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Congress

Sewell votes to keep government open, extend programs

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Terri Sewell (VIA CSPAN)

Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, this week voted for a measure to continue funding for the programs contained in the 12 annual appropriation acts for FY2020. The bill, HR8337, passed the House in a final vote of 359 to 57 and 1.

“I voted for today’s legislation to avert a catastrophic government shutdown and fund the critical programs that my constituents depend on,” Sewell said.

“At a time when our country is in the middle of a pandemic and millions of Americans are losing their homes and livelihoods to natural disasters, including hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, our government needs to be fully funded and operational so that the American people can get the resources they need,” Sewell said. “I am particularly proud of the provisions Democrats secured to save our seniors from a Medicare Part B premium hike, protect health, housing, and other programs for Veterans, and to provide repayment relief for our health care providers at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The resolution provides funding for critical government programs through Dec. 11 and extends vital health, surface transportation and veterans’ programs.

“While I’m disappointed that Senate Republicans and White House didn’t come to the table to agree to pass the long-term FY2021 funding bills that the House passed earlier this year, I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure a long-term funding bill is passed before this CR expires in December,” Sewell said. “Additionally, an agreement on further Coronavirus relief legislation is desperately needed. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and as the pandemic continues, municipalities, health care providers, essential workers, and small businesses are running out of resources from the CARES Act and relief is needed now.”

HR8337 included a list of programs that Sewell worked directly with House appropriators to secure in the FY2020 funding bill, which are extended in Tuesday’s continuing resolution. These include:

  • Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Loans
  • Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) program
  • Commodity Supplemental Food program
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program
  • 2020 Decennial Census Program
  • Community Health Centers
  • Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program
  • Special Diabetes Program
  • Grants for transportation to VA medical facilities for Veterans living in “highly rural” areas
  • Childcare assistance for Veterans while they receive health care at a VA facility
  • An initiative to assess the feasibility of paying for veterans in highly rural areas to travel to the nearest Vet Center, a community-based facility that provides readjustment counseling and other services

The bill also funded the Department of Labor’s homeless veteran reintegration programs, such as job training, counseling and placement services.

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Additionally, the legislation:

  • Ensures USDA can fully meet the demand for Direct and Guaranteed Farm Ownership loans, especially for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers
  • Allows increased flexibility for the Small Business Administration to process certain small business loans and SBA Disaster Loans
  • Provides a one-year extension for surface transportation programs, including federal highway, transit, and road safety programs
  • Reauthorizes the Appalachian Regional Commission for one year
  • Delays a scheduled $4 billion reduction in funding for disproportionate share hospital (DSH), which are hospitals that serve large numbers of low-income and uninsured patients
  • Protects Medicare beneficiaries from the expected increase in Part B premiums for 2021 that is likely to result from the COVID-19 public health emergency
  • Provides repayment relief to health care providers by extending the time in which they must repay advances and reducing the interest rate under the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment program until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Allows Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to use the full amount available in the Disaster Relief Fund to respond to declared disasters
  • Increases accountability in the Commodity Credit Corporation, preventing funds for farmers from being misused for large oil companies
  • Ensures schoolchildren receive meals despite the pandemic’s disruption of their usual schedules, whether virtual or in-person, and expands Pandemic EBT access for young children in childcare

It has been 20 years since Congress has passed a balanced budget.

Sewell is running for her sixth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. Sewell has no Republican opponent in the Nov. 3 General Election.

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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

Congressman Mo Brooks says Speaker Pelosi is “unfit for office”

“Pelosi and Washington socialists are still trying to overthrow President Trump,” Brooks said. The proposed law would not give Congress the power to “overthrow” a president.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks speaks on the floor of the U.S. House.

Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, said that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, was “unfit for office” after the speaker announced that House Democrats were introducing legislation that would create a commission that would give Congress the power to assess whether the president is capable of carrying out his or her duties.

“Pelosi and Washington socialists are still trying to overthrow President Trump,” Brooks said. “Their first coup, impeachment, failed. Now, Pelosi is unconstitutionally attempting another coup. Pelosi is unfit for office. She should be removed as House speaker immediately. Her lawlessness is a serious threat to our republic.”

The proposed law would not give Congress the power to “overthrow” a president. Instead, it would create a commission in line with the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides Congress the authority to set out processes to determine whether the president is capable.

The amendment, ratified after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, lays out the presidential line of succession, but it also says a vice president and a majority of the Cabinet can declare that a president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

The same amendment gives Congress the power to appoint a group in place of the Cabinet to make the same declaration, though Congress has never outlined or created such a body and that part of the 25th Amendment has gone unused. The created commission would take over the power of the cabinet, and Congress would not be able alone to invoke the 25th Amendment.

The vice president would still need to sign on before the president could be declared incapable. The president could also declare himself capable and retake power unless the commission, vice president and two-thirds of both the House and Senate agreed he’s unable.

The commission wouldn’t have unilateral power.

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President Donald Trump has recently recovered from COVID-19. Pelosi has suggested that the president is in an “altered state of mind” due to the treatments he is taking for the virus.

“The public needs to know the health condition of the President,” Pelosi said. “When was his last negative test to make a judgement about the actions that we take after that. Come here tomorrow, we will be talking about the 25th Amendment.”

Pelosi claimed on Friday that her legislation is not just about Trump.

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“This is not about President Trump,” Pelosi said. “He will face the judgement of the voters. But he shows the need for us to create a process for future presidents.”

Trump responded on Twitter, “Crazy Nancy Pelosi is looking at the 25th Amendment in order to replace Joe Biden with Kamala Harris,” Trump tweeted. “The Dems want that to happen fast because Sleepy Joe is out of it!!!”

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland.

“In times of chaos, we must hold fast to our Constitution,” Raskin said. “The 25th amendment is all about the stability of the presidency and the continuity of the office.”

Brooks represents Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. He faces no Democratic challenger in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Congress

Doug Jones campaign: Alabama can’t wait for COVID-19 relief

Sen. Doug Jones’s Senate campaign blasted the president’s decision to cut off COVID-19 aid talks.

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones during a livestreamed press briefing. (JONES CAMPAIGN/FACEBOOK)

President Donald Trump said Tuesday on Twitter that he was cutting off negotiations on another coronavirus stimulus bill and will instead move forward to the election without addressing the issue of COVID-19 aid.

Sen. Doug Jones’s Senate campaign blasted that decision.

The president “will not accept the COVID-19 relief plan that’s been under discussion for the past few weeks – instead, Trump decided all negotiations over COVID-19 relief would be postponed until after the election,” the Jones campaign wrote.

“It’s bad enough to reject a comprehensive plan for COVID-19 relief – one that would have extended unemployment benefits, provided funding for testing and PPE for schools and health care heroes, and protected our struggling small businesses – simply because it was proposed by Democrats,” the campaign said in a statement. “But to give up on negotiations entirely, to hold relief hostage over the outcome of the election? Doug won’t stand for that, and none of us can sit on the sidelines and let it happen.”

“This is a perfect example of why we need Doug in the Senate. He promised to be an independent voice for Alabama, and he’s put people before party in every vote he’s taken,” the Jones campaign argued. “Doug will always vote with the President (no matter who it is!) when it’s good for Alabamians, for Americans, and against the President when it’s not. But Tommy Tuberville has said he ‘has Trump’s back, 100%,’ and he’s never expressed a single independent thought about anything the President has done or said. Now, the President’s political games with pandemic relief are no exception – Tuberville has Trump’s back, not ours.”

“People’s lives and livelihoods must always come before politics, especially when it comes to pandemic relief,” the Jones campaign said.

The Jones campaign also announced that they were collecting petition signatures to demand that the president take action now.

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The stocks market dropped Tuesday afternoon after Trump ordered his staff and Republicans to end stimulus negotiations until after the November election.

The Dow Jones index dropped 376 points following the announcement. The DOW closed down 1.3 percent. The S&P 500 dropped 1.4 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite finished down 1.6 percent.

Before that statement, the market was soaring anticipating a deal on the coronavirus aid package. All of those gains were quickly erased and the markets plunged in to negative territory, a 600 point Dow drop from the day’s high.

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“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump said on Twitter.

The announcement comes just hours after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell called for more stimulus, saying it was necessary for an economic recovery. He said the risk of doing too little in terms of stimulus was far greater than the risk of doing too much.

“Our Economy is doing very well,” the president claimed. “The Stock Market is at record levels, JOBS and unemployment…also coming back in record numbers.”

Unemployment in September was 7.9 percent, down sharply from the peak during the COVID-19 forced economic shutdowns earlier this year but still extremely high. Hundreds of thousand continue filing for unemployment across the country, and food insecurity is growing.

Recent polling has Jones trailing former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville 54 to 42 percent.

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Congress

Brooks introduces American Jobs First Act

Brooks said that some of America’s largest companies have engaged in the practice of American worker replacement, which Brooks called “unpatriotic.”

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama

Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, last week introduced the American Jobs First Act to overhaul the H-1B visa program, which Brooks says too often harms American workers.

H-1B visas are used to employ temporary foreign workers in specialty fields that require bachelor’s degrees or equivalent work experience.

“The Tennessee Valley Authority callously gut punched tech workers this summer when they tried to replace Americans with cheap foreign H-1B workers,” Brooks said. “Thanks to President Trump, TVA board member heads rolled and TVA reversed course. But, changes in the law are necessary to ensure American workers don’t face replacement by cheap foreign labor in the future.”

The H-1B visa program is supposed to give employers a route to recruit high-skilled talent they need if, and only if, they cannot find a qualified American worker, Brooks said.

“Due to abuses, the H-1B visa program has become a cheap foreign labor pipeline that major companies abuse to increase profits, at American workers’ expense. Such H-1B abuse has happened at some of the country’s largest corporations,” Brooks said. “Disney, AT&T, Verizon and Bank of America are but a few players caught in the game of U.S. worker replacement. Due to intense pressure from big business, H-1B reform has been stalled for years, but Americans are hurting, and they cannot wait any longer for relief. Firing American workers only to hire cheap foreign workers to replace them is not only unpatriotic, it’s downright repulsive!”

Brooks said his American Jobs First Act will bring much needed reform and oversight to the H-1B visa program to ensure that U.S. workers are no longer disadvantaged in their own country.

“To end the allure of cheap foreign labor, the bill will require employers to pay any H-1B workers a minimum amount of $110,000,” Brooks said. “And to stop American worker replacement, my bill will require companies seeking H-1B labor to not have fired any American workers for at least two years without just cause and commit to not firing any workers without just cause for two years after. Commonsense H-1B reform measures like these, alongside ending the unfair Optional Practical Training (OPT) and diversity visa lottery programs, all serve to promote American interests when it comes to immigration.”

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The American Jobs First Act is aimed directly at combatting American worker replacement like the Tennessee Valley Authority attempted this summer. As was widely reported, TVA planned to layoff at least 120 of its American technology workers with the intention of replacing them with lower cost foreign H-1B guest workers.

Chris Chmielenski is the Deputy Director of NumbersUSA, America’s largest grassroots pro-American worker advocacy group.

“When it comes to protecting American workers, there is no one better than Congressman Brooks. He understands the competition high-skilled Americans face from cheaper H-1B workers, and he finds solutions,” Chmielenski explained. “The American Jobs First Act makes a number of much-needed reforms to the H-1B program, including setting a wage floor of $110,000 for all H-1B workers so that employers who say they can’t find an American to take a job have to put their money where their mouths are. It ends the outrageous Optional Practical Training program that actually gives employers a tax break for hiring foreign workers rather than Americans. It also ends the Visa Lottery that hands out 50,000 green cards, with work permits, based on a randomized computer drawing, to people with no qualifications other than their national origin and a high school degree—or the equivalent, whatever that is. We applaud Congressman Brooks for reintroducing the American Jobs First Act, and we urge Congress to pass it. American workers deserve it.”

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Brooks said that some of America’s largest companies have engaged in the practice of American worker replacement, which Brooks called “unpatriotic.”

In 2015, Disney fired 250 American workers only to replace them with lower cost foreign H-1B guest workers. Many of the American Disney employees actually had to train their foreign replacements. AT&T, Verizon and Bank of America have done the same thing.

The American Jobs First Act original cosponsors included Congressmen Matt Gaetz, R-Florida; Paul Gosar, R-Arizona; and Lance Gooden, R-Texas.

The American Jobs First Act stops employers from hiring foreign H-1B workers if they have recently, or plan to, furlough their U.S. workers. It would also require employers to pay their H-1B workers more than their American workers to ensure foreign labor is only used when absolutely necessary.

Additionally, the legislation would suspend the F-1 OPT program, which grants all foreign students extendable work permits and exacerbates job market competition among American graduates; and it ends the unfair diversity visa lottery program, which fails to serve U.S. interests by issuing 50,000 green cards to foreigners from around the world regardless of their qualifications

“Defending Americans from cheap foreign labor competition should be bipartisan,” Brooks said. “I urge my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, to put their differences aside and stand up for American workers.”

Brooks is in his fifth term representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. Brooks has no Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Congress

Brooks votes against resolution condemning QAnon conspiracy theorists

To this point Brooks has not publicly explained why he voted against the resolution.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a resolution condemning the conspiracy theory movement known as QAnon, but Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks was one of 17 Republicans who, along with Rep. Justin Amash, L-Michigan, voted against it.

H.R. 1154 passed on Friday 371-18 with one person voting present, and 33 Republicans abstaining.

QAnon is a right-wing conspiracy group that believes, among other things, that a group of powerful politicians is involved in a child sex-trafficking ring.

Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Georgia, was one of the 18, but he later said that his no vote was an accident.

To this point Brooks has not publicly explained why he voted against the resolution.

“The resolution threatens protected speech (absurd as that speech may be), and its prescriptions for addressing QAnon aren’t appropriate for what we know about them & may make things worse,” Amash explained on Twitter. “These are conspiracy theorists who believe in a deep state that’s fighting against them.”

“In the middle of a global pandemic, while our cities are subjected to violence and hardworking Americans are watching their livelihoods be burnt to the ground by rioting, leftist groups,” Florida Rep. Daniel Webster told the Washington Examiner, “Democrats in Congress are giving legitimacy to fringe groups that peddle in conspiracy theories. I never thought I’d live to see this day — instead of passing a bill to renew the Paycheck Protection Program or condemning rioting, looting, and violence against law-abiding citizens, Democrats are railing against an internet group.”

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Rep. Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina, said in a statement while he condemns “in the strongest terms QAnon, Antifa, KKK,” the resolution “was yet another worthless messaging bill that does absolutely nothing to address the violence taking place in cities throughout our nation. … For Congress to pass a resolution condemning QAnon by name, but make no such mention of other violent organizations, is shameful.”

Reps. Jodey Arrington of Texas, Brian Babin of Texas, Rob Bishop of Utah, Michael Burgess of Texas, Warren Davidson of Ohio, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Drew Ferguson of Georgia, Bill Flores of Texas, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Steve King of Iowa, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Thomas Tiffany of Wisconsin also voted no on the resolution.

Many QAnon supporters have claimed COVID-19 is a hoax to protect the deep state and the secret cabal of Satan worshiping elites involved in the alleged pedophile ring who seek to subjugate the American people through microchipping. Some of them have suggested that President Donald Trump is faking the illness in order to arrest Hillary Clinton and expose the deep state pedophile ring. Some also maintain that Bill Gates invented COVID-19 to advance a microchipping program.

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APR has asked Brooks’ office for comment.

Brooks is in his fifth term representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District. He easily crushed his Republican primary opponent 80 to 20 percent, even though his opponent was endorsed by Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon and the powerful Alabama Farmers Federation.

The Alabama Democratic Party was unable to recruit a general election opponent for Brooks.

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