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Republicans appear to have votes to block witnesses, end impeachment trial

Brandon Moseley

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Late Thursday, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, announced that he would not support a resolution calling for witnesses to be called in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump (R).

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., made the announcement ahead of Friday’s expected vote on the resolution.

“I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense,” he said in a statement.

Alexander is believed to be the key swing vote that will allow Republicans to defeat the motion to call witnesses and allow for the introduction of new evidence not called for in the House investigation. That vote is expected today. The acquittal of President Donald J. Trump (R) is expected to inevitably follow that vote. If witnesses are allowed this trial could drag on for weeks.

Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, is expected to vote with the GOP to bar witnesses and move on to acquittal. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, is expected to vote with the Democrats on the witness issue.

The Democratic House managers want to be able to call witnesses, particularly former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Bolton has reportedly written in his unreleased tell-all book that Trump withheld military aid to the Ukraine to force the country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden (D) and his son Hunter Biden and their dealings with Ukraine while Biden was the Vice President. House Democrats claim that that constituted an impeachable abuse of power.

Trump Victory National Finance Committee member former State Representative Perry O. Hooper Jr., R-Montgomery, told the Alabama Political Reporter that this was a huge win for the President’s defense team.

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“Thank you Senator Lamar Alexander for standing up for President Donald J. Trump,” Hooper said. “Senator Alexander’s vote to not have additional witnesses kills the motion. For the motion to pass it would need 51 votes. The vote was 50:50.”

Alexander’s vote is believed to be the key swing vote that will allow the motion to carry. That vote is expected today. The acquittal of President Donald J. Trump (R) is expected to inevitably follow that vote.

“Finally the vote for acquittal will come soon and Congress will get back to work implementing the Trump agenda – infrastructure, immigration reform and affordable healthcare,” Hooper told APR.

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Hooper called for Senators who are Democratic candidates for President of the United States to recuse themselves from voting on Trump’s guilt as they have a conflict of interest.

“The Democrats have a big problem on their hands,” Hooper said. “Senators. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado are all running for the Democratic Party nomination for president. How could these individuals have any hope of impartiality when their vote would influence the 2020 election by removing their biggest political opponent?”

Trump is the third President of the United States to be impeached. No President has ever been convicted of anything by the Senate. Trump was impeached by the smallest margin in American history. Alexander Hamilton warned of partisan impeachment in Federalist 65.

Original reporting by the Washington Post and NBC News contributed to this report.

 

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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Plaintiffs ask for panel of judges to reconsider ruling on Alabama voter ID law

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Plaintiffs suing Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill alleging the state’s voter ID law discriminates against minorities on Monday asked a panel of judges to reconsider an appeals court decision that affirmed the law. 

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on Monday filed a petition Monday asking that all of the judges on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reconsider the July 21 decision by a panel of three judges that fell 2-1 in favor of the state’s voter ID law. 

The 2011 law requires voters in Alabama to show a valid, government-issued photo ID to vote. The NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries and several minority voters sued, arguing that lawmakers knowingly crafted the law to prevent Black people and other minorities, who are less likely to have such photo IDs, from voting. 

The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in its July 21 opinion found that the burden of Alabama’s voter ID law is minimal, and does not“violate the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, nor does it violate the Voting Rights Act.”

Merrill has argued that the state’s voter ID law is meant to deter in-person voting fraud and that the state makes available mobile photo ID units able to provide voters with the necessary IDs.

District Judge Darrin Gayles in his dissenting opinion wrote that voter fraud in Alabama is rare, and that “while there have been some limited cases of absentee voter fraud, in-person voter fraud is virtually non-existent.”

Gayles wrote that Merrill presented evidence of just two instances of in-person voter fraud in Alabama’s history.

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“Despite the lack of in-person voter fraud, Secretary Merrill claims Alabama enacted the Photo ID Law to combat voter fraud and to restore confidence in elections — a dubious position in light of the facts,” Gayles wrote.

Gayles noted that former State Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, before his retirement in 2010, sponsored similar voter ID bills.

“During this time, Senator Dixon made repeated comments linking photo identification legislation to race, including ‘the fact you don’t have to show an ID is very beneficial to the Black power structure and the rest of the Democrats’ and that voting without photo identification ‘benefits Black elected leaders, and that’s why they’re opposed to it,'” Gayles wrote in his dissenting opinion.

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“It is clear from the statements of the legislators who enacted Alabama’s photo ID law that they passed it for the unconstitutional purpose of discriminating against voters of color,” said LDF senior counsel Natasha Merle in a statement Monday. “As long as this law is intact, Black and Latinx Alabamians will continue to be disproportionately excluded from the state’s electoral process.”

Attorneys in the filing Monday told the court that “roughly 118,000 Alabamians lack qualifying photo ID, and Black and Latinx voters are twice as likely to lack qualifying ID as compared to white voters. Given this evidence, a trial was required to determine whether HB19 violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.”

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Congress

Jones: Trump executive orders are “more for show than actual help for the Americans people”

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones during a livestreamed press briefing. (OFFICE OF SEN. DOUG JONES/FACEBOOK)

Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones had harsh words for recent executive orders that President Donald Trump signed in lieu of continuing to pursue a bipartisan legislative COVID relief package. Jones said that Trump’s executive orders extending coronavirus relief are “more for show than actual help for the American people.”

“While the President is attempting to give the appearance that he is leading the cavalry coming to the rescue of the American people, these executive orders are anything but that,” Jones said. “The executive order to extend the now-lapsed emergency unemployment assistance will cut benefits by $200 a week or more for Alabamians and asks states, whose budgets have already been burdened by the pandemic, to foot part of the bill. The payroll tax collection moratorium is a way for President Trump to follow through with his promise to defund Medicare and privatize social security by putting the solvency of these programs at risk while still leaving open the possibility that those taxes may need to be paid in a lump sum next year.”

“By signing these executive orders that are more for show than actual help for the American people, President Trump has confirmed that his administration has not acted in good faith and had no intention of reaching bipartisan agreement on legislation that would benefit all Americans,” Jones said. “The Senate, which absolutely should not have recessed without passing a relief package, needs to immediately return to Washington to pass legislation that provides adequate support for the Americans who are suffering as a result of this virus as well as our economy. We need to come to a bipartisan compromise that deals with the full slate of urgent issues facing our country: we need a national strategy for COVID testing and contact tracing, to extend federal eviction moratoriums, to provide much-needed funding for state and local governments, and to ensure schools have the resources they need to reopen safely — among so many other needs.”

Both parties wanted a fifth coronavirus aid package passed before Congress broke for August recess, but negotiations broke down between Democrats and the White House over the size of the aid package.

“It’s completely inexcusable that Mitch McConnell waited over two months after the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act to begin negotiations on this relief package, knowing full well that many of the programs that Americans have relied on during this crisis would expire at the end of July,” Jones continued. “The failure to negotiate an adequate bipartisan deal speaks to a broader breakdown in leadership in Washington, and I strongly urge my colleagues to put partisanship aside to come together to pass a relief bill as soon as possible. Lives and livelihoods are at stake, and each day we spend arguing over politics is another day that our institution fails the American people.”

Some Democrats have threatened to challenge the president’s executive actions in court. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Democrats would have a lot of explaining to do if they challenged the White House’s efforts to get enhanced unemployment benefits to Americans.

“We’ve cleared with the Office of Legal Counsel all these actions,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “If the Democrats want to challenge us in court and hold up unemployment benefits to those hardworking Americans that are out of a job because of COVID, they’re going to have a lot of explaining to do.”

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The president’s executive actions would provide $400 in increased federal unemployment benefits, which is down $200 from the $600 enhancement that they were getting.

“We thought $400 was a fair compromise. We offered to continue to pay $600 while we negotiate, and the Democrats turned that down,” Mnuchin said.

The Democratic proposal that passed the House, the HEROES Act, would have added $3.4 trillion to the national debt.

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Jones is trailing Republican candidate Tommy Tuberville in the race for U.S. Senate according to a poll released last week.

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Congress

Brooks: Democratic relief proposals would make Americans more dependent on government

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks

Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, on Thursday said on social media that Democrats believe that redistributing wealth and expanding government handouts will help them in the 2020 elections.

“Socialist Democrats want as many Americans as possible dependent on the government,” Brooks said. “They perceive that redistributing wealth and expanding government handouts will help Democrats tremendously in the 2020 elections. The more Americans voting for a living rather than working for a living, the better the Socialist Democrats’ election chances.”

Fox Business Channel commentator Stuart Varney shared similar views to Brooks.

“The left doesn’t want you to work for your money, they want you to be dependent on a government handout which they control,” Varney said. “This is economic fantasy land, wealth confiscation, trashes the constitution. Money printing on a massive scale invites inflation. Socialism really is dangerous to your financial health.”

“You can see where the left is headed: tax the rich, print money, make us all dependent on the government,” said Varney. “They want to salvage political power from a government-ordered shutdown.”

In 1980, the entire national debt was just $903 billion. Since then, federal spending, much of it mandatory spending, has ballooned the size of government and the national debt. The debt has now grown to $26.6 trillion.

This year’s budget deficit is nearly triple what the whole debt was back then and Congress is debating another coronavirus aid package that would be paid by deficit spending.

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One issue that Congress has been grappling with is how much money should the government give to people impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

Conservatives are concerned that borrowing more money for more and more aid will grow the debt while discouraging people from working.

“A possible consequence of a poorly targeted, expansive government stimulus package?” said Heritage Foundation Research Fellow in Economics, Budget and Entitlements Rachel Greszler. “If you continue excessively high payments, then you end up just trading a global health pandemic for a fiscal crisis.”

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“It’s neither fair nor helpful to tantalize unemployed workers with unemployment benefits equal to 150% or 200% of their usual earnings, because long-term unemployment leads to lower incomes and opportunities, as well as a decline in physical and mental health,” Greszler explained. “Policymakers should be focused on helping Americans get safely back to work, including granting new flexibilities to allow workplaces to adjust to the conditions of COVID-19.”

“Humans are hard-wired to be productive,” Greszler concluded. “They will be far better off if policymakers focus on enabling work opportunities—such as removing barriers to working, trading, innovating, and investing—than on incentivizing unemployment.”

Brooks is in his fifth term representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. He has no Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election. Brooks previously served in the Alabama House of Representatives, the Madison County Commission and as a prosecutor.

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National

Chamber of Commerce stresses need for Congress to pass coronavirus aid

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Capitol building (STOCK PHOTO)

The executive vice president and chief policy officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Neil Bradley, on Saturday expressed concerns that Congress still needs to pass a coronavirus aid package, even though President Donald Trump did issue executive orders on the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“While well-intentioned, today’s Executive Orders are no substitute for Congressional action,” Bradley said. “For schools to get the resources to safely reopen, for small businesses to receive aid to stay afloat, to remove the threat of frivolous lawsuits, for families and our economy to get the support this moment requires, Congress must act. There is no alternative to Congress legislating and no excuse for their inaction.”

Both Republicans and Democrats had wanted to pass an economic aid deal, but the two sides wildly disagreed on the size of the aid bill and what aid should be given. Republicans favored a $1 trillion aid bill, while House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion package. The two sides failed to come to any compromise during a late Thursday night meeting at the White House.

On Saturday, President Trump responded by signing executive orders to extend unemployment benefits, suspend payroll taxes and offer federal eviction and student loan relief. The president announced the executive actions from his private club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he was spending the weekend.

Critics question the constitutionality of the president’s unilateral actions and if the relief goes far enough.

The unemployed will continue to get enhanced compensation of an additional $400 a week. This is down from the $600 boost they had been receiving under the CARES Act, which expired Saturday. Also gone is the Small Business Administration loan program: the Payroll Protection Program. The PPP was very popular with the business community.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization representing companies of all sizes across every sector of the economy.

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