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Shelby votes for Trump-backed bill to end government shutdown

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, spoke on the Senate floor prior to a procedural vote on the End the Shutdown and Secure the Border Act, which would have provided money for President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Shelby urged the senators “to come together” and “put the bitterness aside.”

The bill was a comprehensive appropriations package containing the remaining seven fiscal year 2019 bills, full funding of the president’s border security priorities, a disaster supplemental and a host of “bipartisan immigration reforms.”

Trump has pushed for the proposal, which he outlined last weekend and is the product of ongoing negotiations to reopen the government.

“Just a few months ago, we stood here on the Senate floor celebrating the progress we had made together in the appropriations process,” Shelby said. “We were all tired of lurching from crisis to crisis amid partisan bickering. Both sides resolved to put aside partisan differences and work together for the good of the American people, and it worked. Together, we funded 75 percent of the government on time. While we would have preferred 100 percent, it was considerably more progress than we had made in decades. Yet we find ourselves here today, more than a month into the longest shutdown in American history. It is enough to give you whiplash.”

Shelby said funding the remaining 25 percent of the government is the task.

“Homeland Security – border security – is the linchpin,” he said. “Are our differences really as insurmountable as they seem? They should not be, and here is why. Last May, the Appropriations Committee considered the fiscal year 2019 Homeland Security bill. That bill included money for a physical barrier at the Southern border. In fact, it included an increase in funding over the fiscal year 2018 level for a physical barrier. Our Democratic colleagues made no attempt to strike this funding, just as Republicans made no effort to strike funding for Democratic priorities in the bill. And the bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, a vote of 26 – 5. There were no fireworks or histrionics in the hearing room that day. There was no discussion of delaying the Homeland Security bill until the rest of the federal government was funded.”

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“The committee simply decided together on a bipartisan basis to increase funding for a project that Congress had funded the previous year,” Shelby explained. “The fireworks and calls for delayed consideration came later.”

“It boggles the mind how we have returned so quickly to standoff mode – to a zero-sum mentality after making so much progress together,” Shelby stated. “It is particularly perplexing considering bipartisan support is exactly what underpinned the very thing that now divides us so bitterly. Just a few months ago, funding for a physical barrier at the Southern border was part of a bipartisan deal. And now, we can’t even discuss it. That was then; I understand. But where do we go from here? Who is offering real solutions – comprehensive solutions – to end this impasse?”

“The president, for his part, has proposed a serious and reasonable compromise – a comprehensive solution,” Shelby said. “I commend him for that. He is doing what the American people expect: showing a willingness to work together, to find common ground. I encourage my Democratic colleagues to reciprocate.”

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“If this proposal is unacceptable, I ask my colleagues on the other side to put something on the table that could help move us off the dime,” Shelby asked. “Work with us – propose a comprehensive solution to get us moving in the right direction. But simply saying no – demanding that we deal with border security later — just won’t do. If not now, when? When will be the time to secure the border? What good will more time, more talking do? The American people have been promised that border security will come later since the Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty in 1986. That is why I voted against it as a member of the House. And look at where we are today – still waiting, still talking. The drug smuggling, the human trafficking, the chaos – it’s a real crisis. We know what must be done. Let’s come together, put the bitterness behind us and do what is right for the American people: end the shutdown and secure the border.”

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, voted against the Trump compromise. Democrats have said they want to negotiate about border security only after the government is reopened. Jones did vote for Republican-backed legislation in December that would have kept the government open. Shelby is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which supported that initial bipartisan legislation in December. Instead of agreeing to the bill, Trump signaled he would veto the measure, so it ended up dying in the House.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said it was disappointing that Jones voted against the compromise bill to reopen the government.

“It is extremely disappointing to see Sen. Doug Jones vote no to end the government shutdown and secure our borders,” Lathan said. “This bill, proposed by Sen. Shelby and endorsed by President Trump, allowed both Democrats and Republicans to find agreement in their ultimate goals.”

She said Alabamians want the nation safe through strong borders.

 “In voting no for all of us, Sen. Jones is bypassing the interests of the people he was elected to serve — especially when he says folks need to ‘compromise,'” Lathan said. “Senator Jones is showing he has no intentions of practicing what he preaches with his no vote for our state. We are grateful for Sen. Shelby’s leadership in introducing this bill and earnestly working to end the government shutdown. Doug Jones’ days in the U.S. Senate are numbered. Alabamians are ready to vote in 2020 to see a Republican represent their values. On this, we will not compromise.”

The partial government shutdown continues. Almost 800,000 government workers have not been paid in nearly six weeks. and 420,000 have had to work anyway.

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Alabama, Oregon groups move to join legal fight over Equal Rights Amendment

Eddie Burkhalter

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Organizations in Alabama and Oregon have asked a federal judge to let them join in the legal fight over the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. 

Mia Raven, policy director for the grassroots Alabama reproductive rights group the Yellowhammer Fund, and founder of the People Organizing for Women’s Empowerment & Rights (P.O.W.E.R.) House in Montgomery, is joined by the Oregon-based nonprofit VoteERA.org and its president and founder, Leanne Littrell DiLorenzo, in the filing of a motion to intervene in the federal lawsuit. 

Alabama’s attorney general Steve Marshall in December 2019 joined attorneys general for Louisiana and South Dakota as plaintiffs in a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama that argues that the deadline to ratify the amendment has expired. 

The Equal Rights Amendment, if ratified by a 38th state, would ban discrimination based on sex. Proponents of the amendment hope that Virginia’s new Democratic majority means a second chance for the protections for women. 

Congress passed the amendment in 1972 and five years later it was ratified by 35 states, but the deadline to gain the needed 38 states passed in 1979, so Congress extended the deadline to 1982. 

Nevada in 2017 became the 36th state to ratify it, and was followed by Illinois in 2018.

“We have worked for decades seeking to ensure the ratification of the federal ERA.  Our decision to seek to intervene in the states’ pending lawsuit is a reflection of our persistent devotion to guaranteeing equal rights under the law for all people.” said DiLorenzo and Raven in a joint statement. 

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Attempts to reach Raven for comment were unsuccessful. 

Since the lawsuit was filed, attorneys general in Tennessee and Nebraska have joined Alabama as plaintiffs fighting ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. 

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Shelby: Administration is “lowballing” the cost of the coronavirus

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, the Trump Administration asked the Congress for an additional $2.5 billion for planning for a possible coronavirus outbreak in the United States. U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) accused the administration of “lowballing” the actual cost.

Shelby is the Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

“It seems to me at the outset that this request for the money, the supplemental, is lowballing it, possibly, and you can’t afford to do that,” Shelby told HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday during a hearing on the agency’s budget request. “If you lowball something like this, you’ll pay for it later.”

Shelby told reporters afterward he doesn’t have a new number in mind but that it will be “higher” than the $2.5 billion requested by HHS.

Azar said the administration would work with Congress if lawmakers think more money is needed.

“We’ll be of the mindset to fund this crisis, not to underfund it in any way, and I hope this administration would look at this as something they cannot afford to let get out of hand,” Azar said.

The Trump administration’s request includes $1.25 billion in new funding. The rest to be taken from existing health programs, including $535 million from fighting Ebola. Coronaviruses are a normal occurrence throughout the animal kingdom. This virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in December. It is believed that the disease originally existed in bats, which are a food source in China. Since then over 80,000 people have contracted the illness in 37 countries and over 2,700 have died. Researchers are referring to this strain of the coronavirus as COVID-19.

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The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that at that point it appears that it is inevitable that the virus will come to America.

“Disruption to everyday life might be severe,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The U.S. currently has 57 cases of COVID-19. 40 of those are Americans who were former passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. On Friday, the administration suggested that some of those infected Americans could be treated at a federal facility in Anniston. A plan that local officials and the Alabama Congressional delegation both urged the administration to reject.

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On Sunday, Shelby said, “I just got off the phone with the President. He told me that his administration will not be sending any victims of the Coronavirus from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Anniston, Alabama. Thank you,
@POTUS, for working with us to ensure the safety of all Alabamians.”

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” Messonnier said. “We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”

Channel 42 TV is reporting that the UAB Health System is making preparations for the coronavirus by purchasing additional equipment and training staff in how to deal with the infectious disease which devastated medical professionals in Hubei Province.

(Original reporting by the Hill, Web MD, and Channel 42 News contributed to this report.)

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Alabama Republicans attack Jones for voting against Pain-Capable Unborn Protection Act

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) and 43 other U.S. Senators voted against The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks’ gestation, at which point scientific research unequivocally shows that unborn babies experience pain. Republicans were quick to attack Jones for the pro-abortion vote.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said in a statement, “Senator Doug Jones’s NO vote on the Pain Capable Act shows that once again he is completely out of touch with the majority of Alabamians.”

“In 2018, 59% of Alabamians voted in favor of Amendment 2, which recognized the rights of the unborn and withholds state funding for abortions,” Lathan explained. “Yet Senator Jones continues with his arrogant ways, voting against the will of his constituents. Just last week, when he was asked about this important legislation, Senator Jones laughed.”

“Alabamians will remember this vote – along with so many others – when they cast their ballots on November 3rd,” Lathan said. “Senator Jones will be replaced with someone who respects the majority’s wishes and supports Alabama values. We thank Senator Richard Shelby for once again honoring the wishes of our pro-life state as he voted to support ending abortions after 20 weeks and continues to be a consistent pro-life warrior.”

Former U.S. Senator and 2020 GOP Senate candidate Jeff Sessions (R) said that this is shameful and should not be tolerated.

“It is not surprising that Doug Jones joined 43 other senators today to vote against legislation prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, causing the bill to fail,” Sessions said. “Just last week, Jones laughed off today’s vote regarding late-term abortions when asked by a constituent about his position and called the question ‘stupid.’ This is shameful and must not be tolerated.”

2020 GOP Senate candidate Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said that Doug Jones has failed the people of Alabama again with this vote.

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“Doug Jones has failed the people of Alabama once again by voting no on the 20-week abortion ban,” Byrne said. “The U.S. is just one of a handful of countries, including China and North Korea, that allow these horrible late term abortions. I believe life begins at conception and that every life is worth protecting. This vote is just another reason to #FireDougJones!”

“While serving in the Senate and as the Attorney General, I have a 100% pro-life record,” Sessions continued. “I was, myself, a co-sponsor of the legislation brought forward today, The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which continues to be blocked by pro-abortion advocates like Doug Jones each year.”

“I’m very thankful we now have a strong defender of the unborn in President Donald Trump,” Sessions added. “In our President’s own words just two months ago, ‘Together, we are the voice for the voiceless.’ This is the kind of leadership pro-life advocates have needed and will continue to support in this battle. Thank you also to Senator Richard Shelby for representing true Alabama values today and protecting the least of these.”

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The National Republican Senate Committee is working to defeat Doug Jones and replace him with a Republican.

“Anti-Trump Democrat Doug Jones has given up on Alabama,” said NRSC spokesperson Nathan Brand. “Whether it’s his work to remove President Trump from office or votes today to side with the pro-abortion lobby, Jones doesn’t stand for the values Alabamians hold dear.”

The Republican primary is on March 3.

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Doug Jones: Anniston could still be called upon to treat coronavirus patients

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones issued a statement Monday about the possibility of coronavirus patients being transported to and housed at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama.

“Over the weekend, my staff and I participated in briefings regarding the announcement that Americans from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who tested positive for the coronavirus might be transported to and housed at the Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP) in Anniston, Alabama,” Jones said. “We were advised that the announcement on Saturday regarding the CDP was premature, and although the CDP is one of a number of contingency sites, at this time, the multi-agency plan anticipates using other sites first.”

“It is my understanding that this information is being provided to officials in Anniston, and the folks at the CDP have been told that if their facility is needed in the future, adequate notice and details will be provided,” Jones continued. “I urge the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Centers for Disease Control to do all they can to provide the best care possible for those who must endure quarantine and those who are suffering from this virus.”

“My first priority is to protect the people of Alabama, and I have the utmost confidence that, if called upon, the unmatched professionals at the CDP will rise to the occasion,” Jones stated. “I urge the Administration to continue to keep Congress and the American people informed about their response to this virus and their efforts to prevent any further infections in the United States. We will continue to monitor this evolving situation with hope and compassion for all affected.”

The Calhoun County Commission has announced plans to sue to prevent the City of Anniston from being used to house infected virus patients. They are arguing that while the CDP is used for training purposes, it is not equipped to deal with providing medical care for potentially dozens of people needing serious medical treatment in a quarantine situation.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Coronaviruses are a common family of viruses that is found throughout much of the animal kingdom. This strain of the virus appears to have originated among bats, which are eaten by the Chinese. The virus appears to have crossed species and was first identified in China’s Wuhan City in Hubei Province. Researchers are referring to the disease caused by this strain COVID-19.

As of Monday there have been 80,154 COVID-19 diagnosed cases. 27,591 of those have recovered and been released from medical care. 2,701 people have died from this. Most of the deaths have been in China; but the death toll now includes twelve in Iran, nine in South Korea, seven in Italy, two in Hong Kong, as well as one death each in the Philippines, France, Japan, and Taiwan. This leaves 49,762 active cases of the illness. Of these currently Infected patients, 40,547 (81%) have mild conditions. 9,215 (19%) are currently in serious or critical condition.

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There are 691 cases of COVID-19 that have been diagnosed among the passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess. Four of these have already died. 35 of these are in serious or critical condition. Only ten are totally recovered from their illness. Only a portion of the passengers were Americans.

To this point, there are only 53 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, but that is up from 35 on Sunday. There have been no deaths yet, but six of these are in serious or critical condition. The stock market was down more than one thousand points on Monday due to fears that the coronavirus is going to negatively impact global trade, particularly the flow of manufactured goods coming out of China, the world’s second-largest economy. The outbreak in South Korea is particularly alarming for Alabamians given our close trade ties with the country, particularly with Hyundai having a manufacturing plant in Montgomery.

For more about the possible coronavirus pandemic, click here.

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