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Ending an 18-year battle, Senate passes Widow’s Tax repeal

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Senators Doug Jones, D-Ala., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, announced that their legislation to repeal the Military Widow’s Tax has passed the United States Senate as a part of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill now goes to the President to be signed into law.

Legislation has been repeatedly introduced in the Senate for nearly two decades to roll back the Military Widow’s Tax, which was enacted in 1972. Since introducing the Widow’s Tax Elimination Act of 2019  in March, Senators Jones and Collins have worked tirelessly to gain support among their colleagues in both the Senate and House and to make the case on behalf of the 67,000 surviving spouses – including more than 2,000 in Alabama – who are impacted by the Military Widow’s Tax. Under their leadership, the bill earned a record-high 78 total cosponsors in the Senate and 384 in the House of Representatives.

“When we introduced this legislation, we knew we were fighting an uphill battle on behalf of these surviving spouses. But together, we were undeterred by the task and committed to them that this was the year it would finally get done. There is no more noble cause than to do the right thing for military families who have lost their loved one in service to our country. We took up this fight for those surviving spouses and their families, and I’m honored to be standing with them as we finally put this injustice behind us,” said Senator Jones, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“This provision we secured in the NDAA is a major victory for surviving military and retiree spouses to whom we are deeply indebted. The Military Widow’s Tax was an unfair offset that prevented as many as 67,000 surviving spouses—including more than 260 from Maine—from receiving the full benefits they deserve,” said Senator Susan Collins. “This problem goes back decades, but this year we finally solved it once and for all. I appreciate the overwhelming support we received from our colleagues as well as veterans advocates who helped make this possible.”

“This is an exciting day for more than 67,000 military widows and widowers who have been waiting years for the survivor benefits they are owed,” said Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “When brave men and women pay the ultimate sacrifice serving our nation, it’s our duty to provide economic security for their loved ones. OurWidow’s Tax Elimination Act  follows through on this important obligation, and ensures that military families who have sacrificed the unimaginable are provided more financial certainty.”

“Surviving family members of fallen servicemembers have already lost an important part of their lives.  Denying them access to the full benefits earned by their loved one’s sacrifice creates an undue burden on their finances.  No surviving spouse should have to face this unexpected and unfair cut to their benefits. Congress’ bipartisan action to fully repeal the military widow’s tax is a much-needed improvement,” said Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

“For 26 years, I have been denied the full benefits that my husband earned and paid for to help take care of his family in the event of tragedy. The long fight to repeal the Military Widow’s Tax has been difficult and none of us want to talk repeatedly about the deaths of our spouses, but that has been necessary to inform our public officials and ask for their help. Though I will be 76 when my husband’s benefits are fully reinstated, I am happy to know that those who sadly become military widows and widowers in the future will no longer have to fight this battle year after year. My own senator from Alabama, Senator Doug Jones, has championed our cause with passion and persistence and led with bipartisanship to see this bill finally passed! In Alabama terms, he carried the ball into the end zone!” said Cathy Milford, a surviving military spouse from Mobile, Alabama.

“On behalf of the 67,000 widows across the United States, I want to say thank you to Senator Jones for his stellar leadership in the elimination of the Widow’s Tax. We in Alabama are so proud of our Senator Doug Jones, who has been the catalyst to coordinate the bipartisan support for this legislation. Many people have worked tirelessly for almost 20 years, and finally with the leadership of Senator Jones, this is happening. What a gift and we want to thank him,” said Anne Hartline of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, who serves as Chair of the Surviving Spouse Advisory Committee to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).

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“The reality is, this probably would not have happened without Senator Jones’ unbelievable spirit of getting things done. The entire House and Senate have come together to produce something that is going to change the life of the widows of the men and women who’ve passed serving their country. My wife and I have been involved in this for almost 20 years, and we have lost many friends who have lost their lives over the years. This particular bill is going to make a huge difference to the widows who are surviving. It would have never happened without Senator Jones and the bipartisan effort that we’ve seen take place over the past year,” said retired General Charles Krulak, 31stCommandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.

 

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National

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed asks public to stay home for “next few nights” amid protests

Eddie Burkhalter

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Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed at a Monday afternoon press conference asked the public to stay at home for the next few nights, if they can. 

Reed’s words came after peaceful protests in Birmingham turned into a riot early Monday morning. Numerous businesses were burned, and two reporters were attacked. Protests were likely to begin Monday evening, according to accounts on social media. 

“I want you to know that I share your outrage over the killing of George Floyd. I share your anger about the callus action that ended his life,” Reed said. 

But Reed said “we must not further inflict damage upon ourselves and our community in a short-sighted effort to express our understandable frustration and anger.” 

Reed asked that those who can do so “stay at home for the next few nights.” 

“Talk with your family. Talk with your friends. Talk with others about what we can do together for the betterment of each other,” Reed said. 

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin earlier on Monday declared a state of emergency and a city-wide curfew that begins today. 

Moments before Reed spoke, President Donald Trump gave a speech at the White House and said he is an ally of all peaceful protestors and “your president of law and order.” 

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“But in recent days our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, antifa and others,” Trump said. 

Trump said he was mobilizing the U.S. military to stop the rioting, and that he strongly recommended to governors that they “deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets.” 

If governors don’t get rioting under control, Trump said “I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.” 

Gov. Kay Ivey earlier on Monday announced that she authorized the Alabama National Guard to activate as many as 1,000 guardsmen, but said there was no immediate need to deploy them. Woodfin said in a separate press conference Monday that there was no immediate need for assistance from the Alabama National Guard.

Just as Trump began speaking at the White House, police fired tear gas and advanced on a group of peaceful protestors at Lafeyette Park near the White House, according to video coverage by several news outlets. 

After his speech, Trump left the White House on foot and traveled under heavy security to Lafeyette Park, where he held up a Bible outside St. John’s Church alongside White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany while photographers clicked away.

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Governor authorizes use of National Guard after violent protests in Birmingham

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday said she supports the right for people to protest peacefully in the wake of the death of a Minneapolis man at the hands of police, but cautioned against the sort of violent protest and looting that occurred in Birmingham early Monday morning. 

Ivey also authorized the Alabama National Guard to active up to 1,000 guardsmen as a “preparedness measure” but said there was no immediate need to deploy them. 

In her statement, Ivey hints at outsiders from other states who seek to ratchet up the violence, but she doesn’t outright say that’s what happened in Birmingham early Monday morning, when some burned businesses, attempted to tear down one Confederate monument, tore down another and attacked several reporters. There has been no publicized evidence that the violence was caused by people from outside Alabama, however. 

“Like so many others throughout the country and around the world, I, too, was shocked and angered by the tragic actions that led to the senseless death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis. It is a death that should have never happened, and it is a tragedy for which that too many people, especially African Americans, are all too familiar,” Ivey said in a statement. “Regretfully, the natural anger and frustration of Mr. Floyd’s death has now spread to our state and what started out as peaceful protests in some of our cities yesterday afternoon turned ugly last night.” 

“While no state has a richer history than Alabama in terms of using peaceful protests to lead the country – and the world – to positive change, I agree with Alabama native, Congressman John Lewis, who this weekend said ‘rioting, looting and burning is not the way,’” Ivey continued. “Congressman Lewis marched alongside other Alabamians who would go on to become heroes of the movement.  They were young, brave and determined.  Many were beaten, arrested and jailed.  But they all — Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, attorney and civil rights activist Fred Gray and others – led the fight for change in a peaceful way.” 

“I will always support the right of the people of Alabama to peacefully lift your voices in anger and frustration. After all, our great country was born out of the desire to be free and the desire for freedom has repeatedly led to making positive change for the betterment of society,” Ivey said. “However, we will not allow our cities to become a target for those, especially from other states, who choose to use violence and destruction to make their point. What I saw happen last night in Birmingham was unbecoming of all those who have worked to make Birmingham the great city it is.  Going forward, this cannot be tolerated. State assets are available to any local government that makes the request. We will show respect to ourselves and to each other through this process.”

A separate press release from Ivey’s office states that the authorization to activate Alabama National Guardsmen “serves as a preparedness measure, should local and state law enforcement need additional support.” 

“While there is no immediate need for us to deploy our Guard, I have given authorization to Adjutant General Sheryl Gordon to be on standby, should our local and state law enforcement need additional support,” Ivey said in a statement. 

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“The Alabama National Guard stands ready to assist when peaceful protests become violent and dangerous to our public safety,” Ivey continues. “I will always support the right of the people of Alabama to peacefully lift your voices in anger and frustration. However, we will not allow our cities to become a target for those, especially from other states, who choose to use violence and destruction to make their point.”

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Monday declared a state of emergency and announced a citywide curfew in response to the violence hours before. He said Birmingham police will be enforcing the curfew beginning Monday, but said there was no immediate need for additional assistance from the Alabama National Guard. 

“I’ve been in constant contact with the governor’s chief of staff. As of now, there will be no activating the National Guard,” Woodfin told reporters during a press conference Monday.

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Aderholt: Alabama has shown how to reopen for business

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) said “Alabama has shown the country and the world how to properly reopen for business.” Aderholt made the remarks in an email to constituents.

“As we make our way into the first full week of June, I think it is important to remember the great strides we have made as a country and as a state since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic,” Rep. Aderholt wrote. “It was just over two months ago when the world stood still and almost everything closed down. Stay at Home orders were implemented and businesses shut their doors.”

“Thankfully, things are better now as we have begun the process of returning to normal,” Aderholt continued. “The expanded Safer at Home order here in Alabama has been encouraging, and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States has decreased significantly. All of this is good news, and I am hopeful that the positive news will continue throughout the month of June.”

“Alabama has shown the country and the world how to properly reopen for business,” Aderholt exclaimed. “Our state started loosening restrictions several weeks ago, and with each new set of expansions to the Safer at Home order, we have not seen a significant spike in confirmed cases of COVID-19. Just last week Governor Ivey instituted an update to her statewide order that allowed certain entertainment venues, athletic activities, child-care facilities, educational institutions, and even Summer camps to reopen as long as they adhere to social-distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines. This is great news, and I am incredibly pleased that Alabama is one of the most open states in the country.”

Aderholt said that Marshall County was the hot spot of the Fourth Congressional District.

“As you may have heard, Marshall County has not only been the hotspot in the 4th District, but it has the most confirmed cases in North Alabama,” Aderholt said. “Yet, the good news is that these cases are not translating into hospitalizations. At the end of last week, there were only two COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Marshall County. Then on Wednesday of this week it was announced that there was not a single COVID-19 patient in any Marshall County hospital. Let’s hope this trend continues.”

There has been 693 diagnosed cases in Marshall County and nine deaths from COVID-19.

Rep. Aderholt warned that the coronavirus remains a threat.

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“What remains important, even with newly expanded openings, is the health and safety of you and your loved ones,” Aderholt said. “Ensuring we maintain social distancing and proper sanitation is vitally important, and keeping businesses afloat during this pandemic will remain a high priority. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office, we are happy to help in any way we can. Additionally, my website has an entire section dedicated to COVID-19 Information.”

Twelve more Alabamians lost their fight with COVID-19 on Sunday taking our death toll to 630. 593 were diagnosed with the illness on Sunday taking the state’s total cases to 17.952. The Alabama Department of Public Health reports that 9,355 of them are presumed recovered. 106,198 Americans have died in the global pandemic,

Congressman Robert Aderholt represents Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District. He is Alabama’s longest-serving member of the House of Representatives.

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Aerospace and Defense

Brooks is excited by America’s return to space

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) praised the launch of American astronauts on American rockets from American soil—the first such launch in a decade. The USA finally has put astronauts in space. SpaceX accomplished the feat on Saturday.

Congressman Brooks said that the Tennessee Valley is excited by the launch.

“The Tennessee Valley is the birthplace of America’s space program and Huntsville is proudly nicknamed the ‘Rocket City,’” Rep. Brooks said. “I well remember the earth-shaking, dish-rattling Apollo rocket engine tests on Redstone Arsenal just a few miles from our home. I also proudly remember 1969, when our community’s rocket engine work came to fruition with landing and walking on the Moon.”

“I again feel great pride in America’s space accomplishments,” Brooks said in a statement. “There hasn’t been an all-American launch in a decade.”

Brooks said that the successful launch “signals a resurgence of America’s human space flight preeminence.”

“NASA and SpaceX have teamed to launch American astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, the same rocket that successfully flew uncrewed in March 2019,” Brooks explained. “Bob and Doug will embark on a 19-hour journey to the International Space Station where they will spend between one and four months onboard.”

“The Tennessee Valley stands ready to again do our part in making this launch and future launches successful,” Brooks concluded.

This is the first time in history, that NASA astronauts have launched from American soil in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station.

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“Today a new era in human spaceflight begins as we once again launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil on their way to the International Space Station, our national lab orbiting Earth,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I thank and congratulate Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, and the SpaceX and NASA teams for this significant achievement for the United States. The launch of this commercial space system designed for humans is a phenomenal demonstration of American excellence and is an important step on our path to expand human exploration to the Moon and Mars.”

Known as NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, the mission is an end-to-end test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations. This is SpaceX’s second spaceflight test of its Crew Dragon and its first test with astronauts aboard, which will pave the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“This is a dream come true for me and everyone at SpaceX,” said Elon Musk, chief engineer at SpaceX. “It is the culmination of an incredible amount of work by the SpaceX team, by NASA and by a number of other partners in the process of making this happen. You can look at this as the results of a hundred thousand people roughly when you add up all the suppliers and everyone working incredibly hard to make this day happen.”

President Donald J. Trump (R) and Vice President Mike Pence (R) were both on hand to watch the launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on Saturday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“It’s incredible — the technology, the power. I’m so proud of the people at NASA — all the people that worked together, public and private,” Pres. Trump said. “When you see a sight like that, it’s incredible. The power of that machine and the danger — no matter how you figure. When you — when you hear that sound, and you hear all of that — the roar — you can imagine how dangerous it is. When you feel the shake — and we’re very far away, but you feel the shake over here — it’s pretty — pretty amazing. A beautiful sight. A beautiful ship, too. That’s really a beauty. Considered a beauty. I would say it’s a beauty.”

“I speak to him all the time. Great guy,” Trump said of Musk. “He’s one of our great brains. We like great brains. And Elon has done a fantastic job. But that was a beautiful sight to see, and I hope you all enjoyed it. And we’re going to be saying a few words inside, so I’ll see you inside, okay? Thank you very much. A very great honor to have you here.”

“You know, four years ago, this place as essentially shut down,” Trump said. “The space program was over. The shuttle program was dead. One of the Secret Service men said they were here with the past administration — I won’t tell you who — and they were here to shut down the facility. And now we’re the leader in the world again. And this is just the beginning. They’re going to Mars. They’re going to the Moon, but they’re going to the Moon in order to go to Mars. It’s a platform.”

“It’s difficult to put into words how proud I am of the people who got us here today,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “When I think about all of the challenges overcome – from design and testing, to paper reviews, to working from home during a pandemic and balancing family demands with this critical mission – I am simply amazed at what the NASA and SpaceX teams have accomplished together. This is just the beginning; I will be watching with great anticipation as Bob and Doug get ready to dock to the space station tomorrow, and through every phase of this historic mission.”

SpaceX controlled the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Control Center Firing Room 4. SpaceX has leased the former space shuttle control room as its primary launch control center.\

NASA teams are monitoring space station operations throughout the flight from Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew program at:

https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

The United Launch Alliance is also working on a platform to launch men into space with the Dreamliner and NASA itself is doing testing on the Space Launch System which will launch astronauts into space in the Orion module that is also undergoing final testing.

Congressman Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District.

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