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House passes Defense Appropriations Act for FY2019

Brandon Moseley

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The U.S. House on Thursday passed the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2019, H.R. 5167.

The bill passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 359 to 49. Earlier this year, the House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes defense programs. The Defense Appropriations Act provides the actual funding to support the policy and authorizations included in the NDAA.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) voted in favor of the Department of Defense Appropriations bill.

“Peace through strength should always be the position of the United States,” Byrne said. “There is no greater deterrent to war than a strong, fully equipped U.S. military. With this defense funding bill, we continue to rebuild our military and ensure our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to defend our nation.”

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) also voted “Yes” on H.R. 6157, the Fiscal Year 2019 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. Congressman Brooks serves on the House Armed Services Committee and sits on the Strategic Forces and Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittees.

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“America’s military must have the personnel and equipment necessary to protect our national security,” Rep. Brooks said. “As I have with every other defense appropriations bill since I’ve been in Congress, I voted ‘Yes’ on the FY19 Defense Appropriations Act to support our military. Slowly but surely, Republicans have diligently worked to rebuild America’s military after the damage done by sequestration cuts. As an aside, I was one of only two Alabama Republican Congressmen who foresaw the damage sequestration would do to our national security and voted against sequestration in 2011.”

“I have spoken on this floor many times about the readiness crisis facing our military,” Rep. Byrne said. “We’re finally getting our planes back in the air and troops that are fully prepared to deploy. This readiness crisis hurts our overall national security, but it also puts our service men and women at greater risk. Last year, we lost four times as many service members in training accidents as we lost in combat. We owe it to these men and women to do everything in our power to avoid more of these accidents. That duty requires consistent and robust funding for all aspects of our defense.”

“I’m also very pleased to see so many Alabama priorities adequately funded,” Rep. Byrne said. “Whether it is Army Aviation at Fort Rucker or missile defense at Redstone Arsenal, this funding bill will ensure that Alabama remains a critical part of our nation’s national defense strategy.”

“The FY19 Defense Appropriations Act further rebuilds our armed forces, restores readiness, and supports our warfighters by providing $674.6 billion in total defense funding, including $68 billion for the War on Terrorism,” Brooks said. “The bill also includes a 2.6% raise for our troops and provides $245.9 billion for training, maintenance, and base operations— things central to maintaining America’s military might.”

“I’m pleased to say that this funding bill builds on the progress made over the last two years, and I am proud to support the Defense Appropriations bill and this rule,” Byrne continued. “This bill sets aside $674.6 billion for the Department of Defense, which is consistent with the National Defense Authorization Act that passed out of this body earlier this year. Importantly, the bill will help us recruit and retain the greatest fighting force on the face of the earth. That includes full funding for a 2.6 percent pay raise for the military and an increase in overall end strength.

Brooks continued, “The FY19 Defense Appropriations bill includes significant wins for the Tennessee Valley defense community. To highlight a few, the bill includes robust funding for the Improved Turbine Engine, Hypersonics development, Standard Missile 3, Terminal High Altitude Air Defense, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Additionally, $92 billion is provided for research and development of new defense systems and technology, and $146 billion is provided for procurement of the resources, weapons, and platforms for our troops.”

Congressman Byrne said that the bill includes important funding priorities for Alabama’s defense facilities and programs, including: Funding for three Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), which are built in part by Austal USA in Mobile; Funding for additional UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, Lakota helicopters, and Apache helicopters, which are critical to the Army aviation mission at Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass; Increased funding to address cyber threats to our missile defense systems, which benefits the mission at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville; $22.4 million for the Stryker Upgrade program, which will support the work at the Anniston Army Depot; Strong funding for THAAD, Hellfire, and LRASM missile programs, which are built by Lockheed Martin in Troy; and $9.4 billion for 93 F-35 aircraft, the future aircraft of Montgomery’s 187th Fighter Wing.

Brooks concluded, “Providing the necessary resources for a strong national defense is Job #1 for Congress. The FY19 defense appropriations bill passed today not only enhances America’s national security, it tells our allies and enemies that America has the fortitude and ability to protect our interests around the globe.”

The bill now moves to the Senate where Senator Richard Shelby is already working on the defense appropriations bill in the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

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Mo Brooks, Gary Palmer Win FreedomFighter Award

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Congressmen Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) were two of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks.

FreedomWorks is a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide.
Only members of Congress who score better than 90 on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award.

Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top four percent of all Congressmen in 2017.

Rep. Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017.”

Congressman Palmer said, “I was honored to receive the Freedom Fighter Award this week from FreedomWorks.”

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FreedomWorks President, Adam Brandon, said, “The recipients of the FreedomFighter Award showed a commitment in 2017 to pro-growth economic policies and constitutionally limited government. We’re proud to recognize these senators and representatives. Our work is still cut out for us. Now that we have reduced some regulations and passed a historic tax reform bill, we must continue to pressure Congress to reduce spending to ensure that the prosperity we are seeing now is lasts into the future.”

FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Jason Pye, said, “The winners of the 2017 FreedomFighter Award deserve applause. These members take tough votes, often going against the leadership of their own party, because they want to do what is right by taxpayers. But consistency is key. America is staring down massive budget deficits as a result of the fiscal profligacy of this Congress. We have to continue working to put our country on a sustainable path, repeal ObamaCare, promote free trade, and continue to rollback the regulatory state.”

“If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great,” Brooks said. “I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”

Congressman Mo Brooks represents the Fifth Congressional District of Alabama.

Congressman Gary Palmer represents the Sixth Congressional District of Alabama.

Both Brooks and Palmer are members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Both congressmen have Democratic general election opponents.

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House passes Byrne amendment protecting funding for Gulf States

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, July 19, 2018 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a government funding bill for the Department of Interior and related agencies, which includes an amendment from Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, to protect a critical funding source for Gulf Coast states, including Alabama.

“For those that don’t know, GOMESA calls for a revenue sharing agreement between the federal government and four Gulf states – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama,” Byrne said. “The program is designed to split up revenue from selected oil and gas lease sales in the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico.”

This year alone, the State of Alabama received $21 million under GOMESA. An additional $2.47 million went to Baldwin County and $2.88 million to Mobile County.

“The unique thing about GOMESA is it ensures appropriate funding for the coastal areas that provide the workforce, assume the environmental risk, build much of the infrastructure, and support the offshore oil and gas industry,” Byrne said. “It only makes sense that the coastal areas should receive an adequate share of the revenue.”

“Previously, there have been administrative efforts to direct the money away from the Gulf states and instead devote the resources to national projects,” Byrne continued. “While I appreciate the Trump Administration not including any such proposal in this year’s budget, I still believe it is important for Congress to send a clear, bipartisan message that we do not support moving GOMESA funds away from the Gulf Coast.”

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The Trump Administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal maintained the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funding. GOMESA was passed by Congress in 2006. It set up revenue sharing for Gulf States for income generated by oil and gas leasing in certain offshore areas of the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, Gulf states whose coastal environments are impacted by oil and gas infrastructure such as pipelines and navigation canals receive a fraction of the total federal revenue to help offset some of those impacts.
The amendment was adopted by a unanimous voice vote. The bill passed by a vote of 217 to 199.

The legislation now goes on to the Senate for its consideration.

Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.

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Jones testifies before International Trade Commission on negative impact of newsprint tariffs

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) testified at a hearing held by the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) on the negative impacts recently imposed newsprint tariffs have had on Alabama’s newspapers.

Jones has advocated to stop to these tariffs, which are already hurting newspapers. In April, Jones wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross calling for an end to the newsprint tariff. He has cosponsored bipartisan legislation to suspend the tariffs while the Commerce Department examines the impacts of the tariffs on the printing and publishing industry.

“This issue first came to my attention back in March, when Bo Bolton, publisher of the Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Alabama—home of Harper Lee—traveled all the way to Washington D.C. to meet with me and my team,” Sen. Jones testified. “Bo’s message was urgent and clear: newly implemented tariffs by the Department of Commerce threatened the livelihood of his small-town newspaper, and thousands of other small, community papers that serve as the lifeblood of their communities throughout this country.”

“I have had a regular stream of publishers visit with me sharing the exact same message, asking for any relief possible before they would have to start cutting their services and laying off what few staff they might have,” Jones continued. “The sources for domestically produced newsprint are quite scarce, requiring newspapers around the country to purchase their newsprint from Canadian suppliers. In other words, the domestic jobs that would be protected by these tariffs is relatively minuscule compared to the number of jobs in the United States that these tariffs threaten. But one domestic producer, NORPAC, which is owned by a New York hedge fund, filed a complaint with the Department of Commerce alleging Canadian newspaper suppliers were being subsidized by their government and thus able to sell below market value. As I understand is common practice, the Commerce Department levied preliminary tariffs of 6.53 percent in January. That jumped to an average of 22 percent in March, when the Canadian producer was found to be [selling] below the market price.”

“Here’s what I just don’t understand: why would this Administration levy these outrageous tariffs when our own newspaper publishers, logging industry, and paper suppliers do not support the decision?” Jones continued. It seems to me that the only thing being protected by this tariff is a small portion of a Wall Street hedge fund’s portfolio. It certainly isn’t protecting the 600,000 printing and publishing jobs across the country, including jobs at every newspaper in the state of Alabama.”

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“The Decatur Daily is facing an increase of $450,000 over their 2017 costs, and they’ve eliminated 11 full-time positions already,” Jones said. “Aside from payroll, newsprint is their single largest expense. You’ll hear that refrain from many small papers. Samuel Martin, publisher of the Birmingham Times in Birmingham, Alabama, wrote to me saying that they are, “hanging on by our fingertips already to survive and things like these tariffs will be the difference on surviving for so many.””

Most newspapers and journals are in the process of migrating to the internet. The Alabama Political Reporter does not have an old fashioned print version so uses no newsprint whatsoever.

“While some big-named media outlets have found their footing in the digital age, that’s not the case for everyone,” Jones said. “For many in small towns in Alabama and across the country, folks still like to get their news from actual newspapers. They still like to read a paper front to back. Hold it in hand. They cut the coupons. They read the local events calendar. They learn about what their local officials are doing or, in some cases, not doing. Frankly, there are still far too many places where Americans still struggle to get access to broadband. These folks don’t have the option to go online to get their news. The digital model just doesn’t work there, at least not yet.”

“These small newspapers cover local news that wouldn’t make it into larger regional papers if they were to shut their doors. Local businesses lose perhaps their only outlet in which to reach their customers,” Sen. Jones testified. “The biggest losers in this fight ultimately will be the residents that rely on local newspapers to stay informed. So when I say that these papers are the lifeblood of communities, it is not an exaggeration. It’s a fact. That’s why I have been so deeply concerned about this tariff. If it’s not rolled back, it will present and existential threat to local newspapers that are already strapped. “

“It is why I left duties on Capitol Hill this afternoon to come here today to urge you to reconsider this tariff,” Jones said. “Instead, consider the significant impact it has already had on these small American businesses. I hope you take to heart the urgent calls you are hearing today and make the right decision to eliminate these tariffs and to protect this industry and valuable the service that it provides to all of us.”

Forbes Media Chairman Steve Forbes wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “Since March a tariff of up to 30 percent on Canadian uncoated paper has raised the price of newsprint, making it difficult for cash-strapped newspapers to circulate their work. As if limiting economic freedom weren’t enough, the administration is also undermining Americans’ freedom of expression with this needless tax on journalism.”

North Pacific Paper Company plans to hire 50 new full- and part-time employees, the company announced May 2. The company, owned by the New York hedge fund One Rock Capital Partners, also announced the limited restart of operations for one of its paper machines, idled this past year.

The Longview, Washington-based company attributed the moves to “the U.S. uncoated groundwood papers industry starting to see a level playing field against unfairly traded imports.”

On May 2 North Pacific Paper Company (Norpac) which filed the trade complaint last fall has hired 50 more employees and is reopening a third machine at their Longview, Washington facility which they had shut down last year.

“After years of unfair, demoralizing market conditions and the associated difficult decisions that were required to survive, we have worked with our employees to test and create a system that can respond rapidly to the dynamic needs of the customers we serve. As more clarity regarding the impacts of competing on a level playing field become clear we will further improve our organizational capability,” said CEO Craig Anneberg in a news release.

Doug Jones was elected to the Senate in a special election on December 12.

(Original reporting by newsandtech.com contributed to this report.)

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House passes Defense Appropriations Act for FY2019

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 4 min
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