MONTGOMERY — Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) spoke to members of the Montgomery Rotary Club at their weekly lunch meeting on Monday, hitting on a range of policy issues relevant to his current service in Washington, D.C.
While Byrne could not directly speak to his 2020 U.S. Senate bid due to Rotary rules on politicking, his 30 minutes of remarks did also include some stark indirect contrast between Byrne as a conservative and Alabama’s incumbent junior senator, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).
Perhaps Byrne’s most political statement of the day came after his speech when he was taking questions from the crowd.
One Rotary member asked the coastal Alabama congressman how much more “the pendulum is going to swing” on the increase of partisanship in Washington, D.C., as the gap between conservative Republicans and “progressive” Democrats seemingly grows by the day.
However, Byrne first rejected one of the premises of the question.
“See, you just used a word I don’t agree with: ‘progressive.’ I don’t think their views are progressive, I think they’re regressive,” Byrne said of the Democratic Party.
“Some of them are anti-Semitic,” he continued. “That’s regressive. Some of them think that big, strong central government is better than a smaller government. That’s what the American Revolution was about — to get ourselves away from tyranny. So I do not accept them labeling themselves as progressives. I call them far-left.”
Byrne zeroed in on these “far-left” members of the Democratic Party who find themselves dominating national headlines, whether it be presidential candidates or members of “The Squad.”
“They are the leaders, the thought leaders, of their party,” he noted.
The congressman then reminded the crowd that President Donald Trump in his 2019 State of the Union Address declared that the United States of America is not a socialist country. Byrne explained that Republicans gave that a standing ovation while “the vast majority” of Democrats “sat on their hands.”
“Now, I know some of them, and I know that they don’t believe in socialism,” Byrne added. “But they’re so scared of the power within their party in the ones that do [believe in socialism] that they were paralyzed. They couldn’t stand up over something that basic.”
He then said the presidential debates thus far on the Democratic side have also been similarly instructive.
“I mean, you’ve even got Pocahontas and Spartacus and Snuffy and Dopey and whatever they call them,” Byrne quipped. “These ideas they’ve got are crazy — I mean, ‘Medicare for All?’ We can’t afford Medicare for people 65 and over in a few years. I’m 64, this is not an abstract issue to me. We’ve got to fix that.”
Byrne, saying he was quoting Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) own estimate, said Medicare for All would cost the country $40 trillion. Byrne outlined that this would require “a dramatic increase” in the federal payroll tax.
“That’s nuts,” he stressed.
He then criticized the so-called Green New Deal as “craziness.”
“But that’s where they’re dragging their party,” Byrne commented. “And the American people do not want that.”
Byrne also answered questions from members of the media after the meeting wrapped up.
Yellowhammer News asked him to respond to the Alabama Republican Party’s state executive committee this weekend passing a resolution calling on the Yellowhammer State’s congressional delegation to move to expel Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
“I’ve been very disappointed in the comments from Miss Omar,” Byrne responded.
“She was elected by the people of her district, and I understand that, and I respect that part of our system of government,” he continued. “But I don’t care who you are or where you come from, you have a responsibility when you’re in Congress to conduct yourself in appropriate ways. And I don’t think she’s done that.”
“And I’m concerned about her remarks, and I’m concerned about some of the things that she’s said — that I think, frankly, [are] anti-Semitic,” Byrne added.
He also said that Congress “missed a tremendous opportunity” when a “watered-down resolution” was passed recently following remarks from Omar that were widely considered anti-Semitic.
“She should have been much more strongly dealt with than that,” Byrne emphasized.
Returning to the ALGOP resolution on expulsion, Byrne concluded, “Whether she meets the definition that she could be expelled, I don’t know. I haven’t even looked at what the standard is. But I’m deeply disappointed in her remarks. And I wish she would change her ways.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn