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Congress members visit Alabama for annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage

Brandon Moseley

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via U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, on Twitter

Over 50 members of the United States Congress visited Alabama for the annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage on Friday.

The Congress members visited the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, which was bombed in 1963, killing four little girls. The members of Congress attended a play about the life, times and tragic deaths of the four little girls. Following the event at the church, the congressional delegation toured the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where they spoke to reporters.

This year’s pilgrimage was hosted by Rep. Terri A. Sewell, D-Alabama, Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, who grew up in Troy and was a participant in the Civil Rights Movement including the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

“Every time I come back to Alabama, I am very proud to see the distance that we have come and the progress we have made,” Lewis said.

“It is amazing to be in that Church in your presence today,” Jones said to Lewis.

Jones said the tragedy of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing woke the consciousness of America and The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 due to what happened in Selma.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said this is his 15th visit to Alabama.

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“I am so proud of Terry Sewell,” Hoyer said.

“It is such an honor for me every year to welcome Faith and Politics to Alabama,” Sewell said. “I walk the halls of Congress because of John Lewis.”

The Faith and Politics Institute is the organization that leads the Civil Rights Pilgrimage with John Lewis every year.

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“If we don’t tell our stories, other will,” Sewell said. “We must embrace our history — both the good and the bad.”

“I would like to thank Congresswoman Terri Sewell and the entire delegation and especially John Lewis,” said Randall Woodfin, mayor of Birmingham.

Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, said in 1963, he was just 8 years old and did not understand at the time all of the politics of the moment, but he was affected by and understood the deaths of the four little girls. Byrne said he was looking at the data on the vote of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the vote was very bipartisan and a slightly higher percentage of Republicans voted for it than Democrats.

Hoyer said the leadership intends to bring the new voting rights bill to the floor next week and praised the work that Sewell and Lewis have done on it.

“We think there are still problems around the country,” Hoyer said. “Voting is at the heart of a democracy.”

Roby joined the delegation in Montgomery as did Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The 16th Street Baptist Church, Civil Rights Institute and the A.G. Gaston Hotel where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. planned much of the Civil Rights Movement are all part of Birmingham’s Civil Rights National Historic Site.

On Saturday, the delegation visited Montgomery’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice and had a dinner reception with Gov. Kay Ivey.

On Sunday, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, delivered the keynote remarks at Brown Chapel AME Church’s Annual “Bloody Sunday” Commemorative Community Service in Selma.

The annual service commemorates the 1965 Selma Movement for Voting Rights and the watershed Bloody Sunday march where demonstrators were beaten back by Alabama State Troopers while trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a march to Montgomery to ask for voting rights. The gathered dignitaries recreated that bridge crossing Sunday afternoon.

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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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