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Senate passes defense FY2019 appropriations bill

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) announced final Senate passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY2019) Defense Appropriations Act. The bill was included in the conference report to accompany H.R. 6157, the minibus appropriations package which also contains the FY2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding bill.

The package provides $674.4 billion in funding for the Department of Defense, which is an increase of $19.8 billion above the FY2018 enacted level. The House is expected to vote on the legislation next week. If the house passes it, the package will be sent to the President’s desk for his signature.

“This is the most significant step we have taken yet,” said Senator Shelby. “For the first time in a decade, we are sending a Defense spending bill to the President’s desk on time. Returning to regular order has required us all to sacrifice and work together for the good of the process. I want to thank my colleagues – particularly Leaders McConnell and Schumer and Vice Chairman Leahy – for their help in moving the Defense-Labor-HHS conference report before the Senate. This conference report contains critical funding for defense and domestic priorities. It accelerates the rebuilding of America’s military and provides our men and women in uniform with the largest pay increase in nearly a decade. It also increases NIH’s budget by $2 billion and provides critical resources to combat the opioid epidemic.”

The appropriations minibus conference report was approved in the Senate by a vote of 93 to 7.

The Department of Defense portion of the package contains funding for defense priorities throughout the state of Alabama.

“We must approve defense appropriations legislation to fund military readiness, procurement, and testing — all of which are required to keep U.S. military forces the best trained, equipped, prepared, and strongest force in the world,” continued Senator Shelby. “This historic legislation further highlights Alabama’s strong national defense capabilities and provides our state with the opportunity to continue producing essential tools to support our men and women in uniform. I am confident that this legislation will allow our defense programs to remain of the highest caliber.”

The Defense and Labor-HHS-Education bills represent the majority of discretionary federal spending. Neither has been signed into law before the end of the fiscal year in a decade. The measure provides an outline for military leaders to have the resources they need to meet current and future threats to U.S. national security.

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The legislation includes items critical for the Wiregrass including: an additional $95 million for future vertical lift research, which will help accelerate development of helicopters flown at Fort Rucker; $10 million to upgrade Navy MH-60 Seahawk helicopters; $1.0 billion for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles; $111 million for Long Range Anti-Ship Missiles (LRASMs) (The measure also encourages the Navy to evaluate the capabilities and costs of a surface-launched LRASM.); $307 million for Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles (JAGMs); $663 million for Joint Air-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSMs), which recently made its debut in strikes on Syria in response to their use of chemical weapons; $484 million for Hellfire missiles, which are made in Troy and used for training at Fort Rucker; $254 million for Javelin missiles for the Army and Marine Corps.

The legislation has provisions impacting North Alabama including: $11.1 billion for investments in researching transformational technologies to address modern and future Army warfighting needs; $10.4 billion for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), including $1.1 billion to support urgent MDA unfunded priorities and emergent threats; $191 million for Standard Missile Improvements, which are built in Decatur, and supports work done by MDA at Redstone Arsenal and many local companies; $184 million in additional funding to further develop directed energy technology and transition these activities to both offensive and defensive capabilities; $664 million in additional funding to support and accelerate offensive and defensive hypersonics research and prototyping efforts; An additional $15 million to integrate Small Glide Munitions onto on Unmanned Aerial Systems (This highly successful weapon is used by Special Operations Command and built in Huntsville); $306 million in additional funding to expand and accelerate cyber research across the Department of Defense, including $127 million for Army cybersecurity research efforts and $116 million in Missile Defense Agency cybersecurity enhancements. This bill encourages the enhanced use of cyber red teams to address cyber intrusions that threaten our weapons systems, an area of particular excellence for Huntsville.

In space, the defense bill includes” $200 million in additional funding for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) development efforts to ensure assured access to space. United Launch Alliance (ULA), which builds rockets in Decatur, continues to be seen as the most reliable and capable space launch provider.

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The bill even includes Advanced Shipbuilding Capabilities with $15 million to establish North Alabama as a center for classified, high power large-scale electron beam welding. This technology is critical to new Navy Columbia-class submarines and many high-performance aerospace systems such as hypersonic reentry vehicles, scramjet missiles, and rocket and jet engine turbomachinery.

The legislation has provisions impacting Anniston including: $276 million for Hydra rockets, which are built in Anniston and fired from Army and Marine Corps helicopters; Funding for Army Vehicles which are overhauled and maintained at Anniston Army Depot (ANAD): $2.5 billion to continue modernizing M1 Abrams tanks; $393 million for Stryker vehicles, including an additional $94 million to support increased Stryker DVH A1 conversions; An additional $110 million for Paladin Integrated Management artillery vehicles; and $18 million in additional funding for M88A2 Hercules Improved Recovery vehicles.

The legislation also has provisions impacting Mobile’s shipbuilding industry including: Two additional Littoral Combat Ships (LCS); One additional Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship; An additional $700 million in Advance Procurement for LPD and LHA amphibious ships.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Shelby has served the people of Alabama in the U.S. Senate since 1986.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Elections

Trump to visit Pensacola tonight

Trump is making a push in Florida in the final weeks of the election, and Northwest Florida is part of his strategy.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention

Neither presidential candidate is likely to visit Alabama before the general election, as both campaigns accept that Alabama will be certainly in President Donald Trump’s camp on election day no matter what else happens. While Alabama is not a swing state, Georgia and Florida are both in play, and both campaigns are devoting enormous resources there.

Trump is making a push in Florida in the final weeks of the election, and Northwest Florida is part of his strategy. Trump will be just across the Florida-Alabama state line visiting Pensacola and is scheduled to address supporters at the ST Engineering hangar beginning at 7 p.m. CT.

The doors open at 4 p.m. and the event begins at 7:00 p.m.

The president’s rally tonight comes right after a visit to Pensacola last week by Second Lady Karen Pence and is one of many Florida campaign events planned for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump arrived in Florida after Thursday’s final presidential debate with Joe Biden. He is scheduled to hold a campaign event in The Villages before traveling to Pensacola. The president will spend the night at his Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago and will vote early Saturday.

The vice president will hold rallies in Lakeland and Tallahassee on Saturday. Florida has 27 electoral college votes. It would be very difficult for Trump to get the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win without winning Florida.

Democrats warn that attending a Trump rally could be dangerous due to the coronavirus threat.

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“The last thing Floridians need is for Donald Trump to host more potential superspreader rallies across our state,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said in a statement on the rally in Pensacola. “What we do need, however, is a president capable of putting Floridians ahead of his own self-interest and get this pandemic under control.”

Most recent polls have Trump trailing Biden in Florida. Tickets are required to attend the rally.

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National

Barry Moore: Trump is right when he says that Biden is “all talk and no action”

2nd Congressional District candidate Barry Moore praised Trump’s debate performance.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Barry Moore (VIA MOORE CAMPAIGN)

The third presidential debate was held Thursday, and congressional candidate Barry Moore released a statement emphasizing that he continues to support President Donald Trump.

“This third debate showed us once again why Donald J. Trump is the better choice to lead this nation for four more years,” Moore said. “Joe Biden’s nearly five decades of being a politician make him an expert at dodging questions, giving non-answers, and twisting the facts to fit what he thinks is the response he needs to give right then. President Trump doesn’t respond like a politician, and he left Biden floundering. Biden truly is, as the President said, ‘all talk and no action’.”

“President Trump gave us three years of incredible economic growth after the Obama/Biden recession,” Moore continued. “He’s fought Chinese disinformation and domestic undermining throughout this pandemic and wants our economy to come back quickly. Biden wants to expand lockdowns, raise taxes, impose the economy-killing Green New Deal and throw us back into the same situation we endured for eight years under Obama/Biden.”

“Biden’s record—the real one instead of his tall tale of the minute—is one of little action and lots of failure,” Moore concluded. “Trump’s record is unprecedented economic growth and restoring America’s position in the world after Obama/Biden ‘lead from behind’ weakness. That’s why I will be voting for Donald J. Trump on November 3rd.”

Trump Victory Finance Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. agreed.

“President Trump was the clear winner,” Hooper said. “Bottom line, you have an outsider with results versus a failed 47-year career politician. I thought the President did well going beyond the base talking about what this Administration has done for Black Americans. This Administration passed the Criminal Justice Reform Act, Opportunity Zones, increased funding for Historic Black Colleges and cutting Black unemployment.”

“Joe Biden hurt himself when he talked about his Energy Policy,” Hooper said. “He said he wanted to do away with the Oil and Gas Industry. Obama and Biden destroyed the coals Industry and now Biden wants to destroy the Oil and Gas Industry. What he said will hurt him in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas and Oklahoma. Biden also talked about his government socialized economic policy. If that Policy is implemented, it would bankrupt America. The best statement made by the President, was when the President looked at Biden and said, You and Obama are the reason I ran.”

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The Trump campaign released a statement saying, “The President CRUSHED it.”

“After the Debate Commission CANCELED the second Presidential Debate last week, President Trump knew he needed to EXPOSE Joe Biden for the corrupt, China-loving SOCIALIST that he is,” the campaign continued. “The truth is, Biden would sell out America to the Chinese government and he’d DESTROY everything the President has accomplished. Tonight made that very clear. Unlike Sleepy Joe, President Trump will always fight for YOU.”

Moore is the Republican nominee in the Nov. 3 general election for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. Moore served two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018.

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He and his wife Heather own a small waste management business. He is a veteran, Auburn graduate, husband and father of four from Enterprise.

The general election will be Nov. 3.

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Courts

U.S. Supreme Court rules Alabama can ban curbside voting

“The District Court’s modest injunction is a reasonable accommodation, given the short time before the election,” the three dissenting justices wrote. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, allowed Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill to ban curbside voting, staying a district court injunction that had allowed some counties to offer curbside voting in the Nov. 3 election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Supreme Court’s majority in its order declined to write an opinion, but Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonya Sotomayor’s five-page dissent is included.

The lawsuit — filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program — was brought on behalf of several older Alabamians with underlying medical conditions.

“The District Court’s modest injunction is a reasonable accommodation, given the short time before the election,” the three dissenting justices wrote. 

Sotomayor, who wrote the dissent, closed using the words of one of the plaintiffs in the case. 

“Plaintiff Howard Porter Jr., a Black man in his seventies with asthma and Parkinson’s disease, told the District Court, ‘[So] many of my [ancestors] even died to vote. And while I don’t mind dying to vote, I think we’re past that – We’re past that time,’” Sotomayor wrote. 

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on Wednesday applauded the Supreme Court’s decision. 

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“I am proud to report the U.S. Supreme Court has now blocked a lower court’s order allowing the fraudulent practice of curbside voting in the State of Alabama,” Merrill said in a statement. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked diligently with local election officials in all 67 counties to offer safe and secure voting methods – including through the in-person and mail-in processes. I am glad the Supreme Court has recognized our actions to expand absentee voting, while also maintaining the safeguards put into place by the state Legislature.”

“The fact that we have already shattered voter participation records with the election still being 13 days away is proof that our current voting options are easy, efficient, and accessible for all of Alabama’s voters,” Merrill continued. “Tonight’s ruling in favor of election integrity and security is once again a win for the people of Alabama.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, expressed frustration after the ruling in a tweet.

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“Another devastating loss for voters and a blow for our team fighting to ensure safe voting for Black and disabled voters in Alabama. With no explanation, the SCOTUS allows Alabama to continue making it as hard as possible for COVID-vulnerable voters,” Ifill wrote.

Curbside voting is not explicitly banned by state law in Alabama, but Merrill has argued that because the practice is not addressed in the law, he believes it to be illegal. 

A panel of federal appeals court judges on Oct. 13 reversed parts of U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s Sept. 30 order ruling regarding absentee voting in the upcoming Nov. 3 elections, but the judges let the previous ruling allowing curbside voting to stand. 

In his Sept. 30 ruling, Kallon wrote that “the plaintiffs have proved that their fears are justified” and the voting provisions challenged in the lawsuit “unduly burden the fundamental Constitutional rights of Alabama’s most vulnerable voters and violate federal laws designed to protect America’s most marginalized citizens.”

Caren Short, SPLC’s senior staff attorney, in a statement said the Supreme Court’s decision has curtailed the voting rights of vulnerable Alabamians.

“Once again, the Supreme Court’s ‘shadow docket’ – where orders are issued without written explanation – has curtailed the voting rights of vulnerable citizens amidst a once-in-a-century public health crisis. After a two-week trial, a federal judge allowed counties in Alabama to implement curbside voting so that high-risk voters could avoid crowded polling locations,” Short said. “Tonight’s order prevents Alabama counties from even making that decision for themselves. Already common in states across the South and the country before 2020, curbside voting is a practice now encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It should be a no-brainer to implement everywhere during a pandemic; the Alabama Secretary of State unfortunately disagrees, as does the Supreme Court of the United States.”

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National

Last presidential debate is tonight

The debate will be on from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and C-SPAN.

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden, right, are running for president in 2020.

The last presidential debate between Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Republican incumbent Donald Trump is scheduled for tonight.

The debate will be on from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and C-SPAN. It will also be streamed live on YouTube via CBS News and other services like C-SPAN. The debate will also be streamed via Twitter’s U.S. election hub in the “Explore” tab and on CBSN, CNNgo, the CBS News App and the Fox News App.

Game three of the Major League Baseball World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays is Friday night so will not conflict with the presidential debate. There is, however, a football game tonight on Fox between the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.

The moderator will be NBC News’s Kristen Welker.

The topics for the second presidential debate have been announced by Welker. Welker has selected: Fighting COVID-19, American Families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced.

The original plan was to hold three debates, but Trump, the first lady and many members of the president’s team tested positive for the coronavirus immediately following the first debate. Trump recovered from his bout with COVID-19, but when the Presidential Debates Commission announced that the second debate would be virtual, the Trump campaign refused to participate, leading to the cancelation of the original second debate.

“I am not going to do a virtual debate,” which Trump called a waste of time in comments to the Fox Business Channel.

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Trump and Biden held competing town hall events last week instead. Biden’s town hall drew higher TV ratings. The final presidential debate before Election Day will be at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The debate format will be six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on the six pre-selected topics.

There will be no interrupting by the candidates in this debate after the raucous behavior in the first debate.

Both Trump and Biden will have their microphones cut off in Thursday’s debate while their rival delivers their opening two-minute answer to each of the debate topics. The open discussion portion of the debate will not feature a mute button, but interruptions by either candidate will count toward their time.

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The nonpartisan commission announced the rule changes on Monday. As late as Wednesday night, the parties were still arguing whether Trump will be allowed to bring up allegations that Biden assisted his son, Hunter Biden, in the junior Biden’s business interests in China, Russia, the Ukraine and other countries. Many Republicans, including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee are urging the President to focus on the issues instead.

Election day will be on Nov. 3.

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