The Wire

  • Assistant U.S. attorney to replace Hart in leading Special Prosecutions Division

    Excerpt:

    Multiple sources have told Yellowhammer News that Anna “Clark” Morris, the first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, will take over the Special Prosecutions Division of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

    The announcement could be made as soon as Tuesday. Attorney General Steve Marshall accepted the resignation of Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart, who has led the division for years, on Monday morning.

    Morris served as the acting U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s middle district last year, in between President Donald Trump firing former USA George Beck in March of 2017 and now-USA Louis Franklin being confirmed that September.

  • EPA official resigns after indictment on Alabama ethics charges, replaced by Alabama native

    Excerpt:

    Even with Trey Glenn leaving his post as the EPA’s Region Four administrator, Alabama will still have strong ties to the leader of that office.

    According to The Hill, Mary Walker was named by EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler to fill the vacant role in an acting capacity after Glenn resigned on Monday following his indictment on ethics charges in Alabama.

    Walker is a native of the Yellowhammer State and had been serving as Glenn’s deputy.

  • Tim Tebow Foundation’s Night to Shine coming to Birmingham in 2019

    Excerpt:

    The Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Night to Shine,” a magical prom night experience for people with special needs, is coming to Birmingham.

    Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church will serve as one of the nearly 500 churches around the world to host Night to Shine on February 8, 2019.

    Night to Shine is an event for people 14 and older with special needs to receive royal treatment. Guests will enter the event on a red carpet filled with a crowd and paparazzi. Once they make it into the building, guests will be able to choose from an array of activities to partake in including hair and makeup stations, shoe shining areas and limousine rides. They can also choose their corsages and boutonnieres.

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.

555

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.

425

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.

501

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.

504

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.

474

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.

480

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.

493

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.

514

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.

511

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.

514

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.

523

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.

465

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.

511

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.

528

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.

506

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.

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Standing up for ICE

(ICE/Flickr)

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, commonly known as ICE, is the federal law enforcement agency tasked with enforcing our nation’s border control, customs, trade and immigration laws. The agency was formed back in 2002 when Congress passed the Homeland Security Act.

ICE has over 20,000 employees, including over 400 offices in the United States and additional offices in 46 other countries. ICE is responsible for enforcement and removal procedures against those who enter our country illegally. They also play a critically important role in cracking down on human and drug trafficking.

513

I have deep respect for the work our ICE officials and officers do daily to help keep the nation safe. In 2017, ICE made more than 76,000 drug arrests, arrested 4,818 people in gang-related incidents and stopped 980,000 pounds of narcotics at the border. Similar efforts are already underway this year.

Given the important work ICE does, I am dismayed to see some liberals calling for ICE to be abolished altogether. Instead of supporting these hardworking law enforcement officials, it seems some are truly committed to open borders and reckless behavior.

The “Abolish ICE” movement is not something that just activists are calling for. In fact, several Democrat Senators and Congressmen have also started to call for the law enforcement agency to be shut down. This would be a major mistake that could endanger the safety of the American people.

This is just another example of how the “resistance” movement in our country today seems much more interested in causing problems than solving them. We have serious flaws and issues with our immigration system that need to be fixed and enforced, but the answer is not to simply open our borders.

In an effort to demonstrate strong bipartisan support for ICE, the House held a vote last week on a resolution declaring our support for ICE and their mission. This was a straightforward resolution simply to make sure our ICE officers know the majority of Americans have their back.

I was shocked to see only 18 Democrats vote in support of the resolution. 34 voted against supporting ICE, while another 133 simply voted present. I know there are political differences in our country today, but it is deeply concerning that over 160 Democrats in the House were not willing to say they support ICE and the work they do to keep our country safe.

Despite their opposition, the resolution still passed. I hope all our ICE officers and employees take comfort in seeing a majority in Congress continue to stand up for them and the vital mission they carry out, despite what is often said on the news.

The issue really speaks to the larger problem about the future of immigration laws in our country. I am committed to standing up for the rule of law and ensuring our immigration laws are fully enforced.

To be clear, I support the legal immigration process, but I hear from individuals who have come into our country through the legal process who are incredibly frustrated by the idea that people can break the line, enter our country illegally, and not face any consequences. We must have a process in place that actually works and strongly punishes those who choose to enter illegally.

ICE plays a critical role in implementing and enforcing that process. Without the agency, we would be unable to control the flow of people and products into our country. As I have said before, a nation without borders and the rule of law is destined to fail.

Rest assured, I will keep standing up for ICE and will vehemently fight any efforts to abolish the agency.

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

Rep. Byrne: Americans are better off now

(Rep. Bradley Byrne/Twitter)

Two years ago, I joined other Republican House members in unveiling our “Better Way” agenda. The agenda covered everything from national security to tax reform to the economy. It was a bold vision about a different path for America that wasn’t driven by a larger, more powerful federal government. Instead, we advocated for a better way where we got government out of the way and allowed the American people to flourish.

Working with President Trump, we have held true to our promises to the American people. Two years later and with many parts of the agenda in place, we can safely say that Americans are better off now. Our communities are safer. The economy is booming. Our military is being rebuilt. Our “Better Way” is paying off.

475

Our communities are safer because we have made supporting law enforcement a top priority. We have passed historic legislation to address the opioid crisis, which is having a horrible impact on communities in Alabama and throughout the country. In addition to better policy, we have invested $4 billion in grants and programs to help combat the opioid crisis.

We passed legislation to devote more resources to school safety, and we have made real progress in the fight against human trafficking. In fact, we have seen a 60 percent decline in online advertising for sex trafficking.

Also, important to keeping our communities safe, we set aside $1.5 billion for physical barriers and technology along the southern border and provided for over 90 miles of a border wall system. Border security is national security.

No one can deny that the American economy is booming. Just consider these numbers: 90% of Americans are seeing larger paychecks under our tax reform bill. 3.7 million jobs have been created since November 2016. There are 6.6 million job openings in the United States as of May 2018, meaning more jobs than job seekers. And, $4.1 billion has been saved in agency regulatory costs by rolling back burdensome government regulations.

One of my biggest concerns during the Obama Administration was the hollowing out of our military. We had planes that couldn’t fly and ships that couldn’t sail. We were not making the continuous critical investment in our military necessary to keep up with our adversaries. Thankfully, those days are over.

We have made the largest investment in our military in 15 years. This means 20,000 new troops, the largest pay increase for our service members since 2010, more training time, better equipment, new ships, and much more.

On the world stage, countries know that the United States means what we say. ISIS is on the run in the Middle East, North Korea has come to the negotiating table, and China is being held accountable for their dangerous trade practices.

Now, I want to make clear that much work remains. For example, we have to keep working to fix our broken immigration system and ensure that our borders are finally secure. We also cannot give up on our efforts to improve health care in our country. Costs remain too high and rural communities right here in Alabama are facing dangerous hospital closures.

But, despite what some on the other side of the aisle and the national news media want you to believe, the American people are better off now than they were two years ago. That is a testament to our pro-growth agenda, but, more importantly, it is a testament to the spirit and drive of the American people.

Want to know more? I encourage you to visit Better.gop to learn more about the various ways the American people are better off now.

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

U.S. Rep. Byrne: Border security must always come first

(U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Flickr)

If you have turned on your television recently, you have probably heard about the ongoing immigration debate in our country. Here in Congress, it is an issue that has drawn much of our attention as well.

Since being elected to Congress, I have held two top principles when it comes to the immigration debate. First, I do not and will not support granting amnesty to those who are in our country illegally. Second, any immigration reform bill must start with a sincere and tangible effort to secure the border. Until the border is secure, any other immigration efforts would be in vain.

507

Recently, the House voted on two separate immigration bills that were designed to help crack down on illegal immigration. One bill, the Securing America’s Future Act, earned my support. The bill included very strong border security provisions, made the E-Verify program mandatory, and satisfied President Trump’s four pillars for immigration reform. Unfortunately, the bill failed by a vote of 193 to 231.

Another bill, the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act, failed to earn my support. The bill would have created a special pathway to citizenship for over 1.8 million illegal immigrants. The legislation would have unfairly allowed these illegal immigrants to jump in front of thousands who are waiting to come into our country the right way. Thankfully, the bill did not receive the support necessary to pass.

Despite the failure of these two bills, we must not give up in our efforts to secure the border, close loopholes in our immigration system, and ensure our immigration laws are fully enforced. This issue is far too important to the safety and security of the American people.

The immigration issue has also hit close to home with reports that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense are considering housing up to 25,000 illegal immigrants at Navy outlying airfields in south Baldwin County.

I am working with local leaders and my Alabama colleagues to once again fight this flawed proposal tooth and nail. Housing anyone in tents on the Gulf Coast during the heat of summer and the heart of hurricane season would be inhumane and a major mistake. Not to mention that these airfields lack even basic infrastructure, such as running water, housing, or restroom facilities, to provide even basic needs for detained immigrants.

I also believe we need to return these illegal immigrants to their home countries as quickly as possible. It makes no sense to bring them so far away from the border when the ultimate goal is to return them to their home countries.

Another issue that has drawn national attention is the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy, which says that anyone who crosses the border illegally will be prosecuted. I strongly support the policy because we are a nation of laws, and we must enforce the laws.

That said, like President Trump, I do not support separating children from their families at the border. This is why I have co-sponsored a bill from Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA) that would allow families to stay together while speeding up the processing and review of asylum cases. The bill would also devote funding to double the number of federal immigration judges and authorize the construction of new temporary shelters close to the border to keep families together.

As we continue to crack down on illegal immigration and ensure our borders are secure, I welcome your ideas and feedback. These are complicated and difficult issues, but they are so critical to the future of our country. We cannot become a country with open borders and no rule of law.

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

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Celebrating our independence

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook)

On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and formally adopted the Declaration of Independence. On this important day in our nation’s history, our Founding Fathers put their signatures on a piece of paper that not only declared independence from Great Britain, but also declared the essential values that define us as Americans.

This document ignited a sense of American pride with the memorable and historic opening statement: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

As I reflect on what these words mean to us as Americans, I am reminded of the great sacrifices of the men who wrote them and those who defend this promise still to this day.

451

It is important for us to remember that the Declaration of Independence was just the beginning. The words inked into history set the core principles for American values: bravery, service, sacrifice, optimism, and honor.

From the triumph at Yorktown and the surrender of General Cornwallis to the battles we fight across the world today, brave men and women have answered the call of service and defended these core American values at home and abroad.

It is because of the sacrifices of our servicemembers that Americans can sleep soundly at night knowing their freedoms are protected.

This week, like every year, Americans will don the colors of the flag and remember that momentous day over two hundred years ago when our nation was born.

People across the country will celebrate our nation’s history with fireworks, trips to the beach, barbecues, and family vacations. One tradition I hold dear is reading the entire Declaration of Independence aloud with family and friends, assigning different parts to different people, including children. There is nothing more powerful than hearing the words written in that historic and fundamental document.

When the Founding Fathers got together to compose the Declaration, they came from different backgrounds and upbringings with their own, unique ideas for forming the American government. At such a pivotal time in our nation’s history, they succeeded in setting aside their differences for a common goal to create our own American identity. Who knows where we would be today if they had not worked together and overcome their differences.

Much like then, there are forces at work in our society today seeking to divide us against one another and weaken our national spirit. Regardless of your race, religion, or creed, this Fourth of July, I urge you to look closely at the many ways we are united as Americans, rather than focus on our differences. At the end of the day, we all salute the red, white, and blue and should not let our differences dissolve our core values and beliefs.

That said, do not give up on the American dream. Do not back down from the challenges of today. Do not let anyone tell you that our country’s best days are in the past. We have so much to be thankful for in the United States, and I am confident that we have so much to look forward to.

As we reflect on this renewed sense of American pride, let us look to the future with determination and confidence and keep alive the vision that our Founding Fathers had on that day back in 1776. Happy Fourth of July to you and your family, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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

U.S. Rep. Byrne: Supporting Alabama’s number one industry

(Pixabay)

Agriculture is our country’s oldest industry. Since the beginning, America’s farmers have worked the land and sustained our communities. Today, agriculture is the top industry in rural America, and it remains the number one industry in Alabama.

As our manufacturing industry continues to grow, I have made a commitment to never forget about the backbone of Alabama’s economy: our hardworking farmers who help feed America. Farming, forestry, livestock and crop production represent more than $70 billion in annual economic output, so it remains imperative that we reinforce programs that sustain and support the agriculture industry.

500

Since being elected to Congress, I have always worked to be a steadfast advocate for agriculture and forestry. In fact, one of the first major votes I took in office was in favor of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Four years later, I am proud that we could pass H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act, also known as the 2018 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill supports our nation’s farmers and foresters by reauthorizing farm programs and directing the nation’s agricultural policy for the next five years.

Among the many important provisions, the bill includes support for Alabama’s cotton and peanut farmers and maintains access to crop insurance. This legislation also improves existing programs to maximize efficiency, reduces waste, and maintains fiscally responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Very important to me, the Farm Bill establishes substantive work requirements for work-capable adults in order to receive SNAP benefits, commonly known as food stamps. It is important to note that the 2018 Farm Bill does not cut SNAP benefits. Rather, this provision puts more resources toward helping able-bodied adults find jobs and get back to work.

In this economy, there is no excuse for capable Americans to not seek out employment. By encouraging Americans to find and retain jobs, we ultimately lift people out of poverty, strengthen the overall economy, and help save taxpayer money.

Another significant issue facing our rural communities is a lack of broadband access. The Farm Bill authorizes substantial annual funding for rural broadband and requires the Department of Agriculture to establish forward-looking broadband standards.

Finally, this bill helps equip and train the next generation of farmers. The bill enhances access to crop insurance and establishes a scholarship program at 1890 Land Grant Institutions designed to assist students interested in agriculture careers. Many family farms transcend generations, and it is critical that we provide support for up-and-coming farmers to ensure they have the resources they need.

Each year, I travel across Southwest Alabama on my annual “Ag Matters” tour. This tour gives me the chance to visit family farms and forest land throughout Southwest Alabama and learn more about our state’s top industry.

Ultimately, the “Ag Matters” Tour helps me better understand and appreciate the unique challenges facing our local farmers and foresters. Farming is unlike most other industries and dependent on so many external factors, like weather, that are outside the control of the farmers. It is important farmers have the certainty they need to provide the American people with a safe and reliable food source.

As I travel to these family farms and speak with those who work the land, it never fails that the Farm Bill is one of the most talked about issues. This legislation truly has a huge impact on our family farms.

Our farmers and foresters are good stewards of the land, and I am pleased the House could pass this important legislation to ensure that our family farms and rural communities have the resources they need to keep up with the challenges of today.

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

Rep. Bradley Byrne: Fighting the opioid epidemic

(Pixabay)

For too long, a problem of epic proportion has been growing outside of the headlines in the United States: the opioid epidemic. The reality is that we can no longer wait to take action. Drug overdose is now a leading cause of death in the United Sates. One hundred seventy-five Americans are dying every day from this crisis. From big cities to small towns, the opioid epidemic has hit our communities hard.

Unfortunately, Alabama has not been spared. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alabama ranks highest in the nation as having more opioid prescriptions than people. Alabama also ranks number one as the highest prescribing state in the nation for opioid pain reliever prescriptions. These statistics are incredibly alarming.

482

An opioid is a type of narcotic derived from the opium poppy, which includes drugs such as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone. While these drugs are often prescribed in response to injuries and body pains, they can be prone to abuse and addiction.

The reality is many of the people who become addicted to opioids first start taking the drugs legally after receiving a prescription from a doctor. For example, I have heard testimony from athletes who suffer a sports-related injury, undergo surgery, and then become addicted to opioids during the recovery process. In many cases, this addiction can escalate, driving individuals to street drugs like heroin.

Almost all of us have a loved one or know somebody who has been affected by this terrible epidemic. The personal stories are what make this nightmare a harsh reality. Right here in Southwest Alabama, I have heard far too many stories about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. The impacts of this crisis reach far beyond the person suffering from addiction to parents, to children, to brothers and sisters. So many have been hurt.

On October 26, 2017, President Trump announced that his administration would declare the opioid crisis a Nationwide Public Health Emergency. On a strongly bipartisan basis alongside President Trump, Congress is also responding.

In March, the House voted to set aside $4 million toward combating the opioid crisis in the government funding bill for Fiscal Year 2018. We kept up the momentum last week when the House passed over 25 targeted bills to help prevent and treat opioid addiction and abuse while also ensuring our nation’s drug laws are working to stop the flow of illegal drugs.

One such bill that passed the House is the THRIVE Act, which creates a program to provide low-income individuals recovering from opioid and other substance use disorders with a clean, safe, and structured environment following rehabilitation.

Additionally, the House passed the STOP Act, which aims to halt opioids like fentanyl from coming into America from other countries through a loophole at the Postal Service. The majority of opioids arrive to America through the mail from other nations, such as China, Mexico and Canada. So, this legislation represents an important step to help solve the problem.

It is clear that our work to end the opioid epidemic is far from over. However, I was pleased to see such strong bipartisan support for many opioid bills this week as we work to make a real difference on behalf of the American people. You can learn more about the legislation we are working on at www.opioidcrisis.gop.

We cannot and will not sit back and allow the opioid crisis to take the lives of the people we love. We must fight back and ensure Americans get the help they need. I look forward to continuing the work with President Trump to end this epidemic once and for all.

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

U.S. Rep. Byrne: Protecting a Gulf Coast tradition

(David Rainer)

Down here on the Gulf Coast, fishing is a way of life for many people. It is a tradition that spans generations and is one way we bond with our family and friends.

In fact, some of my fondest memories happened while casting a reel. I remember my father showing me how to bait a hook and teaching me about the patience of waiting for a bite. I enjoy carrying on that tradition with my kids.

Just in time to celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week, Alabama’s 2018 Red Snapper season officially opened on June 1st. The Red Snapper season is a real boon for our coastal communities, and the impact is felt all throughout Southwest Alabama. The economic impact flows to everything from gas stations to restaurants to hotels.

450

Unfortunately, in seasons past, Alabama has felt the full force of Washington when it comes to regulating our recreational fishing. These regulations are based on junk science, yet have a huge impact on when we can and cannot fish.

Anyone who has been fishing in the Gulf over the last few years knows there are more than enough Red Snapper in our waters, and Washington’s methods of stock assessments are sorely out of touch with what is happening.

When it comes down to it, no one understands the needs of our fisheries better than those who cast a reel along the Gulf Coast. The federal bureaucrats in Washington have no business controlling our fisheries when those of us on the coast know what is best for our fishermen.

That’s why, earlier this year, I wrote to the National Marine Fisheries Service to advocate for Alabama’s application for an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP), which would allow the state to set our own season for the next two years.

I was pleased when this EFP was granted by the Department of Commerce on April 20, 2018, securing Alabama’s 47-day Snapper season for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Specifically, the 2018 Red Snapper season in Alabama will run from June 1 through September 3, with Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays open to fishing. The entire week of the Fourth of July (June 30 through July 8) will also be open for Red Snapper fishing.

You see, this is how government should work: take power from Washington and return it to the people who best understand the issue.

I am proud to have helped secure a lengthy Snapper season, which means our fishermen will have adequate time to enjoy a Gulf Coast tradition while our coastal communities will benefit from increased revenue. It is truly a win-win situation for coastal Alabama.

Of course, there were many people who had a hand in securing an adequate season for our fishermen. I thank Senator Richard Shelby for his support and his work to secure the language for the EFP in last year’s appropriations bill. I also appreciate the Gulf Council for their support of the exempted fishing permit pilot program and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship and our other Gulf Coast colleagues for working together to support our fishermen.

Ultimately, it was a total team effort to make this 47-day Snapper season a reality. This is a real victory for all our recreational fishermen as well as our coastal region.

As I have always said, this issue is about so much for than just our fishermen; the Red Snapper season impacts our entire costal community, and I look forward to a safe and fun season.

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

U.S. Rep. Byrne: Making progress for America

(Pixabay)

These days, it is hard to turn on the television or log onto the Internet without being bombarded with the latest “news” of what is happening in Washington. The media gives far too much attention to names like Stormy Daniels and Roseanne instead of focusing on the wide range of substantive issues being debated in Congress each week.

While it is easy to get distracted by all of the “noise,” it skews the perception of what is really occurring here in Washington. Ultimately, these stories are just a sideshow that end up taking away from the critical work being done for the American people.

What the national news media has not been highlighting are the many ways we in the House are working to promote President Trump’s commonsense, conservative agenda. We are truly getting the work done that the American people elected us to do.

441

From national security priorities to historic tax reform, the House is making great progress. Our agenda is working too, which is demonstrated in the lowest unemployment rate in eighteen years.

As a sign of our progress, we recently sent four major bills to President Donald Trump for his signature. These are among the 175 bills that have been enacted into law in the last year and a half.

One of the four bills signed into law last week was the VA Mission Act of 2018, which consolidates the VA’s Community Care Program, opens the VA Caregivers Program to serve all veterans, and provides $5.2 billion to fund the VA Choice Program.

Simply put, this bipartisan bill increases access to care at the VA, including walk-in clinics that may be more convenient and immediate in addressing the needs of our veterans.

We have a duty to provide for the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much to defend our national security, and I am glad we have taken this step to ensure our veterans receive the highest standard of medical care.

Another important piece of legislation signed into law was the Right to Try Act. This will allow terminally-ill patients to take advantage of experimental medical treatments that otherwise may not be available to the public.

This was one of many priorities mentioned in the President’s State of the Union address in January, and I am proud that we could pass this bipartisan legislation and give hope to thousands of Americans suffering from a terminal illness.

Another bill heading to the President’s desk is the Childhood Cancer STAR Act. I am a proud co-sponsor of this important bill, which enhances efforts to identify and track childhood cancer incidences, improves the quality of life for childhood cancer survivors, and expands research opportunities for therapies used in treatment of childhood cancer.

Finally, the President signed the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which rolls back burdensome regulations from the Dodd-Frank law that negatively impacted our small, community banks and credit unions. Main Street should always come before Wall Street, so I applaud the signing of this important regulatory reform bill into law.

You see, here in the House of Representatives, we refuse to get thrown off course or distracted by what the media portrays as hard-hitting news. Instead, we are staying focused and making progress on national priorities like supporting our veterans and growing the American economy.

As we round out the remaining months in 2018, we will keep our foot on the gas and keep passing bills that improve the quality of life for people in Alabama and across the country.

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

Alabama Rep. Byrne: ‘We remember the fallen’

(Arlington National Cemetery/Wikicommons)

As Americans, we know all too well that freedom is not free. Each time we bow our heads to pray or speak up for what we believe in, we exercise rights that many across the world do not have. These are just some of the unique freedoms that the brave men and women of the United States military have fought and died to protect.

We are reminded of their patriotic sacrifice each Memorial Day as we pay our respects to servicemembers who have selflessly given their lives to defend freedom and liberty throughout our country’s history.

From the American Revolution to the War on Terror, men and women of all backgrounds have answered the call of service and paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend the United States. These American heroes shall never be forgotten.

457

Unfortunately, loss of life does not occur solely in times of war; this past year, we have experienced tragic loss during military training, likely due to the readiness crisis and funding shortfalls. In 2017, nearly four times as many members of the military died in training-related accidents as were killed in combat.

These accidents span from aviation training mishaps in the Air Force to major naval collisions involving the USS McCain and the USS Fitzgerald. The gravity of these accidents – in the air, on land, and at sea – could have likely been avoided given the proper resources and enhanced military readiness.

It is imperative that Congress take immediate action to give our servicemen and women the proper resources they need to keep our nation safe. That’s why I am proud that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 passed the House with strong bipartisan support last week.

This bill authorizes funding for our military, including the highest pay raise for our troops in almost a decade. The bill prioritizes military readiness and rebuilding the military so that our troops can safely meet current and future threats.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. The NDAA reflects on a century of military service and focuses on the men and women who sacrificed to secure America’s freedoms. While those who served in the First World War are no longer with us, their memories live on in the hearts of younger generations everywhere.

I recently had the distinct pleasure of speaking at the Alabama Blue Star Salute Celebration at Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile. This annual event to pays tribute to the Armed Forces and the military heroes who have served our country.

As I addressed the crowd, I was filled with pride to see servicemembers of all ages, many different ranks, across all branches of service, who had come to participate in the event. I was also struck by the young people in the crowd, who may very well represent the next generation of servicemembers.

Heaviest on my heart were the people not in the crowd – the millions of Americans who lost their lives fighting to protect the red, white, and blue.

Memorial Day gives us the time each year to honor our American heroes at memorial services, vigils, and parades. Americans proudly display the stars and stripes in remembrance of the sacrifices paid in service to our country.

John 15:13 says it best, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Thank you to all of those who have served, are serving, or intend to serve in the United States military. Our nation is forever grateful.

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