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Shelby says House has “a weak hand” in impeachment trial

Brandon Moseley

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Sunday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, appeared on ABC News’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos to discuss the impending trial. Shelby said at this point “the House had got a weak hand” and wanted the Senate to “re-try their stuff.”

Tuesday, Senators Shelby and Doug Jones, D-Alabama, will join their colleagues in the Senate as they hear the allegations brought by House Democrats against Pres. Donald J. Trump (R). This is only the third impeachment trial of a President in American history.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has suggested that the Senate could hold a trial without calling any witnesses, basing their decision on counsel arguments and the weeks of impeachment hearings that were already held in the House. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, are asking instead to be able to call witnesses, including witnesses that were not heard in the House proceedings. Democratic Senators are generally supportive of this request. Stephanopoulos confronted Shelby with comments that the Senator made in 1999 during the impeachment of Pres. William J “Bill” Clinton (D) in which Shelby called for witnesses at that trial and asked Shelby if he is for witnesses in this trial.

“The trial ought to be fair,” Shelby said. “I do have some observation though, at this point. They are early and not conclusive. One it looks to me, at this junction, like the House has got a weak hand. They’re wanting us in the Senate to open up the case and try everything re-try their stuff. We don’t know what’s going to come forth this week.”

“What we do this week and what we hear and what are the facts we hear will probably meet the test and determine whether we get additional witnesses that will help us make a relevant and a fair decision,” Shelby explained.

Stephanopoulos asked if former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s testimony was relevant to this case.

“Well, he could be,” Shelby answered. “He might be. Would he add anything? I don’t know yet. But I would be open to listening to the arguments. And I think that is the only way to be fair to both sides in this case”

“I think the House rushed to judgement on this,” Shelby said. “They could have pursued this a lot longer, but they made a political decision.? “They’ve got problems now and they want to unwind their problems.”

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The decision by the Senate on whether or not to call witnesses, including persons who did not testify during the House impeachment hearings, will decide whether this whole matter can be wrapped up this week or if it is going to drag on into February.

The Democrats in the House have filed two articles of impeachment against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

In the previous two impeachment trials, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson were both cleared of any wrongdoing. The Senate could find the President guilty of one or both of the alleged crimes and elect not to remove Trump from office. If Trump is removed from office, then Vice President Mike Pence (R) would become the 46th President

See the full ABC News interview: Here. 

 

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National

100+ clergy call on governor to take action on coronavirus effects in underserved communities

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Clergy with Faith in Action Alabama (FIAA), a federation of Faith in Action, are calling on Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to address the racial inequities in Alabama highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in a public petition that was sent to her office today.

“I am honored to join with more than 100 clergy across race and faith lines throughout the state to impress upon our Gov. Ivey to provide needed leadership to save the lives of our most marginalized,” said Dr. A.B. Sutton, Jr., pastor of Living Stones Temple in Fultondale and the chairman of Faith in Action Alabama’s board of directors. The future of our state depends on it.”

Among the demands in the letter, which has been signed by over 100 clergy, FIAA is calling on Gov. Ivey to commit to greater access to testing in African American and rural communities; to increase emergency resources to food banks, nonprofits and churches so that they can support individuals suffering from the economic effects of the coronavirus; and to support Medicaid expansion so that underinsured and uninsured Alabamians can gain access to affordable quality health care.

The petition comes three weeks after FIAA faith leaders met with Gov. Ivey, Dr. Scott Harris, director of the Alabama Department of Public Health and Gov. Ivey’s chief of staff Jo Bonner; and several weeks after an op-ed published on AL.comdemanded her immediate attention to this issue. Nearly half of the state’s COVID-19 deaths are African Americans, and layoffs from the coronavirus are more likely to happen in black communities.

Just last week, FIAA visited the Jefferson County Jail to distribute masks and hand sanitizer to incarcerated individuals through the LIVE FREE Masks for the People campaign. Inmates across the country have been unable to adequately distance themselves from potential virus carriers and are at a much higher risk for contracting it due to such close confinement.

“As faith leaders, we know that taking action on the issue of systemic racism is an essential way to give praise, honor, and glory to the God of Liberation,” said Dr. Sutton. “James 2:26 says that ‘Faith without works is dead.’ we are putting our faith into action. There is no clear sign as to when the pandemic will be truly be curbed. We cannot continue to act in ignorance when our people are dying.  We need Gov. Ivey to provide bold moral leadership to respond to this grave reality.”

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Economy

Ag commissioner encouraged by Trump order to DOJ to investigate packers for cattle market manipulation

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Rick Pate (R) thanked President Donald J. Trump (R) for asking the Department of Justice to investigate the Big Four meatpackers for possible market manipulation of the price that farmers and ranchers get for their beef cattle.

“I want to thank President Trump for asking the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to expand its investigation into allegations that large U.S. meat packing companies manipulated beef prices farmers received for their cattle at market. USDA has been investigating meatpacker pricing activity since last fall, after live cattle prices plummeted following the Holcomb, Kansas, meat plant fire,” Pate said. “On April 6th, I sent a letter to U.S. Senators Richard Shelby and Doug Jones requesting they join fellow U.S. senators calling on DOJ to investigate meat packing companies’ influence on the cattle market.”

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-Alabama) was part of a bipartisan group of 19 Senators who sent a letter to the DOJ urging the AG William Barr and the Department of Justice to investigate possible unfair manipulation of the live cattle markets to fix prices in favor of the packers and against farmers and ranchers.

Jones calls for investigation of potential price fixing by meatpackers

“Cattlemen across America seriously question the ability for their children to take over what are frequently multi-generational, family-owned operations that have served as the engines for their communities and our country’s food supply,” Jones and the Senators wrote. “The precarious market situation for feeders and producers could lead to a widespread collapse of this entire industry, making it susceptible to the forces of vertical integration, which may beset the industry far more quickly than once anticipated. It is critical for the DOJ to act expediently to investigate these concerning circumstances and evaluate potential competitive harms.”

“Four meat packing companies in the U.S. control more than 80 percent of the beef supply and there continues to be a tremendous gap between the cash cattle price farmers receive and the price consumers pay at the store,” Commissioner Pate wrote. “Since the coronavirus outbreak, boxed beef prices have more than doubled, while live cattle prices have dropped about 20 percent.”

Pate is optimistic that cattle farmers will benefit from the DOJ investigation.

“I am encouraged that the investigation seems to be moving forward,” Pate said. “It’s important that cattle farmers who work hard to produce the beef we all enjoy receive a fair price for their cattle.”

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The Senators were joined in urging for a DOJ investigation by 11 State Attorney Generals.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) said, “As a third-generation cattleman myself, I understand the stress many in the cattle business have faced for years. Cattlemen and cattlewomen across the United States are simply asking for transparency and accountability from our meatpackers in the beef business. I applaud Attorney General Eric Schmitt for showing leadership on this issue. It is important our farmers and ranchers understand that Missouri supports them.”

The Big Four meatpackers are: Tyson Foods, Cargill/Excel, JBS Swift, and National Beef.

R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America), a ranchers’ group, filed suit against the Big Four last year alleging illegal market manipulation and monopolistic behavior. R-CALF is urging Congress to bust up the large food processing companies.

Mike Callicrate is one of the co-founders of R-CALF USA and is a farmer-rancher and entrepreneur who owns a boxed beef company in Colorado Springs.

“National security is impossible without food security,” Callicrate told the Alabama Political Reporter. “The security of the State is impossible without food security. Globalization and multinational corporate control of our food systems has left us unable to feed ourselves.”

R-CALF USA believes that the Southeast region should have its own locally owned packing industry rather than being dependent on giant meatpackers located hundreds or even thousands of miles away owned by multi-national corporations.

“Job one should be for Alabama to build local/regional food infrastructure that connects Alabama farmers directly to Alabama consumers,” Callicrate told APR. “This will eventually eliminate the industrial model that is exploiting Alabama citizens and mining the State’s valuable resources. We must make future efforts bomb-proof . . . with a new commitment to antitrust law enforcement, and through support of our food dollars.”

Bill Bullard is the CEO of R-CALF USA.

“Covid19 has magnified a problem that has plagued the industry for years,” Bullard told APR. “We can not go back to where we came from. Restructuring is a necessity! “

COVID-19 exposed the danger of reliance on increasing larger and larger meatpacking plants that slaughter thousands of cattle each day with thousands of workers, many of them immigrants, working literally shoulder to shoulder disassembling animals often at breakneck speeds.

Ranchers group supports president’s order to keep meatpackers operating

Sunday afternoon, the Alabama Political Reporter interviewed Callahan Parrish, a 4th generation Cattle Farmer. Callahan also owns the Cullman Stockyard and is emerging as an Industry Advocate.

“The pandemic has unmasked many fundamental problems associated with the current beef production model. Industry infrastructure, competitive market access for our producers and food security issues top this list,” stated Parrish.

“The skeletonization of the downstream segments of our industry is the result of the packers’ efforts to vertically integrate the cattle industry as they have already accomplished in the hog and poultry industries,” Bullard said. “In a very short time, we’ve lost hundreds of thousands of cattle producers, tens of thousands of farmer-feeders (smaller feedlots), and hundreds of packers, not to mention the loss of local livestock auction yards.”

70 percent of the cattle processed by the big meatpackers is contracted in advance. Prices are determined in the cash or spot market. By hedging against the cash market in livestock auctions the packers are more easily able to manipulate that cash market R-CALF USA contends.

“Without robust competition, the hollowing out of our rural communities will continue,” Bullard said. “It is time we reversed the negative trajectory of our industry by rebuilding our industry’s competitive marketing channels. It is time for Alabama to take a lead in infrastructure overall.”

There are impediments to siting a new regional meatpacker in Alabama. Since John Morrell closed its packing plant in Montgomery in 1992 thousands of Alabama farms and ranches have gone out of business and the state has far fewer cattle than it did a generation ago. Most of the remaining farms and ranches in the state produce 450 to 650 pound feeder calves, not the 1100 to 1500 finished or “fat” cattle that the industry butchers. Order buyers purchase southern calves and ship them out west to Texas, Missouri, or the plains states for growing out and finishing.

That would need to change to support a meatpacker here. While an increasing segment prefers grass finished cattle, most American cattle since the 1950s are finished in feedlots on grain. In 1915 Alabama had 4.5 million crop acres in cotton alone. Today all the crops acres combined in the state are less than 1.5 million acres. Some industry experts say that it is easier to export Alabama calves to the grain than import western gran to Alabama cattle; however Alabama’s poultry farmers grow over a billion chickens a year. Most of the 150 million bushels of corn and 63 million bushels of soybean meal that the chickens eat is imported from out of state. There is also enormous potential for grass finishing in Alabama given the moderate winters and plenty of rainfall.

“In the midst of hardship, Alabama’s Cattle Producers and stakeholders are talking solutions . . . and that is real progress,“ Parrish stated.

(Original writing and research by Montgomery area writer Amy McGhee contributed to this report. McGhee’s parents own and operate an Angus beef cattle farm in Tennessee.)

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Congress

Byrne sues Speaker Pelosi to stop House rule changes

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, announcing that he is filing a lawsuit against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, alleging that the Speaker’s new coronavirus emergency rules allowing members of Congress to proxy vote violates the United States Constitution.

“The Constitution is clear that a majority must be present for the House to conduct business,” Rep. Byrne said. “Speaker Pelosi’s attempt to allow Democrats to cast multiple ‘proxy’ votes for their colleagues is a blatant violation of the Constitution. Under rules adopted last week, as few as 22 Democrats could claim a quorum and win a vote against all 197 Republicans. This scheme gives Pelosi and her lieutenants complete and dangerous unconstitutional powers. If Democrats won’t show up to vote, they should turn the speaker’s gavel over to Leader McCarthy and the Republicans who are actually willing to show up and work for the people they represent.”

Byrne is joined in this lawsuit by 20 other Republican members of Congress led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California). The suit has been filed in D.C. Federal District Court challenging the constitutionality of H. RES 965, the House Democrats plan to vote by proxy.

“This week, House Democrats will break over 230 years of precedent and allow Members of Congress to vote by proxy on the House floor,” leader McCarthy said in a statement. “This is not simply arcane parliamentary procedure. It is a brazen violation of the Constitution, a dereliction of our duty as elected officials, and would silence the American people’s voice during a crisis. Although I wish this matter could have been solved on a bipartisan basis, the stakes are too high to let this injustice go unaddressed. That is why, along with other members of the House and our constituents, I have filed a lawsuit in federal court to overturn Speaker Pelosi’s unconstitutional power grab.”

“Already, nearly 60 Democrats have written to the House Clerk to give their vote to another member, and there is one member who presently represents 5 congressional districts under this proxy scheme,” McCarthy continued. “Those numbers can and will grow, while the number of members who cast votes in person shrinks. Ultimately, as few as 20 members could control the vote of over 220 members under this rule for the foreseeable future. That is not only irresponsible leadership, it is patently unconstitutional, as 230 years of Congressional history and Supreme Court precedent make abundantly clear.”

“Worse, by changing the rules in a way that violates the Constitution itself, Democrats are creating a precedent for further injustice,” Rep. McCarthy said. “If their changes are acceptable, what stops the majority from creating a “House Rule” that stipulates the minority party’s votes only count for half of the majority party’s? This is not the representative democracy our Founders envisioned or what our Constitution allows. It is tyranny of the majority. The Speaker’s reckless and partisan decision to adopt proxy voting was done despite unified opposition from the minority and even members of her own party. This is a serious matter that will damage the integrity of the House’s actions now and in the future. While the Constitution allows Congress to write its own rules, those rules cannot violate the Constitution itself — namely, the requirement of actual assembly. Rapid and robust legal relief is necessary. The alternative — a small number of members dictating the businesses of the whole House while the people’s voice is diluted — is unacceptable and would only make it more difficult for Congress to respond in the national interest. We must assemble.”

Representing the plaintiffs is Chuck Cooper and Joel Alicea (lead counsel), and Elliott Berke (outside counsel). The plaintiffs are asking the Court to enjoin the use of proxy voting.

The complaint alleges that proxy voting was never before authorized by the House, is unconstitutional, violating the Quorum and Yeas and Nays Clauses contained in Article I, Section 5, among other provisions.

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The proxy voting was authorized due to a number of Democratic members not wishing to travel to Washington during the coronavirus pandemic claiming that they were fearful to attend due to health concerns. There was no proxy voting by members of Congress during the 1969 flu pandemic, the 1919 flu global pandemic which killed millions, or even during the Civil War when Confederate military forces threatened the Capitol. Being a member of Congress posed significant health risks in the earliest decades of this country due to problems with disease due to poor drainage at the site.

774 Americans died Tuesday from COVID-19, including 16 Alabamians, raising the American dead toll from the coronavirus to 100,579. 1,725,275 Americans have been diagnosed as infected with the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.

Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. Byrne is not running for re-election.

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Elections

National Right to Life Committee endorses Aderholt

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the campaign to re-elect Congressman Robert Aderholt, (R Haleyville) announced that the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has endorsed him for re-election to Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

“I am truly humbled to have the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee,” said Congressman Aderholt. “I have, and I always will, fight for those who are the most vulnerable among us. I cannot think of anyone more vulnerable than the unborn. The National Right to Life Committee is committed to this fight, and it is an honor to fight along side them. As I have said before, no argument on the Pro-Choice side can get around one fundamental fact, abortion stops a human heartbeat.”

The NRLC Committee commended Aderholt in its endorsement:

“National Right to Life is pleased to endorse you for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives,” the Committee wrote. “We strongly commend you for maintaining a perfect 100% pro-life voting record throughout the 116th Congress.”

“You voted in support of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” the endorsement letter continued. “This legislation would require that a baby born alive during an abortion must be afforded the same degree of care that would apply to any other child at the same gestational age. You support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This Act would protect unborn children at 20 weeks, a point by which the unborn child is capable of experiencing great pain when being killed by dismemberment or other late abortion methods. You oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortion, and you oppose taxpayer funding of abortion providers.”

“You are a strong advocate for life,” the Committee said of Rep. Aderholt. “This endorsement reflects your commitment to strengthening a culture of life throughout our nation and in the U.S. House. We look forward to continuing our important work with you to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family – unborn children, the medically dependent, and persons with disabilities, whose lives are threatened by abortion or euthanasia.”

“All voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to return you to the U.S. House, so that you can continue to work to advance vital pro-life public policies,” the endorsement letter concludes.

Robert B. Aderholt is a member of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, which has jurisdiction over funding the operation of the federal government. He serves as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. Aderholt also serves as a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee and the Defense Subcommittee. Aderholt is an advocate of fiscal responsibility, truth in budgeting and a federal government that operates within its means.

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Aderholt also serves as a commission member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (commonly known as the Helsinki Commission). The Helsinki Commission is comprised of 56 countries around the world that together monitors human rights in Europe and Central Asia.

Aderholt believes the federal government serves a critical role in assisting state and local projects regarding economic development. He support pro-growth initiatives that create jobs, strong immigration standards, and robust national security.

Prior to his election to Congress, Aderholt served as Assistant Legal Advisor to Governor Fob James (R) as well as Municipal Judge for the city of Haleyville, Alabama. Aderholt has a bachelor’s degree from Birmingham Southern College and a law degree from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. He was born on July 22, 1965, and raised in Alabama, Aderholt and his wife, Caroline, have two children.

Congressman Robert Aderholt is seeking his thirteenth term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

Aderholt faces a general election challenge from Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors.

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