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Jones holds Senate field hearing on pancreatic cancer

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) convened a U.S. Senate Select Committee on Aging field hearing entitled, “Pancreatic Cancer: Fighting the World’s Toughest Cancer in Alabama and Nationally,” at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The witnesses included family members who have lost a loved one from pancreatic cancer, as well as the director of UAB’s Pancreatobiliary Disease Center.

“As too many of us in this room know firsthand, pancreatic cancer takes a devastating toll on families and communities across this state and the country,” Sen. Jones said. “So many lives are touched by cancer in general, but in particular pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease. Last year—although my family has had run-ins with different forms of cancer over the years—I became one of the millions who has lost a loved one to pancreatic cancer when my dear friend, Giles Perkins, lost his life to this terrible disease. I am grateful to have Giles’ wife and also a dear friend, Hillery Head, with us today to honor his memory,” said Senator Jones in his opening remarks.”

“Unfortunately, Giles is one of many Americans and Alabamians who have lost their lives to pancreatic cancer,” Jones said. “This year, more than 56,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The disease has one of the lowest survival rates of any form of cancer, with less than nine-percent of patients surviving five years after their initial diagnosis. In 2019, this disease is expected to claim nearly 46,000 lives across the county and over 700—approximately 770—in Alabama.”

The witnesses shared their testimony about the impact the disease had on their loved ones and the importance of investing in medical research.

“In the spring of 2016, my husband, Giles Perkins, began feeling under the weather,” Hillery Head said. “His health declined rapidly, and none of the antibiotics he took seemed to help. I urged him to see my primary care physician, who ran him through a battery of tests, diagnosed him with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. Despite all that was in our favor, on December 2, 2018, Giles passed away. He died in our home, surrounded by family and friends and people who loved him. Cancer doesn’t care. So, it’s up to us to care. It’s up to us to support, to fight, to fund, to help, to love, and to live every day like it is a gift from God. It’s up to us to support families facing this same diagnosis, and find a cure for this disease.”

Lynette F. Nall lost her daughter, Letisha, to pancreatic cancer.

“On January 30, 2019, after a few days at home, Tish succumbed to the disease in bed early that morning,” Nall said. “Needless to say, there should be early detection for this disease. Tish’s first visit to the doctor should have resulted in some test that could have saved her life. With all the trials that have been done, and still going on, there should be some specific treatment that has been proven to work well for this cancer. The trial and error methods were frustrating for Tish, and for me, as her mother, to see her suffer.”

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Steve Cook lost his wife, Marqueta, to pancreatic cancer.

“As [Marqueta] continued to battle the disease, and we began learning more about pancreatic cancer, I realized that funding for research was a challenge,” Cook said. “Recognizing that one of the strongest weapons we have in fighting the disease is federal research funding, Marqueta encouraged me to take the message to our leaders in Washington, D.C. I attended my first PanCAN (Pancreatic Cancer Action Network) Advocacy Day in 2018, about two weeks after she passed away, just 12 months after her initial diagnosis. Truth be told, I considered not going but I knew she had wanted me to go – I am very glad I did. This disease can render you hopeless but taking a unified message to Capitol Hill with hundreds of others was inspiring – we all had a shared bond.”

J. Bart Rose, MD, MAS is the Director of UAB’s Pancreatobiliary Disease Centers, the largest treatment center in the region for pancreatic cancer.

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“Alabama has a higher death rate from pancreas cancer than would be predicted,” Dr. Rose said. “Our state has the 9th highest pancreatic cancer death rate in the United States even though it only ranks as the 21st highest rate for new case numbers… As a pancreatic cancer researcher, I can state without question that investment in this area is desperately needed. The only way we are going to move the needle on improving overall survival beyond the currently unacceptable 9% is by having better therapy for advance disease and earlier detection.”

Giles Perkins was Jones longtime friend and managed his 2017 campaign for Senate, despite battling cancer at the time.

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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Congress

Palmer supports legislation making unused PPP funds available to small businesses

There is an estimated $137 billion remaining in the Payroll Protection Program that could be immediately available to small businesses.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Alabama, added his signature to a discharge petition that would force a vote on a bill that would allow unused Paycheck Protection Program funds to be made available for small businesses.

There is an estimated $137 billion remaining in the Payroll Protection Program that could be immediately available to small businesses. The program has kept thousands of small businesses open since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are still in need as the economy continues to recover.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has refused to hold a vote. The Democratic controlled House passed the $3.4 trillion Heroes Act, which Republicans opposed.

Palmer and House Republicans accuse Pelosi of holding American workers and businesses “hostage,” preferring the Democrats’ relief legislation.

“Speaker Pelosi has made her objectives abundantly clear,” Palmer said. “We could have negotiated and delivered immediate aid for small businesses and individuals weeks ago, but her leftist agenda always comes first. Many businesses are barely hanging, on anxiously awaiting the extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, but Pelosi is determined to hold them hostage to get her way. She would like to bail out states that were bankrupt before the pandemic and further a welfare agenda that is harmful to the economy. Today, I proudly signed a discharge petition to circumvent Pelosi’s control of the House floor and force a vote on a bill that would bring real relief to businesses struggling to survive the pandemic. It’s time for Members of Congress to stand up for small businesses and American workers since the Speaker clearly won’t. Small businesses across the country can’t wait.”

A discharge petition on H.R. 8265 was filed on Friday by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, and 218 signatures are needed to bring the bill to the House floor for a vote. The bill was introduced on Sept. 16 by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.

“This public health crisis has left our small businesses near permanent closure, and that will happen on a massive scale if Congress doesn’t act,” Beutler said. “Yet Congress isn’t acting, so I’ve filed the discharge petition in the House today so we can bypass the political posturing and bring relief to our nation’s small businesses and their employees. Other relief remains vital, but we either save jobs and businesses now or provide triage soon for the damage caused by empty buildings, lost livelihoods and health care plans, and fewer employment opportunities overall. Reviving the PPP has to be our priority.”

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“The Paycheck Protection Program has served as a critical lifeline for America’s small businesses,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California. “Since its launch, the program is credited with saving 51 million jobs nationwide. But our work in helping small business owners stay open and keep employees on payroll is not done. A recent report indicates that as many as 36 percent small businesses say if no new funding comes from Congress soon, they will be forced to lay off workers or cut back hours. Democrats have consistently blocked or delayed relief, but Republicans are not giving up. That is why House Republicans, led by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler have filed a discharge petition to force a vote on a stand-alone extension of the Paycheck Protection Program through the end of the year. It only needs 218 signatures to force a vote, so I hope that our Democrat colleagues will join us in delivering relief. My Republican colleagues and I will continue to act on our Commitment to America; we will be relentless in our fight to protect jobs, small businesses, and the American dream.”

“Since March, small businesses—corner stores, retail shops, and family restaurants—have been struggling to survive,” Chabot said. “Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to pass the CARES Act, which delivered rapid assistance to small firms through programs like the Paycheck Protection Program. Unfortunately, in recent months, additional relief for small businesses has been caught up in the partisan logjam and the livelihoods of real people hang in the balance. Congress must work together to get help to small businesses in Washington, Ohio, and across our great nation. Rep. Herrera Beutler’s discharge petition to force a vote on my legislation is the way to do just that. I thank her for her leadership on behalf of America’s small businesses.”

Multiple news outlets, including Roll Call and The Hill, are reporting that several House Democrats are “strongly considering” signing Beutler’s discharge petition.

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Palmer represents Alabama’s 6th Congressional District. Palmer does not have a Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Elections

Sewell: Confirming Barrett before the election would undermine Supreme Court’s legitimacy

“The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is clearly tainted by the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans to go back on their own promise,” Sewell said.

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell (via Office of Rep. Terri Sewell)

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, said Saturday that President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court was tainted by hypocrisy and that confirming Barrett would undermine the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court nomination by President Trump today, with the 2020 presidential election only 38 days away, denies the American people a voice in this very important decision,” Sewell said. “The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is clearly tainted by the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans to go back on their own promise not to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court so close to a presidential election.”

In 2016, Senate Republicans refused to give President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, a hearing or a vote to replace Justice Antonin Scalia. Garland’s nomination came eight months before the 2016 presidential election. Republicans held out and Trump eventually filled Scalia’s seat with Justice Neil Gorsuch.

“This blatant power grab by Trump and Senate Republicans is especially disturbing given that the voting process has already begun with hundreds of thousands of voters having cast their ballots in the 2020 presidential election,” Sewell said.

Democrats have largely coalesced around opposing Trump’s filling of Ginsburg’s seat. If approved, Barrett would tilt the court even further to the right, solidifying a 6-3 conservative majority.

“Fairness and comity demand that the Senate not confirm any vacancy on the Supreme Court until the American people have chosen the next president,” Sewell concluded. “To do otherwise, I believe would undermine the very legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”

Before Barrett was nominated, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, said that he would not support any Trump nominee for the Supreme Court before the results of the Nov. 3 election are known.

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“It is a poor reflection of the state of our national politics that, just hours after Justice Ginsburg’s passing, we were thrust into a divisive partisan fight over her successor, denying the nation the time to mourn this extraordinary American’s death,” Jones said. “Just weeks from a national election, we are confronting a blatant power grab by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the President that will undermine the court and subvert the will of the American people.”

At the time, four years ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said during an election year, the Senate should let the American people decide before confirmed new justices. He’s reversed course, promising to give Barrett a vote.

“If confirming a Supreme Court justice ten months prior to a presidential election would have denied the American people a voice,” Jones said, “then isn’t he now denying the American people a voice by rushing to confirm a justice just weeks before a presidential election?”

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“I believe the answer to this question is a resounding YES,” Jones continued. “This is especially true given the urgent legislative work we have yet to do. Leader McConnell should turn his focus instead to protecting the lives and livelihoods of the American people by bringing a new bipartisan COVID-19 relief package up for a vote. We also need to pass the National Defense Authorization Act to support our military. We need to pass our annual funding bills instead of kicking the can down the road with yet another costly continuing resolution. We need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which has languished in this Senate, in order to protect the right of all Americans to vote and participate in our democracy.”

Jones said if Trump is re-elected, he will evaluate any pending or future nominee on their merits and vote for or against the nominee based solely on their qualifications.

Trump has already appointed Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. President Barack Obama appointed two nominees to the court during his eight-year term.

Jones also voted against Kavanaugh.

Sewell represents Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. Sewell has no Republican general election opponent.

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National

Palmer bill would give states flexibility in spending remaining coronavirus funds

Palmer said passing this legislation, HR8360, will give states a much-needed boost for infrastructure and an extended period to determine how to address continued COVID-19-related expenses, instead of rushing to spend the funds with a looming deadline.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Gary Palmer

Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Alabama, has introduced the Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility Act, which would allow states to determine how to spend their remaining coronavirus relief dollars issued under the CARES Act.

“The initial legislation was perhaps too restrictive,” Palmer said. “What we hope to do with this legislation is not only create some flexibility to prevent waste but to incentivize states to use the funds towards much needed infrastructure. The one-size-fits-all nature of the underlying measure fails to consider how each state is responding to the pandemic differently, so this legislation would put the spending decisions in the hands of those on the ground in the states who have a better understanding of their specific needs.”

Palmer said passing this legislation, HR8360, will give states a much-needed boost for infrastructure and an extended period to determine how to address continued COVID-19-related expenses, instead of rushing to spend the funds with a looming deadline.

States and localities were provided with $150 billion through the CARES Act relief fund for mitigation and response to COVID-19. Alabama’s legislators originally thought they could do whatever they wanted with that money. State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, even went so far as to produce a wish list that included hundreds of millions for broadband expansion and a new Statehouse.

Federal authorities, however, made it clear that there were restrictions on what that money could be used for. It can not be used to make up for lost revenues due to the lengthy economic shutdowns, the dramatic cutbacks in travel and hospitality, and the reductions in business capacity.

It is now estimated that approximately $80 billion remains unspent. HR8360 would allow state legislatures to determine how to utilize these remaining funds, with measures to encourage infrastructure development and future COVID-19 preparedness.

Palmer said that the Coronavirus Relief Fund Flexibility Act would prohibit funds from being spent on government employee bonuses, lobbying expenses or budget shortfalls predating the pandemic, while providing a 50 percent match for funds spent on infrastructure projects begun in the next year.

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It would also require states to hold 25 percent of their remaining relief funds in trust for future COVID-19 expenses. The states are currently required to return any unspent CARES Act money in January.

Democrats have been pushing for more than $1 trillion in funding for cash-strapped state and local governments, but the White House and congressional Republicans have resisted this call, arguing that would be just rewarding state and local governments for poor fiscal planning.

The White House and Senate Republicans are in negotiations with Democratic leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, on a possible compromise coronavirus relief bill prior to the Nov. 3 general election.

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Palmer represents Alabama’s 6th Congressional District. Palmer has no Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Courts

Roy Moore sues state challenging COVID orders

Moore is arguing that the state has exceeded its authority by issuing COVID-19 restrictions and the statewide mask mandate.

Brandon Moseley

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Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore

The Foundation for Moral Law and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore last week filed a lawsuit against Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, challenging the constitutionality of their public health orders intended to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The foundation’s lawsuit was filed in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Moore is seeking damages, a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against Ivey and Harris from issuing more mandates.

Moore is arguing that Ivey and Harris have exceeded their authority.

“The Governor and State Health Officer of this State have clearly and repeatedly exceeded their authority under both the Constitution of the United States and the Alabama Constitution over the last six months,” Moore said. “Unconstitutional restriction of church assembly and worship, discriminatory closing of businesses, stay at home orders, social distancing, wearing of masks, and restriction on travel are simply against our rights secured by the Constitution of the United States.”

“We live in a Constitutional Republic and in a State whose motto is ‘We dare defend our rights,’ yet nothing has been done to stop the tyrannical abuse of power,” Moore said. “Our economy has been decimated, jobs lost, schools closed, church doors shut, and we have been told we must stay home and wear mask in public places. People are tired of such abuse!”

“Our Country was formed in crisis and we have withstood disease, pestilence, natural disaster, and wars without being told we must remain in our home and wear mask in public,” Moore said. “The Legislature of Alabama needs to stand up to and tell the Governor that she and the State Health Officer do not have the power to do things that even the Legislature can’t do. Nor can the Legislature give the Governor powers to take away our Constitutional rights when even the Legislature cannot.”

Some former legislators have privately told APR that if Ivey wanted more power to extend the public health emergency past July that legally she should have called a special session and asked the legislature for that authority.

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But some have also suggested that the Legislature does not want to go on the record as either favoring or opposing measures such as the eight-month-long public health emergency, the mask mandate, the closing of businesses and restrictions on capacity in businesses. As such, they are content to say or do nothing on the issue rather than alienating voters on either side.

“For over 200 years, men and women of every race, creed, and color have fought and died to preserve our rights; we don’t need to give them up without a fight,” Moore said.

The Montgomery-based Foundation for Moral Law is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to a strict interpretation of the United States Constitution. The foundation, founded by Moore, is often involved in freedom of religion issues.

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The governor’s statewide mask order expires on Friday if the governor does not extend it.

At least 208,843 Americans, including 2,501 Alabamians, have died from COVID-19 since February. Over 32.8 million people globally have been diagnosed as infected with the novel strain of the coronavirus.

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