By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, January 14, the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of the Department of Homeland Security funding bill, H.R. 240, that would block President Barack H. Obama’s Executive Order concerning immigration which Republican lawmakers claim is unconstitutional. Alabama Republican Congress members Gary Palmer, Bradley Byrne, and Martha Roby all voted for the legislation and issued statements explaining their votes.
Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) appeared on Fox News Channel’s “The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson” to defend the House GOP plan from multiple Democratic attacks. Rep. Roby called the attacks by House Democrats “malicious” and said that she disagreed “100 percent” with the criticisms.
Rep. Roby told Gretchen, “We passed today a responsible Appropriations bill to fund Homeland Security. But, what we are not going to fund is what we believe to be unlawful action by the president to allow millions of illegal immigrants in this country to have amnesty.”
Replying to a statement from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D) that plans to defund executive amnesty would not pass the Senate, Rep. Roby said, “I’m hopeful about what will come out of the Senate. Of course, we don’t know and I don’t think we should play the ‘what if’ game. But, Mr. Reid is no longer in a position to be making those threats. We won elections in November. We have a majority in the Senate and I look forward to seeing what Republicans in the Senate produce.”
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) also supported H.R. 240, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which included an amendment by Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) to “prevent any funds from whatever sources to be used to carry-out the Executive Actions announced on November 20, 2014 to grant deferred action to certain unlawful aliens.”
Rep. Byrne said in a written statement, “Last month, we made a promise to the American people that we would fight the Obama administration’s decision to give Executive Amnesty to many of those in this country illegally. Today, we made progress on fulfilling that promise.”
Rep. Byrne wrote, “President Obama has repeatedly acted outside his constitutional authority in an effort to legislate from the White House. Today’s vote shows that the House of Representatives is committed to righting the scales of power and restoring the Constitutional system of checks and balances.”
Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) said in a written statement, “On Wednesday I voted for five amendments to H.R. 240, the bill authorizing funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The amendments have been wrongly characterized as anti-immigrant.”
Congressman Palmer continued, “The five amendments were not about immigration. By using an Executive Order to give amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants President Obama created a constitutional crisis that every member of Congress is honor-bound to oppose. Speaker of the House John Boehner and the other Republican leadership team members made it abundantly clear that the five amendments that were added to the DHS appropriations bill were added with the sole intention of reversing President Obama’s unconstitutional usurpation of the legislative powers of Congress.”
Replying to White House claims that the House funding bill somehow threatens counter-terrorism funding, Rep Roby said on Fox News, “What happened in Paris last week is exactly why we needed to pass a responsible bill today to keep Americans safe, and for counter-terrorism. This bill does that. And when it reaches the president’s desk, he will have a choice to make about whether his unlawful executive amnesty is more important than keeping Americans safe, and I think that would be a grave mistake on the president’s part.”
U.S. Representative Byrne wrote, “This is tough legislation which completely eliminates all funds for implementation of the President’s illegal actions. It should be no surprise the legislation has the support of a number of influential leaders in the immigration debate, including Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.” “With the new Republican majority, I urge my colleagues in the Senate to bring this legislation up right away and act swiftly to rein in President Obama’s ill-conceived plan for executive amnesty.”
Representative Palmer said, “The oath each member takes is to uphold and defend the Constitution. There are no exemptions to that oath. We cannot decide that we will uphold it in all cases except when it doesn’t serve our political agenda. We cannot cite past incidences when other presidents or other Congresses violated the Constitution and claim those violations created a legal precedent that justifies more violations. And we can’t claim that a compelling humanitarian interest gives the Executive Branch or Congress justification to act unconstitutionally.”
Congressman Palmer continued, “Millions of people desire to come to the United States because our country is the freest, most prosperous nation in the world. We achieved that stature because our founding fathers gave us a republic based on a written constitution that divided our government into three branches with checks and balances for one reason — to limit the power of government and protect the liberty of the people. By allowing the Executive Branch to assume to itself the powers of the Congress or the powers of the Court puts in jeopardy the very document that has made the United States so desirable to the millions who seek to come here.”
Rep. Palmer wrote, “The genius of the Constitution is not just that it is a written document outlining our sacred rights, but that it provides for the separation of powers to ensure those rights are not abused. When one branch of government checks the power of another, those rights are more likely to be respected. History teaches us that when the separation of powers is violated, it has unintended consequences that end in ugly results, no matter what the intent.” There is no justification for any elected official to willfully violate the oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. There are no loop holes. Every member of Congress swore to uphold and defend the Constitution. Every member of Congress who voted for the five amendments to H.R. 240 honored that commitment. I am proud to have been one of them.”
According to information provided by Rep. Byrne’s office, the bill also includes a number of funding increases designed to strengthen our nation’s border security agencies and programs. These include: increased funding for Customs and Border Protection, greater Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) funding covering detention programs, new funding for domestic and international investigations, and full funding of E-Verify, which is used to check the legal status of prospective employees.
Rep. Byrne said: “Any conversation on illegal immigration must start with border security. In order to truly stem the flow of illegal immigrants, we must use all available resources to ensure our border is truly secure. I am pleased this legislation increases funding for border security and other national security priorities.”
The legislation passed the House by a vote of 236 to 191.
The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. The bill faces steep challenges in the Senate where it is believed that the bill likely won’t have the votes to get passed a promised Democratic filibuster in its current form. Since the Department of Homeland Security is only funded until the end of February this could lead to a potential showdown with a defiant White House that to this point has shown little willingness to compromise with the Republican controlled Congress.
ACLU joins lawsuit over Alabama voting amid COVID-19 pandemic
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several voters who are at greater risk from complications or death due to COVID-19.
The American Civil Liberties Union and its Alabama chapter have joined in a lawsuit attempting to make it easier for some voters to cast their ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Alabama joined in the lawsuit filed in May by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program against Gov. Kay Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill.
The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision last week blocked U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s order that would have allowed curbside voting statewide and waived certain absentee ballot requirements for voters in at least Jefferson, Mobile and Lee Counties.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several voters who are at greater risk from complications or death due to COVID-19.
The lawsuit was also brought on behalf of People First of Alabama, Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute.
With the Supreme Court’s decision, voters in the upcoming July 14 Republican runoff election will have to submit a copy of their photo ID and have either two adult witnesses sign their absentee ballot requests or have it notarized.
“Alabama is in the middle of a deadly and ongoing pandemic but is refusing to take common-sense steps to protect the public’s health and their right to vote for all elections in 2020. That’s why we are taking legal action,” said Alora Thomas-Lundborg, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project in a statement.
“In the midst of an out-of-control pandemic, Alabama officials should be doing everything they can to ensure that all voters have a safe, fair, and equal opportunity to cast a ballot. Instead, officials have chosen politics over public health and safety. They are fighting to make it harder to cast a ballot and have that ballot counted. This litigation is crucial to ensure safe, fair, and equal opportunity to vote,” said Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, in a statement.
“As we head into preparations for the November general election with COVID-19 cases rising in Alabama, it is critical that our election officials take seriously the protection of voters, poll workers, and our democracy,” said Caren Short, senior staff attorney for SPLC in a statement. “In this critical election season, we are grateful to have Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Alabama join this effort to ensure that every voter is heard. No voter should have to choose between exercising their fundamental right to vote and their health or the health of a loved one.”
Deuel Ross, NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund senior counsel, said in a statement that over the July 4th weekend, Alabama reported nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases.
“Yet, state leaders insist on enforcing draconian restrictions on in-person and absentee voting that no other state finds necessary to combat the almost nonexistent issue of voter fraud,” Ross said. “These restrictions are needless in normal circumstances. They are deadly in a pandemic. At trial in September, we will work to make sure that state leaders comply with their constitutional duty to protect the rights and safety of all voters.”
In a Tweet on July 2, Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill expressed gratitude for the Supreme Court’s decision.
“With the news that we have received a Stay in this process, I am excited that the United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of those who believe in strict interpretation of the Constitution and has decided to grant the Stay and not endorse legislating from the bench,” Merrill said in the tweet.
Fauci calls on governors in states with surging cases to issue mask orders
As COVID-19 deaths in Alabama passed 1,000 on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci called on governors to issue face mask orders to slow the spread of the virus.
As COVID-19 deaths in Alabama passed 1,000 on Tuesday, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force called on governors to issue face mask orders to slow the spread of the virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, when asked by APR whether he’d like to see governors in states with surging cases institute statewide orders to wear masks, said yes.
“I do believe a statewide mask order is important because there is a variability in people taking seriously or even understanding the benefit of masks,” Fauci said during a press conference, hosted by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama on Tuesday. “Masks make a difference. It is one of the primary fundamental tools we have.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on June 30 extended her “safer-at-home” order until July 31, but declined to institute any further mandates despite surging new cases and hospitalizations.
Fauci also said that social distancing and the closure of bars are important to communities looking to slow the spread.
“Fundamental things like masking, distancing, washing hands, closing bars — if you do that, I think it will be a giant step toward interfering with the spread in your community,” Fauci said.
At least 1,007 people have died statewide from COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
New daily COVID-19 cases in Alabama dipped below 900 for the first time in six days, but just barely, with 888 new cases on Tuesday. Thirty-one percent of the state’s total confirmed cases have come within the last two weeks.
Alabama’s hospitals on Monday were caring for more COVID-19 patients than at any time since the pandemic began.
UAB Hospital had 86 coronavirus patients on Monday, the highest the hospital had seen. Huntsville Hospital had 72 COVID-19 patients on Monday, and the surge in cases prompted the hospital to cancel elective surgeries and convert three surgical floors to COVID-19 care, according to AL.com.
At East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika there were 41 COVID-19 patients on Monday, which was the highest the hospital has seen in weeks and not far from the hospital’s peak of 54 patients on April 11.
The average age of those becoming infected with coronavirus has dropped by 15 years since the beginning of the pandemic, Fauci said, which has lowered the overall death rate due to the virus, as younger people usually fair better, but not if that young person has an underlying medical condition.
“We are now getting multiple examples of young people who are getting sick, getting hospitalized and some of them even requiring intensive care,” Fauci said, adding that even those young people who have coronavirus but are asymptomatic can spread the virus to others, who may be more compromised.
Fauci warned against pointing to the overall declining death rate and becoming lax about coronavirus, and said that “it’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death.”
“There’s so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus. Don’t get yourself into false complacency,” Fauci said.
Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told APR on Monday that it may take several weeks to learn whether the increasing number of those hospitalized in Alabama will worsen and require ICUs and ventilators, and possibly lead to a rise in deaths.
“We just don’t know yet. We don’t know which way we’re going to go,” Williamson said Monday. “We just know we got a whole lot more cases than we had a month ago, and we’ve got a lot more hospitalizations than we had a month ago.”
Asked about his thoughts on the state of the virus in Alabama, Fauci said that what’s alarming is the slope of the curve of new daily cases.
“When you see a slope that goes up like that you’ve got to be careful that you don’t get into what’s called an exponential phase, where every day it can even double, or more,” Fauci said. “You’re not there yet, so you have an opportunity, a window to get your arms around this, and to prevent it from getting worse.”
Speaking on what’s become the politicization of the wearing of face masks, Fauci said that politicization of any public health matter has negative consequences. President Donald Trump does not wear face masks in public, prompting concern from many that by doing so he’s suggesting to the public that masks aren’t needed. The issue is divided rather sharply along partisan lines.
In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, two-thirds of voters, 67 percent, said Trump should wear a face mask when he is out in public, but while 90 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents say the president should wear a mask in public, just 38 percent of Republicans said the same.
“I mean, obviously today, it’s no secret to anybody who lives in the United States that we have a great deal of polarization in our country, unfortunately,” Fauci said. “We hope that changes, but there’s no place for that when you’re making public health recommendations, analysis of data, or any policies that are made. That will always be a detriment to do that.”
Governor awards $18 million for COVID-19 testing in nursing homes
Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday awarded $18.27 million of federal COVID-19 relief money to the Alabama Nursing Home Association Education Foundation for coronavirus testing and surveillance in the state’s nursing homes. The Coronavirus Relief Fund money is to be used to test and monitor both nursing home staff and residents, according to a press release from Ivey’s office Tuesday.
“During the pandemic, it is critical we take care of our seniors and most vulnerable residents,” Ivey said in a statement. “Some of our largest outbreaks of COVID-19 were within nursing homes, and we must do everything possible to contain the spread within their walls. Protecting these vital members of the community, as well as the dedicated staff who take care of them, is precisely the intent of the Coronavirus Relief Fund.”
The $18.27 million for testing in nursing homes comes from Alabama’s approximately $1.9 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds.
“I am extremely grateful to Governor Kay Ivey and her administration for supporting the ongoing testing of residents and staff in our facilities,” said Brandon Farmer, president and CEO of the Alabama Nursing Home Association, in a statement. “This virus is not like anything we’ve ever seen and has hit our nursing homes and staff exceptionally hard. I am relieved to know we will have assistance to contain the spread of this virus and hopefully be able to eliminate it from our nursing homes.”
John Matson, communications director for the Alabama Nursing Home Association, told APR by phone Tuesday that testing for COVID-19 has been a financial burden on nursing homes “and this will go a long way in helping cover that and relieve that strain that our members are experiencing.”
There’s already been a great deal of testing among staff and residents across Alabama’s nursing homes, and the federal aid will only increase that testing and ensure that the cost of future tests will be reimbursed, Matson said. The organization continues to work out details of a plan to implement the testing and surveillance, and once those plans are ready the association will reach out to all nursing homes statewide to communicate that information, he said.
The nonprofit Alabama Nursing Home Association Education Foundation, is to provide a testing strategy and screening protocols and administer the federal aid, according to the release.
There had been 1,794 confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents in Alabama nursing homes as of June 21, the latest data made available by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Of those cases, 336 residents have died, according to the federal agency.
GOP candidate Tommy Tuberville leads Trump “boat parade” in Orange Beach
Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville rode in the lead boat in a “boat parade” on Sunday in Orange Beach, celebrating Independence Day and the launch of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
Hundreds of boats participated in the Trump parade in the Perdido Pass area. WKRG TV estimates that more than 8,000 people joined. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores boats joined boats from Pensacola and Dauphin Island.
Trump supporter and Alabama Republican Executive Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. was also present.
“It was Awesome having Coach Tommy Tuberville on The TRUMP Boat at Orange Beach Alabama,” Hooper said. “Tommy was a Great Coach and he will be a Great US Senator. It’s Great To Be A TRUMP/ TUBERVILLE AMERICAN. Everybody was so Happy cheering for The President and Tommy on! Fun Day!”
Hooper is a former state representative from Montgomery.
Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. The Arkansas native lives in Auburn.
President Donald Trump spoke at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday.
“Today we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt,” Trump said. “I am here as your president to proclaim before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defamed, their legacy will never ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”
Trump accused opponents of trying to dismantle America.
“Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution,” Trump alleged. “In so doing they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery, and progress. To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage.”
“President Trump has given several good Speeches,” Hooper said. “This Speech was by far his best! It was straight up AWESOME! His speech was all about the Greatness of America! President Trump loves our Country and its great History. President Reagan has given some of the best speeches ever. This speech topped Reagan’s best. As for Perry O. Hooper Jr., I would get in a foxhole and fight for him to the end. God Bless President Donald J. Trump and GOD BLESS THE USA!”
Trump faces a stiff challenge from former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading in the polling.
Tuberville has been endorsed by Trump in the July 14 Republican primary runoff for U.S. Senate. Tuberville faces former Sen. Jeff Sessions.