, roughly 11.3 million illegal immigrants currently live in the United States, roughly 3.5 percent of our total population. It remains clear that our immigration system is broken and has been for some time. After years of ineffective policy and Democrat obstruction, it is time we come to a solution that works for the American people.

Any immigration reform effort must start with border security. That is why I introduced the 50 Votes for the Wall Act, which creates a pathway to build President Trump’s border wall and help secure our southern border.

The bill creates a new mandatory spending program, providing up to $25 billion, to fully fund President Trump’s border wall. The bill directs this money be used by the secretary of Homeland Security to construct physical barriers and associated detection technology, roads, and lighting along the southern border.

We have passed bills funding the wall out of the House previously, only to see those bills stall out in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to pass wall funding. That’s why my bill would use the reconciliation process to build the wall. Under the reconciliation process, only 50 votes are necessary for passage of bills. This would allow us to overcome Democrat obstruction and provide the critical money to the Trump Administration that they need to protect our borders.

Not only would my bill fully fund the wall, but it would take the wall building program out of the appropriations process and prevent Democrats from bottling up funding in future years.

It is critically important that we pass my bill, the 50 Votes for the Wall Act, by the end of the year in order to help protect the American people and finally secure our southern border.

Border security is national security. We must secure our borders if we are to secure our future as a country.

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

Byrne: Let us give thanks

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln issued a Proclamation on Thanksgiving establishing the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday, encouraging every American – at home and abroad – to give pause and give thanks.

Thanksgiving had existed before in America. There was the First Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims and Native Americans in Massachusetts in 1621, of course, and Presidents George Washington, John Adams and James Madison also issued proclamations encouraging the celebration of Thanksgiving.

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It is interesting that during a time as perilous as the height of the Civil War, President Lincoln entrenched this holiday of gratitude and togetherness into the American year.

1863 was a time of divisiveness and uncertainty, and yet people throughout the country could still find things to be thankful for.

Only two months after this proclamation, on December 3, 1863, the final symbolic decoration was added to the outside of the Capitol Dome in Washington: a 19-foot tall statue known simply as Freedom.

The freedoms we enjoy today are some of the greatest things we can be thankful for. For many throughout the world, the freedoms we enjoy do not exist for them.

As we gather with friends and family, I hope you will take time to answer this simple question: what are you thankful for this year?

For myself, I am extremely thankful for my family, my friends and for the opportunity I have to serve you in Washington.

I am thankful for the many pieces of landmark legislation we were able to pass this year, including fully funding our military for next year, providing funds for vital water infrastructure projects, and enacting meaningful change to the G.I. Bill and the Veteran’s Choice Program.

I am also thankful for all of the positive economic news this year: our thriving economy and jobs market are creating more opportunities for people in Alabama and around the country.

With good news there is also bad. The acts of violence we have seen over recent months in Pennsylvania and California demonstrate the amount of evil there is still to combat in this world. The extremely deadly wildfires currently raging in California causes our hearts to ache for all those affected so unexpectedly and so close to the holidays.

But even in these tragedies, there are things to be thankful for. The first responders who risk their lives to help those in need; the medical professionals who provide service to the sick and those in pain; and perhaps the thing for which we as Americans can be most thankful is our interminable spirit to come together as one, help our neighbors, and make the world a better place to live through one small act of kindness at a time.

More personally, I am thankful to be a child of a loving, forgiving and all present God. I’m also thankful to call Southwest Alabama home.

Of course, I am thankful for my wonderful family; every moment I get to spend with Rebecca, our children and our grandchildren is a moment I feel truly blessed.

Lastly, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity I have again to serve the people of Southwest Alabama over the next Congress.

There is a memorable verse from the book of John that reads, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

One of the truths we can hold firmly to this Thanksgiving is this: we in the United States are richly blessed with life, prosperity, and freedom. Knowing that, we can be very thankful indeed.

From my entire staff, family and myself, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

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

Byrne: Words cannot express our gratitude to those who served

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

One hundred years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the world’s largest, deadliest and costliest war to that date drew to an end. The guns that boomed over field and forest in Europe fell silent.

World War I was over.

Over 116,000 Americans had lost their lives.

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One year later, President Woodrow Wilson issued a statement to the nation in celebration of the first Armistice Day, expressing his thoughts on the war’s end: “To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.”

In 1938, twenty years after the Armistice, Congress formally recognized Armistice Day as a national holiday “dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

Unfortunately, the “war to end all wars” was only the precursor to an even deadlier, costlier war.

The next year, World War II broke out across Europe, a war that would cost the lives of over 400,000 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.

For a particular Alabamian and veteran of WWII, the celebration of Armistice Day was not quite recognition enough for the service and sacrifice of veterans who had served, not just in WWI, but for all those who had worn the uniform of our nation.

Raymond Meeks, a native of Birmingham, brought the idea of a national Veterans Day, to be held on what was then Armistice Day, to General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Gen. Eisenhower greatly supported this idea, and in 1947 Weeks led the first national celebration of Veterans Day right here in Alabama.

In 1954, President Eisenhower signed into law the formal celebration of Veterans Day here in the United States, dedicated to the memory of all those who served our country in the armed forces.

To this day, words cannot express our gratitude for that service.

Today, as I serve in Congress, it is an incredible honor to know that I am able to represent a free people thanks to the service, dedication and sacrifice of our veterans.

That is why I advocate so strongly for our nation’s veterans. We need to provide them with proper access to educational and workforce opportunities, we must work towards a health care system that actually gets them the care they need and we must help them get the benefits they earned.

Just this year, I voted to provide greater funding for programs in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), positive reforms to the G.I. Bill and better access to career and technical education for veterans to reenter the civilian workforce. Additionally, my office has helped to resolve hundreds of cases for veterans and their families right here in Southwest Alabama.

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

The words of President Eisenhower on the first official Veterans Day stand as a charge for today: “Let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air, and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting and enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.”

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

Byrne: No place, no time for hate

(Pixabay)

At a recent church service, the sermon focused on the 12th chapter of Mark’s gospel, which describes Jesus’ answer to a question from a scribe about which Commandment is “first of all.”

In it, Jesus replies with the Shema. He says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

Even though Jesus was not asked about a “second Commandment,” he adds to the Shema, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

In response, for once, a scribe agrees with Jesus.

It seemed timely to hear this verse and to hear a modern-day minister preach on it. Just a few weeks ago, 11 people were tragically killed at a Jewish synagogue near Pittsburgh. These innocent Jews were killed by a man filled with hate, much like the murders of innocent African-American Christians in a Charleston church three years ago. These horrific events remind us that evil is not a superstition, but an all too real presence in our society.

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The Old Testament and Jesus are crystal clear: the very essence of God is love.

Therefore, anyone who hates another person acts against God and his purposes for humankind. Jesus took it another step by joining the Commandment to love one another with the Commandment to love God. Saint John in his first letter is explicit. He writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Our obligation to love one another applies to everyone. Indeed, the very presence of hate inside us is the work of evil, and we should all strive against that evil in our own lives. And when a particularly tragic work of evil happens, as happened in Pittsburgh, we need to speak out so that we reinforce our collective resolve against it.

In the heart of election season, it is especially important to remember that more unites us than divides us. As Americans – and as humans – we are united by common bonds of love, faith and understanding. Far too often, we get caught up in the areas of disagreement, instead of realizing that far more brings us together.

We are all imperfect humans made by our Creator. While we are often divided by where we live, our age, our background, our race or our gender, we are brought together by many important common factors.

My study of U.S. history long ago convinced me that our national principle of the equality of all people, explicit in The Declaration of Independence and reiterated by President Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address, is rooted in our Founders’ understanding of the Bible’s clear teaching that we are all created and loved by God, and therefore must love and must value one another. So violent attacks on people because of their race or religion are truly un-American as well.

An attack on any human because of their religious beliefs or the color of their skin or their background is an attack on all of us and the values we hold most dear. When we let these actions further divide, we only fuel the fire of hatred. Instead, we should use events like we saw in Pittsburgh to unite us and bring us closer together.

So, please allow me to add my voice with many others against the evil of these and other acts of violence. There is no place, and this is no time, to hate.

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

Byrne: Our farmers are our future

(Rep. Bradley Byrne)

This past week, I had the pleasure of visiting many fine farmers and foresters throughout Southwest Alabama to learn more about the incredible work they do on a daily basis. This was part of my annual “Ag Matters” agricultural tour, which brings me to farms and forests in each of the six counties that make up Alabama’s First Congressional District.

Forestry in Alabama first began in Clarke County, and that is where I began my tour. I was pleased to learn more about how the people at Canfor Southern Pine carry on the forestry tradition to this day.

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Not only are they the largest employer in Jackson, Canfor produces high-quality lumber products that are used all throughout the Eastern United States. At this mill alone, they produce around 110 million board feet per year in lumber products. To produce this much material, they rely on the sustainable harvesting of private timberlands throughout our region.

I had a chance to tour some of these private timberlands and learn more about ways owners are working with the Fish and Wildlife Service to protect endangered and threatened species. It is important that we find solutions that work for both our environment and for those trying to make a living through sustainable practices.

Animals such as the gopher tortoise and the black pine snake are threatened in certain areas of Alabama. Timberland owners and workers want to protect our environment, as a healthy environment is critical to their future. But, they should not be unduly limited by the government in the work they do.

I was able to talk with several foresters from all around Southwest Alabama at a forestry roundtable hosted at a local branch of Alabama Ag Credit. The people at Ag Credit also know that our farmers and foresters are our future and believe in providing them with sound financial options through responsible lending and thorough financial counseling.

As I continued my tour, I saw some excellent examples of topiary management at a garden nursery in Mobile, learned about the bumper crop of cotton this year at farms in Escambia and Baldwin counties and was informed of the status of this year’s peanut harvest.

This past year, I was one of the leading advocates to get cotton back in Title I of the Disaster Package to provide further assistance and recovery options for farmers adversely affected by unforeseen natural circumstances.

One of the biggest takeaways from my tour this year was just how fortunate we are that we were not more directly impacted by Hurricane Michael. I’m dedicated to working with Representative Martha Roby on continued recovery efforts for farmers in the Wiregrass and throughout South Alabama. We need to make sure they receive the necessary federal and state assistance they deserve to get through these unexpected and difficult times.

One thing is certain: as we enter the final legislative session of this year, we must reauthorize the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill will provide greater protections for the cotton and peanut growers in our area and for other farmers and foresters throughout Alabama and the nation.

Without the tireless efforts of producers all across the nation, life as we know it would not exist. From providing the food we eat, to the raw materials for the clothes we wear, to the foundational building elements all around us, our farmers and foresters impact our daily lives in truly tangible ways.

We owe it to them to fight for more protections to help create a stronger future for all of Alabama, and we must always remember that our farmers are our future.

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

Byrne: Conservative policies are working

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

Rarely in today’s world of instant communication and “the loudest voice wins” politics do we hear positive stories in the news cycle. Now, though, I would like to draw attention to a story that has proven to be good news, but has, for the most part, not received the coverage it deserves: conservative policies are working.

In the past two years, the Republican-controlled Congress has passed over 1,000 bills out of the House of Representatives, and almost 250 of them were signed into law by President Trump. That’s roughly 28 percent more bills that have passed out of the House than in years past.

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With the bills that have been signed into law, we have funded around 75 percent of the government on time for the first time in a decade. About 80 percent of the bills passed have been through bipartisan efforts, and 100 percent of the bills are pro-growth, pro-defense and pro-America legislation.

Part of our pro-America agenda has focused on preparing our students to enter the workforce with the necessary skills they need to thrive in today’s job market. One of the most prevalent myths in society today is that students must have a four-year degree to succeed. That’s just not true.

Thanks to bipartisan reforms to our career/technical education programs, we can give students a stepping stool directly into jobs after graduation or into post-secondary education programs centered around tangible skills and real-world careers.

Thanks to legislation like last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we are seeing confidence in our economy soar to record levels. Small business satisfaction and job openings are both at all-time highs, and our unemployment rate has dropped to the lowest level in nearly 50 years. Right here in Alabama, we are experiencing record low unemployment and more Alabamians are working than at any point in our state’s history.

We have fully funded the military to help rebuild our forces after cuts under former President Barack Obama. Our servicemen and women will receive the largest pay raise in nine years, better taking care of those who protect us. And, these funds will equip them with newer and improved systems so they can better execute the mission of keeping Americans safe both at home and abroad.

We have passed legislation to take better care of our veterans as well. Service to our nation doesn’t end when the uniform comes off, and our veterans deserve to have the benefits they earned.

Improvements to the Veterans Choice Program will allow veterans to better access the health care they need at a convenience they deserve. Additionally, changes to the GI Bill will allow education benefits to better work for both veterans and their families.

We have also made progress on improving our nation’s infrastructure. Landmark legislation will make it easier to improve our waterways, ports and airports. Right here at home, we are closer than ever before to building the I-10 Bridge and completing improvements to the Port of Mobile.

Even with all the above accomplishments, there is still much work to be done.

For example, securing our border for the future is a must to ensure American safety and protect our assets here at home. That’s why I have proposed the 50 Votes for the Wall Act, an innovative solution to fund the border wall and overcome Democrat obstruction in the Senate.

While there are still challenges ahead, there is no doubt that with conservative policies the American people are better off now and getting stronger for tomorrow. As long as I serve in Washington, I will always support policies that put Americans first and work for a stronger future for all of Alabama.

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

Byrne: Water infrastructure vital to Alabama’s economy

(M. Kittrell/Alabama NewsCenter)

There are very few places in the United States that can boast the sort of diverse infrastructure we have here in Alabama. There are 11 interstates, over 3,000 miles of freight rail, 5 commercial airports, and more than 132,000 miles of rivers and stream channels in our state.

One of our state’s most important pieces of infrastructure is the Port of Mobile, the 10th largest port and fastest growing container terminal in the United States. With 41 berths, 5 million square feet of warehouses and yards, and covering 4,000 total acres, it has an economic impact of around 135,000 jobs in Southwest Alabama and generates more than $22 billion per year in economic value.

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Recent expansions and developments at the Port will only further grow the economic impact of the Port on not only Southwest Alabama but our entire state. For example, the recent announcement about a new roll-on/roll-off vehicle processing facility at the Port will help our state’s automotive manufacturing industry continue to grow.

Even with these impressive facts, it has been clear that our infrastructure throughout the country is in need of updates, repairs, and overhauls to ensure that we are at the cutting edge of transportation and innovation in order to compete economically on the world stage.

Last week, in a major bipartisan effort, Congress sent a piece of legislation to President Trump’s desk that will help to unlock the full economic potential of our region and state.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 passed the Senate last week, after passing out of the House a few weeks back. This bill authorizes funding for waterway projects, port improvement projects, and other important water infrastructure projects in all 50 states. Not only will this allow for much-needed infrastructure improvements, but the bill reinstates a “Buy America” provision for federally funded projects, meaning a boost for American steel producers.

Commonsense legislation like this will create jobs, incentivize the use of American-made products, and build our nation’s capabilities to produce, package, and transport goods all around the globe. It will also make our drinking water safer, improve our wastewater systems, combat algae blooms, and restore our nation’s beaches through grant programs.

The Army Corps of Engineers can move forward on improving our dams, locks, reservoirs, and shipping channels. We have a major Army Corps project that needs attention right here in Southwest Alabama. The project to deepen and widen the Mobile Bay Ship Channel has the ability to fundamentally alter the economic potential of the Port and create more jobs in our state. Senator Richard Shelby has long been a champion for this project, and I am committed to working with him to make it a reality.

Our shipyards, airports, and rail yards will all see an impact from waterway projects like this, and I am thankful to the members of the Senate and my colleagues in the House for passing this water infrastructure legislation to help propel Alabama even further into the 21st Century.

The future of Alabama rests upon our ability to look beyond the short term and into what will set us up for success for years to come. Focusing locally on important infrastructure projects will spur economic growth through business investment and job creation, and it will open up opportunities we don’t even know exist yet.

Investing in our infrastructure today will lead to a stronger tomorrow. I applaud the work of my colleagues in both the House and the Senate in making a better economic future possible through this vital water infrastructure legislation.

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

Byrne: Time to do something about the opioid epidemic

(Rep. B. Byrne/Facebook)

One of the things we pride ourselves on as Alabamians is taking care of each other. Not only should this mean we take care of those we know or our next-door neighbors, it should also mean taking care of all those throughout our region, especially those experiencing hardships.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anywhere from 115 to nearly 200 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Last year alone, roughly 72,000 people died from this public health crisis. No community or group is exempt from the crisis. This is not a political issue. The opioid epidemic has been going on for far too long, and it is time that something be done about it.

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It became clear early in the opioid epidemic, as we were just beginning to understand the problem, that treating the opioid crisis would require assistance from every level of government, but also from the private sector. This is more than a single statewide issue, or even a regional issue. The entirety of our country is being affected: every death is another loved one, friend, or neighbor that won’t see their loved ones again.

In Congress, we knew we needed to start looking for ways to support those in need in our own backyard, all across the nation. When it comes to a drug crisis like this, prevention comes down to early detection within the community, proper medical treatments, and patient support programs.

Last month, the House passed landmark legislation to address the opioid epidemic. Last Wednesday, the Senate passed that bill, known as the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, and it will now be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

SUPPORT stands for Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment. This multi-pronged solution will be able to better detect, treat, and provide recovery opportunity for those at risk or suffering from opioid abuse or overdose in our communities.

Our bipartisan bill will both establish and expand upon early-detection programs to better spot those who may be struggling with opioid addiction. It will also increase health care providers’ ability to treat patients with effective solutions, and it will establish drug management programs for at-risk beneficiaries under Medicaid.

This legislation is the most significant congressional action against a single drug crisis in our nation’s history: it is bipartisan, bicameral and it is a plan that will provide assistance to those who need it most.

This legislation comes on top of efforts over the last two years to increase funding for grant programs that help states deal with the opioid crisis. Top-down, government-knows-best solutions rarely work, so I support giving greater resources to allow states and local communities to develop programs that best meet the needs of their residents.

Oftentimes we can become wrapped up in our own world of heading to and from work, catching the game, and making sure the kids get to school on time. Rarely do we think of those who may be suffering through the struggles of addiction. But, we are all part of a community, and we cannot fail anyone in our community by not acting.

I am proud to say that Congress has done the right thing, and I will continue to support our medical providers, first responders, police officers and recovery program managers here in Alabama. They need our constant support.

I will also keep all those throughout the country who struggle through the awful grips of addiction in my prayers and will continue to look for greater ways we as a community can come together and provide for all our neighbors.

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

Byrne: Fighting for those who fight for us

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

When we go to bed at night, whether we think about it or not, we are safe knowing that our servicemen and women stand at the ready throughout the world; ready to defend our nation, our values, and us here at home.

But, without the appropriate funding, our military does not have the necessary equipment and resources to get the job done.

I am proud to report, thanks to the steadfast work and advocacy of us defense hawks in Congress, we have passed a bill fully funding our nation’s military on time for the first time since 2008.

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Not only this, but as of October 1, roughly 75 percent of our government is funded for the coming year. We can truly say that as we move toward the end of the year, we are both better off now and stronger for the future.

On Friday, President Trump signed into law the Fiscal Year 2019 Defense and Labor-HHS-Education funding bill, which authorizes a record $716 billion to go toward our fighting men and women in the upcoming year.

Part of this defense funding package includes 93 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 142 Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, and 13 Navy ships. Additionally, our troops will see the largest pay increase in nearly a decade.

And, we have managed to do all of this without a temporary continuing resolution. This means that our nation’s military will have the funding certainty they have repeatedly asked for.

So how will this impact Alabama?

The U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass will benefit from the new Apache and Black Hawk helicopters as they continue to train our men and women in combat flight and air superiority to support of our ground troops.

Some of the 93 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, as well as several other aircraft under the bill, will likely see service at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. This base is home to Air University, a division of the Air Education and Training Command, and these new planes will potentially serve with and in support of the 908th Airlift Wing and 187th Fighter Wing stationed there.

The bill sets aside critical funding for missiles to be built and utilized by the team at Redstone Arsenal in north Alabama as they carry out critical Army and Missile Defense Agency programs.

And closer to home here in Southwest Alabama, our very own Austal USA in Mobile will benefit from funding for three new Littoral Combat Ships and one new Expeditionary Fast Transport ship, ensuring continued work for the 4,000 men and women who work at the shipyard. These ships represent the next step as we strive for a 355-ship Navy fleet and an even stronger and more capable fighting force.

On top of all these projects and plans, perhaps even more important is making sure the people who operate these systems are responsibly taken care of into the future. That is why we have made sure to include a pay raise in this year’s funding. For those who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, it only makes sense to pay them what they deserve. No price can ever be put on the sacrifices they make.

As your representative in Congress, I am constantly fighting for the betterment of all Alabamians and all Americans. The members of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines who live and work in Alabama should rest easy knowing that I will always fight for those who fight for us.

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

Rep. Byrne: Breaking down Tax Reform 2.0

(YHN)

Since Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year, the American economy is booming, and Alabama families have more money in their pockets. By lowering taxes and simplifying the tax code, we have unlocked our economic potential and made life better for hardworking Americans.

The economic numbers speak for themselves: higher wages, lower unemployment, more jobs, bigger paychecks, employee bonuses and much more. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the average family in Southwest Alabama will see their tax bill decrease by $2,187 a year.

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The good news is that we aren’t stopping here. This week, the House is expected to vote on additional changes and improvements to the tax code, something we are calling Tax Reform 2.0. Working with President Trump, we will continue to make the tax code even fairer and more competitive.

Tax Reform 2.0 includes three major pieces. Here’s a quick overview.

First, we want to make the tax cuts for small businesses and middle-class families permanent. Due to Democrat obstruction and arcane rules in the Senate, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was only able to lower taxes for ten years. Under Tax Reform 2.0, we will make the tax cuts permanent.

The non-partisan Tax Foundation found that making the middle-class and small business tax cuts permanent will create 1.5 million new jobs and increase gross domestic product (GDP) by 2.2%. This further expands our economy and makes life even better for families and small businesses.

Making these changes permanent, will also lock-in the simpler tax filing process. As you may remember, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act simplified the tax code to the point where many Americans are now able to complete their taxes on a postcard-style form. A Tax Foundation study shows that this will save Americans between $3.1 to $5.4 billion in compliance costs. Instead of needing an accountant to navigate the complicated code, most Americans will be able to file on their own.

Second, Tax Reform 2.0 promotes family savings and helps more Americans plan for retirement. Currently, too many Americans have been unable to save for retirement or put money aside to cover unforeseen emergencies.

We want to help small businesses provide retirement plans to their workers by allowing small businesses to join together to create a 401(k) plan more affordable and by giving employers more time to put new retirement plans in place. Just as important, we will help more workers participate in retirement plans by exempting small retirement accounts from mandatory payouts and by eliminating the age limit on IRA contributions.

We don’t stop there. Tax Reform 2.0 will create and expand additional programs to help Americans save. For example, our plan creates a new savings account to offer a fully flexible savings tool that families can use at any time right for them, expands 529 education savings accounts, and creates a new baby savings program to help with the birth of a new child or an adoption.

Finally, Tax Reform 2.0 will help grow the economy by promoting start-up businesses and spurring innovation. We do this by allowing new businesses to write off more of their initial start-up costs and by making it easier for start-ups to bring in new investors. America must lead the way on innovation.

As you can tell, Tax Reform 2.0 builds upon our efforts in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to ensure the American economy remains strong. We do that by allowing Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets. I fundamentally believe our country is the strongest when money is with the people instead of the government.

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

Rep Byrne: Setting our funding priorities

(Rep. B. Byrne/Facebook)

I know this may be hard for you to believe, but there was a major, bipartisan victory in Congress last week that failed to gain any of the attention it deserved. I want to highlight some of the progress we made last week and explain why it should matter to those of us back in Alabama.

Last week, both the House and the Senate passed a funding bill that covered three very important parts of our government: military construction and veterans services, energy and water development and Legislative Branch operations.

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I am pleased to see us passing targeted funding bills instead of waiting until the last minute to pass a massive omnibus funding bill. Over the last few years, the House has been able to pass funding bills only to see the process stall out in the Senate.

Thankfully, since Alabama Senator Richard Shelby became Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the process has actually been moving again in the Senate. This has allowed us to focus on passing the smaller funding packages that are targeted toward our priorities.

So why is this funding bill important? Obviously, funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is important for our state, given the large number of veterans that call Alabama home. The bill includes the largest dollar amount in funding for the VA in our nation’s history. This means the VA will have the resources necessary to take care of our veterans, hire high-quality employees, and cut back on the claims backlog.

There have been serious issues at the VA over the last few years, so I am pleased the funding bill dedicates more for the VA inspector general. This money will allow for stronger accountability at the VA as we work to make sure no veteran is left behind.

The bill also includes funding for military construction programs in Alabama and across the country. As we work to rebuild our nation’s military, we must not forget about our military infrastructure. This funding includes money set aside for military housing programs. If we are to retain the best and brightest in our military, we need to ensure they have first-class facilities.

Next, the funding bill sets aside funding for the Army Corps of Engineers. Those of us in Southwest Alabama know the important work the Corps does on a daily basis to keep our waterways open and navigable. This is important to those of us who like to spend time on the water for recreational purposes, but it is especially important for our economy since so much of our commerce is conducted on waterways.

Just consider the Port of Mobile and the important commerce that goes in and out of that Port each day. Under this funding bill, the Corps will receive $7 billion for navigation projects, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and to help with flood prevention and restoration projects. This money is very important for our country, but especially important for our state.

Finally, the bill funds our nation’s nuclear security strategy by dedicating money to support our nation’s nuclear weapons and the Navy’s nuclear reactors. The bill sets aside money to ensure nuclear weapons do not fall into the wrong hands and funding to prevent against cyber attacks. Our national security must always be the top priority.

As you can see, this commonsense government funding bill is good for our country and Alabama. I was pleased to see it pass the House on a strong vote of 377 to 20, and I hope we can keep up the positive momentum to continue getting the job done for the American people.

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

Rep. Byrne: Look at the facts about the booming American economy

(Rep. Bradley Byrne)

When you turn on the TV or log onto your computer these days, you are bombarded with negative news stories about the latest s0-called scandal from Washington.

I’ve said it before, but I believe it is so true: we need to tune out the noise from the national news media and look at what is actually happening. The U.S. military is being rebuilt, and our communities are becoming safer. But, nowhere is the positive direction of our country more apparent than when it comes to the economy.

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The American people are thriving under a strong economy that is providing promising opportunities for American families. Thanks to lower taxes, fewer regulations, a stronger focus on fair trade, and a less invasive federal government, the American economy is truly booming. Just consider some of the numbers.

The August jobs report found that 201,000 new jobs were created in the United States and the unemployment rate sits at a low 3.9%. At the same time, the report found that wages increased at the best rate since 2009.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is at the lowest point in almost 49-years. Surveys have found that consumer confidence has reached its highest level since October 2000. And, second quarter growth of the gross domestic product (GDP) increased to 4.2%, the best performance in nearly ten years.

The economic gains are also reaching populations that have generally lagged behind during other economic booms. For example, youth unemployment has hit the lowest level in 52-years. The unemployment rates for African Americans and Hispanics are also at or near record lows.

Here in Alabama, we are experiencing the lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history. New businesses continue to locate in our area, and Alabama workers are seeing more money in their pockets.

Right here in Southwest Alabama, our communities are experiencing economic growth, and the growth is not just confined to the larger cities.

For example, I recently visited Provalus in Brewton. This is a high-tech company bringing good-paying jobs to the people in Escambia County. I also stopped by Sterling Packaging in Monroeville recently. This company moved from Canada to Monroe County due to our great economic climate and a dedicated workforce. These are just two examples from rural Alabama where new businesses are opening and providing opportunities for Alabama families.

The economic gains show that our conservative, pro-growth policies are working, but there are other priorities we must address to ensure we continue to grow and create opportunities for Americans. Health care remains at the top of the list. We need to make sure our health care system works and is affordable for Americans. Here in Alabama, a top health care priority that directly impacts the economy is saving our rural hospitals. Without a hospital, communities won’t be able to attract new industry.

Also on the list is passing a new Farm Bill that supports our farmers. Agriculture remains the top industry in Alabama, so having a strong, fair Farm Bill is so very important. A big part of the Farm Bill this year is a focus on expanding rural broadband. This is vital to the economic success of rural America.

We know the government does not create jobs, but we can help promote job growth with the right policies. These are just a few tangible ways we can keep our foot on the gas and fully unleash our economic potential.

At the end of the day, we should not let some talking head on television tell us how terrible our country is today. Instead, simply look at the facts about the booming American economy.

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

Rep. Byrne: ‘I refuse’ to allow the midterm elections to stop Congress from addressing the priorities of Americans

(Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News)

The House returns to session this week after the month-long August District Work Period, and there are many important legislative items that need our attention.

August was a busy time back in Southwest Alabama listening to the people I have the honor of representing. I appreciate all those who took time to visit my office, attend a town hall meeting, or host me at their business. I look forward to taking back all I learned to Washington as we address the range of issues before us.

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Midterm elections for every House seat and one-third of the Senate seats will occur in November, and elections traditionally slow down legislative action in Washington. That said, there are many priorities that require our attention, and I know many of us are committed to getting the job done.

Our biggest priority is passing government funding bills for the next fiscal year. Government funding expires on September 30th each year, so Congress needs to pass funding bills by the end of this month.

The good news is that we have finally reached a bit of a breakthrough in the Senate on passing smaller individual funding bills instead of a massive omnibus bill that no one likes. We must get away from these big omnibus bills and focus on passing smaller, targeted bills one at a time.

Thanks to Alabama’s own Senator, Richard Shelby, the Senate appropriations process is actually moving forward, unlike in years past. This is a big victory as we try to fix the broken process and pass responsible government funding bills on time. I’m optimistic we can pass many of the funding bills before the end of September. This is especially important for our military as years of delayed funding has deteriorated our readiness leaving our service members without the resources they need to defend our country.

There is also a lot of talk in the House about doing “Tax Reform 2.0.” I’m sure you remember last year when Congress passed and President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. This year’s tax reform efforts will focus on making many of those tax cuts permanent to ensure taxes remain low for American families.

The House is also waiting for the Senate to act on a package of bills to address our nation’s opioid drug epidemic. The House has passed over 50 bills to help prevent and treat opioid addiction and abuse while ensuring our drug laws are effective in stopping the flow of illegal drugs. The Senate must act on these bills or pass their own. Far too many Americans are losing their lives to opioid addiction each year, and we must act to stop this alarming trend.

While the path forward is not quite as clear, I remain strongly committed to passing an immigration bill to secure our borders, allow for construction of President Trump’s border wall, crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities,” and close loopholes in our current system. Border security is national security, so I am going to keep pushing for the House to pass strong immigration reform.

At the committee level, I will continue working on the Armed Services Committee to advocate for full funding for our nation’s defense and provide critical oversight as we continue to rebuild our military. On the Education and the Workforce Committee, we remain focused on reauthorizing of the Higher Education Act and oversight hearings on Department of Labor policies.

So, despite what you might hear in the media, the remainder of 2018 will be busy for Congress. I refuse to allow the midterm elections to slow us down from our job: addressing the priorities of the American people.

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

Rep. Byrne: Being able to debate about issues ‘fundamental to our country’

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Twitter)

No one can deny that the political climate in our country today is pretty divisive. Protests and outbursts are becoming more and more common. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise when you consider that a certain group now considers themselves “the resistance.”

Given the volatile condition of our politics today, many Members of Congress are no longer hosting town hall-style meetings to meet with their constituents. These events have become too risky as they provide an avenue for “the resistance” to cause problems and create negative attention.

Despite the national trend away from town hall meetings, I continue to believe town halls are one of the best ways to stay in touch with the people we represent. My town hall meetings are always open to anyone and provide for an hour of open dialogue between residents and the person elected to be their voice in Congress.

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While I know some town halls around the country have turned confrontational, I believe that the people of Alabama have enough decency to be able to openly debate and discuss political issues without becoming nasty. I’ve held over 115 in-person town hall meetings since being elected to Congress, and I can count on one hand the number of times someone has been intentionally disruptive or hateful.

Last year, a national news crew from CBS came down to Alabama to cover a day of my town hall meetings. I think they were expecting some hostile moments. At the end of the day, they commented about how nice, friendly and hospitable the people were. I told them that was just how we operate in Alabama.

See, I think being able to debate – and even disagree – about important issues is fundamental to our country. If you look at places like Russia, North Korea and Iran, they don’t allow for open debate and dialogue about issues. It is this type of conversation and the freedom to disagree that makes our country great.

So, over the past month, I hit the road to visit communities across Southwest Alabama to hold town hall meetings. Known as the “Better Off Now” Town Hall Tour, I held open meetings in Salipta, Atmore, Brewton, Dauphin Island, Millry, Citronelle, Mobile, Grand Bay, Monroeville, Seminole, Loxley and Spanish Fort.

For me, it is very important to spread out where I hold town hall meetings. Instead of just staying in larger cities, I have made a commitment to visiting communities of all sizes and in each of the six counties that make up the First Congressional District. The voice of the people in the Salipta community of Clarke County matters just as much as the voice of those in Mobile.

During my recent town hall meetings, hot topics were problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, concerns about illegal immigration, issues with the “Deep State” and government bureaucracy, and the need for improvement to local roads and infrastructure. Each town hall meeting was different, but these were some of the overarching themes.

At the end of the day, I refuse to give in to the narrative that we can no longer openly discuss political issues in our country. We need to embrace the diversity of opinions and views, and town hall meetings are a great way to do that.

So, I promise that as long as I am your Congressman, I will continue to hold public, in-person town hall meetings throughout our area to hear directly from the people I represent. Through these meetings, I become a better Congressman, and I think our society becomes a little stronger.

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

Rep. Byrne: ‘Great value’ found in traveling around district, speaking with local leaders

(Bradley Bryne/Facebook)

Each August, the House of Representatives typically enters a period of recess known as the August District Work Period. This is time set aside for Members of Congress to travel across their home districts visiting with the people they represent.

For me, this is incredibly valuable time that I can spend listening to my constituents and gaining a better understanding of the issues impacting our area. Here is just a quick highlight of my August District Work Period so far.

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As you probably already know, I love to hold town hall meetings throughout the First District to hear directly from the people I represent. This August, I am holding a “Better Off Now” Town Hall Tour with twelve stops in all six counties that make up the First District. So far, we have held town hall meetings in Salipta, Atmore, Brewton, Dauphin Island, Millry, Citronelle and Mobile. Later this month, we will make stops in Grand Bay, Monroeville, Seminole, Loxley and Spanish Fort. You can get all the details about the town halls online at Byrne.House.Gov/BetterOffTour.

Visiting local businesses and talking with employees is another priority for me in August. For example, I have already visited Olin in McIntosh, the Louisiana Pacific facility in Clarke County, Serda Brewing in Mobile, and Metal Shark Boats and Master Marine in Bayou La Batre, just to name a few. The visits help me learn firsthand how federal issues are directly impacting employers and employees in Southwest Alabama.

A really special opportunity was being able to ride along with UPS to help deliver packages on the Eastern Shore. I dressed up in the full UPS uniform, rode in the truck, and personally delivered packages. It really helped to step in the driver’s shoes and see the difficult work they do every day. I am especially grateful to Chris Dorgan for showing me the ropes.

Just last week, I hosted Chris Oliver, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, down on Dauphin Island for a Red Snapper research trip. As one of the leading federal officials responsible for our fisheries, I welcomed the opportunity to show off the health of the Red Snapper stock in the Gulf, as well as the very impressive research being done locally by the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Also last week, I traveled to the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi to meet with the director and get an update on services for our veterans. As you may know, the Biloxi VA oversees most of our local VA facilities. It was a productive visit as I work to hold the VA accountable and ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.

We had the annual Women’s Forum in downtown Mobile, which is organized by the Community Foundation of South Alabama. We had another outstanding crowd as local women had the opportunity to network and hear from speakers and panelists about issues important to them.

I find great value in holding roundtable discussions to hear directly from leaders about specific issues. With this in mind, we held separate roundtables with local school superintendents, economic developers from our area, and community leaders from Chatom. Each of these roundtables were very informative, and we have more scheduled later this month.

As you can probably tell, this August District Work Period has already been a huge success. The good news is that we are just getting started. I look forward to spending more time around Southwest Alabama throughout August to help me be the best Congressman possible.

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

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Back to school priorities

(Pixabay)

Over the next few weeks, students across Southwest Alabama will head back to school. The start of a new school year always comes with special emotions for students, parents and teachers.

In Washington, I am the only Member of Congress from Alabama who serves on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over K-12 education. Through this position, I am able to advocate for our local teachers, students and parents.

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When it comes to education policy, my top priority is always to return control and authority to the local level. I do not want bureaucrats in Washington telling teachers back in Alabama how to do their job. It is exactly this kind of top-down, Washington-knows-best mentality that has failed our students for many years.

Each August, I convene a meeting of our local school superintendents to preview the new school year and discuss issues that impact our local students and teachers. We held the meeting last week in Bay Minette, and our discussion was very informative.

Their top concern this year is school safety, and I agree with them. I know our local administrators are taking steps to ensure that every student remains safe at school, and I am committed to working with our local leaders to make sure they have the resources they need.

For example, the House has passed legislation to increase grant funding for school safety programs. We need to set aside more money for school resource officers and other tools to help keep our schools safe.

In almost every school shooting, warning signs were there, but they went unreported or officials did not know how to properly respond. I want to change that.

I am also working on legislation that would help make information and research available to all our school officials. This information would help our teachers, counselors, and principals better spot students who are at a high risk of potentially becoming a school shooter.

Another issue important to our schools is career and technical education. I’ve been to many of our local schools and seen these programs firsthand. They work incredibly well, and we need to do more to support them.

I’m pleased to report that just last week President Trump signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act into law. This bipartisan bill passed both the House and the Senate without a single dissenting vote.

Since it wasn’t controversial, the national news media ignored the bill, but it is a monumental achievement that will go a long way toward getting students the skills they need to thrive in the 21st Century economy.

See, career and technical education is all about matching the needs of the workforce with students. Despite what some want you to believe, students don’t need to go to a four-year college to be successful. In fact, many students who go through a career/technical education program go on to make more money than those with a regular four-year degree.

We have more unfilled jobs in our country today than we have unemployed Americans. That’s a good thing, but it means we need to do a better job of training the workforce of tomorrow. By passing this bill, we took a big step in the right direction.

So, as our students head back to school over the coming weeks, I am going to continue advocating for stronger local control over education and fighting for the issues that our local leaders say are important, like school safety and career/technical education.

I wish all our students, teachers, principals, faculty and parents all the best as they kick off a new school year!

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

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Report from the world’s largest naval exercise

(RIMPAC/Facebook)

Imagine the scenario: a massive earthquake strikes an impoverished island country. It is followed up by multiple aftershocks and a tsunami. Countless lives are lost and thousands more are injured. The United States and partner nations are called in to respond and help get the nation back on its feet.

In this instance, this was a scenario as part of the Rim of the Pacific exercise, also known as RIMPAC, military training exercise in the Pacific Ocean. While this time the scenario was just an exercise, it most certainly could become a reality. The question becomes would our country, as well as partner nations, be prepared to respond.

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That’s where RIMPAC comes into play.  As the world’s largest naval exercise, RIMPAC allows the United States and partner nations to train together and learn more about each nation’s capabilities. Since it was started in 1971 by the United States, Australia, and Canada, RIMPAC has allowed for critical training and relationship-building across the Pacific region.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend RIMPAC this year to talk with our military leadership, observe some of the exercise, and interact with our servicemen and women. As Vice-Chairman of the House Seapower and Project Forces Subcommittee, the trip continued my understanding of the challenges facing our naval fleet, as well as provided a general overview of the overall capabilities of the world’s navies.

The theme for this year’s exercise was “Capable, Adaptive, Partners.” The formal objective was to “enhance the operability of the combined RIMPAC forces across the full spectrum of military operations in the maritime environment.”

Admiral John Alexander, the Commander of U.S. Third Fleet and the person in charge of the RIMPAC exercise, put it best when he said “it’s hard to say no to a friend.” That is why RIMPAC is so important.

This year, RIMPAC runs from June 27th to August 2nd. 25 nations participated this year, bringing 46 ships, five submarines, 17 national land forces, over 200 aircraft, and over 25,000 total personnel. Those numbers demonstrate just how large and impressive this exercise is.

During my trip, we had the opportunity to go aboard both a U.S. and an Australian Navy ship. That speaks to the nature of RIMPAC. It is all about partnerships and gaining a better understanding for each other. The Australians were incredibly welcoming and took great pride in showing off their ship and their ability to successfully operate with U.S. military personnel.

One of the highlights of my RIMPAC trip was being able to meet with some sailors from Mobile, Brewton, Spanish Fort, and Tuscaloosa. In the small time I spent with them, I could tell these were high quality individuals who love serving their country. I made sure to convey our deep appreciation for service and sacrifice.

You see, the U.S. Navy is always impressive, but leading 25 nations in a joint naval exercise underscores just how impressive it is. No other navy in the history of the world has ever done that, but the reasons for doing it are even more important.

We are using our hard power to achieve a soft power goal – attaching each of these countries closer to the United States and creating relationships across our militaries which not only serves us all well in times of peace, as when there is a natural disaster, but just as importantly also lowers the chance of war.

Hopefully the lessons learned at RIMPAC never have to be used, but I have greater confidence in our Navy and our partners following another successful exercise in the Pacific.

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