By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Some conservatives have criticized the Congress for passage of a long term Continuing Resolution (C.R.) that funded the government to the end of the year. Conservative radio pundits including: Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham argued loudly for a short term C.R. that funded the government only to February. They argued that a long term C.R. sacrificed the Republicans’ leverage over the Obama Administration. U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R from Montgomery) voted for the Omnibus Continuing Resolution, H.R. 83, nicknamed “CROmnibus” by its friends and foes alike.
In a statement on Facebook on Thursday, December 17 Congresswoman Roby defended her decision. The popular Montgomery Republican wrote, “Remember the “Defund ObamaCare” strategy of Fall 2013? There were two basic reasons it didn’t work: 1. Democrats held the Majority in the Senate; 2. The threat of shutting down the entire government allowed the other side to distract attention away from the failures of ObamaCare.”
Rep. Roby continued, “This year, with a funding battle over immigration before us, Congress sought to remedy both problems by: 1. Delaying the fight just three weeks until Republicans control the Senate; and 2. Taking an entire government shutdown off the table to focus solely on the issue of executive amnesty.”
Rep. Roby wrote, “So, this past week, Congress passed an Appropriations plan that funds 11 of the 12 government divisions through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2015. The exception is Homeland Security, which is where immigration enforcement funding is contained. The plan includes a temporary Continuing Resolution for Homeland Security, delaying the issue slightly so that Congress can utilize the “power of the purse” to rein in President Obama’s immigration actions in three weeks when Republicans take the Majority in the Senate.”
The Conservative Alabama Congresswoman argued that the strategy of combining a Continuing Resolution with an Omnibus Appropriations bill coined “CR-Omnibus” is the best approach to defeating executive amnesty. Rep. Roby wrote, “The truth is the Appropriations plan does not “fund” amnesty. It funds Homeland Security at the same levels as the alternative, full government Continuing Resolution would have. The only difference is we locked in full-year spending reforms in other aspects of the government and took the possibility of a government shutdown off the table for January.”
Roby said, “There is no line item for “Obama’s Amnesty Program.” It’s just not there. What “defunding amnesty” really means is attaching policy riders to an Appropriations bill that specifically prohibit particular actions, or adding a provision saying that under no circumstances can the administration find any little extra pot of money in the DHS budget to, for example, pay for licenses and permits needed to fulfill Obama’s order. Nearly every Republican I know wants those policy riders.”
Rep. Roby wrote, “But, just like with ObamaCare in 2013, the reality is “defund” policy riders we want will not pass with a Democratic Senate. It is simply misleading for any politician to suggest they would. No one really disputes that going down the “defund” path before we have a Senate Majority would result in little more than show votes of solidarity for Republicans and then a temporary Continuing Resolution funding the entire government at status quo levels. That would earn Republicans a “moral victory” in which we could pat each other on the back for fighting the good fight, but ultimately lose the battle – exactly what happened with the ObamaCare funding fight last October.”
Rep. Roby concluded, “I don’t want a “moral victory” on defeating amnesty. I want a real victory, and the best way to get one is with a Republican Senate Majority. So, in January, President Obama is going to face a choice: shut down just the Department of Homeland Security or accept a limit on his power. Given the way the American public feels about his reckless immigration policies and our ability to then focus their attention on this single issue, I like our chances. That is the best strategy for defeating executive amnesty.”
Congressman Mo Brooks (R from Huntsville), Congressman Mike Rogers (R from Saks), U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, and U.S. Senator Richard Shelby all voted against the CROmnibus strategy.
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District.
Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels
Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192.
Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.
The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.”
Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.”
“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.
ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.
ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on five of those counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another count.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his entrance should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.
Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83
The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”
Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.
Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.
The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.
While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.
Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”
His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.
This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.