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Last updateFri, 19 Sep 2014 1pm

Alabama Delegation Divided on Arming Syrian Rebels

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Wednesday, September 17 Congressman Bradley Byrne (R from Montrose) spoke on the House floor in support of an amendment to authorize the arming and training of Syrian rebels as part of the strategy to defeat the barbaric Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) joining Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D from Selma) in support of President Obama’s Syria/Iraq strategy.  On the same day, however, Congressman Mo Brooks (R from Huntsville) spoke in opposition to the same measure.

Representative Sewell said in a statement after the vote, “I support the President’s request to train and equip moderate Syrians outside of Syria pursuant to a strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS. The depravity of ISIS’s actions demands strategic action from the United States and our international partners. This is why I supported the bipartisan McKeon Amendment to the Continuing Resolution that provides Title 10 authorization for the Pentagon to arm, train and equip appropriately vetted members of the Syrian opposition to combat both ISIS and the Syrian President Bashar Assad. To achieve a lasting solution, I believe that Syrians should be on the front lines defending their own people against the aggression of ISIS and the oppression of the Assad regime. ISIS poses a serious threat to our national security and to do nothing is unacceptable. This is the most responsible course of action.”

Representative Brooks said, “I just voted against authorizing President Obama to raise, train and arm a rebel army to fight in Syria’s civil war.  I have many reservations about this strategy. To name a few, if America recruits, trains and arms a rebel army in Syria, there is a high risk that the President’s rebel army will ultimately be a foe of the United States, with American weapons once again being used against America and our allies. Additionally, the President promises that there will be no American combat troops in Syria. If the President will never use America’s military superiority to ensure victory in Syria, then America should not embroil itself in Syria’s civil war.”

Congressman Byrne said, “I believe we must do everything we can to defeat this vile enemy known as ISIL. Time is of the essence here. With each passing day, ISIL continues to get stronger.  The President has finally asked for a very limited authorization, not of force, but for training and supplying. Based upon the information that I’ve received, I believe arming and training Syrian rebels is an important first step.”

Congressman Brooks said, “I emphasize that today’s vote does not retard in any way, shape or form the President’s ability to apply American military force, or a multi-nation coalition’s force, to defeat the Islamic State. The question and vote Congress faced was limited to whether it is in America’s best interest to raise, train and arm a rebel force to fight in Syria’s civil war. I do not believe it is.”

Rep. Bryne said, “Just a few weeks ago, I joined Chairman McKeon and a few other colleagues on a trip to the Middle East. While there we met with numerous foreign leaders and defense officials. One thing became very clear: there is regional interest and support for defeating ISIL, but they are waiting on our leadership.”  “Now I believe arming and training the Syrian rebels to be a necessary step, but I do not believe it alone will be sufficient. Just this morning Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey expressed that more action will likely be needed.”  “Our enemy should not just be ‘degraded’ or ‘contained.’ Our enemy must be defeated. In order to accomplish that objective, more action will be needed including overt help from Sunni Muslims in the region and air attacks from the United States.  It’s also important to note the safeguards Chairman McKeon has written into this amendment. This amendment requires that each fighter be thoroughly vetted by the Department of Defense and that regular progress reports be provided to Congress.”

The amendment was sponsored by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R) and would authorize “the Secretary of Defense to train and equip appropriately vetted elements of the Syrian opposition and other appropriately vetted Syrian groups or individuals.” The amendment also requires that the Administration prepare detailed reports and progress updates on the vetting process and monitoring procedures for Congress.

Rebels revolted against decades of rule by the Assad family in the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2012. Since then the loose collection of rebels have seized vast swaths of disputed territory in Syria.  The largest such group, ISIS/ISIL invaded Western Iraq in June and has begun exterminating Christians, other religious minorities, and their opponents on both sides of the border.  Assad and Iran both call for a united effort against ISIS…..a move that would almost certainly give Assad a victory in the Syrian Civil War which has claimed over 150,000 lives.  President Obama has rejected that strategy in favor of supporting Syrian rebels who are supposedly at war with both ISIS and Assad.

Based on original reporting by the Associated Press, President Obama’s Syria strategy suffered a setback on September 9 when the head of one of Syria's largest rebel groups was killed in a suicide bombing along with other rebel leaders and many of his top commanders and supporters.  Hassan Aboud of Ahrar al-Sham was the leader of an ultraconservative Syrian rebel group.  The bombing occurred in the northwestern town of Ram Hamdan in the Syrian province of Idlib.  Ahrar al-Sham is an ultraconservative Islamist group, but has worked with more moderate rebel groups trying to oust President Bashar Assad and has fought ISIS.

The Syrian rebels amendment was just part of the bigger H.J. Res 124 – Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015 funding package.

Rep. Sewell said, “Today, I voted in favor of the Continuing Appropriations Resolution 2015, because it ensures that hard-working Americans and their families can continue to have access to the government programs and services they and their families depend upon. In addition to funding government operations through December 11, 2014, this bill includes additional funding to address the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, the U.S. border agencies efforts to control the influx of child migrants, and the extension of the Export-Import Bank. I am glad that a bipartisan agreement was reached today to address these three urgent issues and avoid the needless uncertainty and economic harm caused by a government shutdown.”

President Obama was asking for funding to send up to 3,000 U.S. troops and medical personnel to West Africa to fight the growing Ebola plague there. 

Some conservatives led by Freedomworks had opposed extending the decades old Export-Import bank.

The resolution passed in the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives with a vote of 319-108 and has been sent to the Democratic controlled U.S. Senate for final approval before going to the President’s desk.

 

Bachus Praises Passage of Bipartisan Bankruptcy Reform Bill

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, September 16, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bipartisan financial institutions bankruptcy reform bill that was introduced by Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R from Virginia), U.S. Representative  Spencer Bachus (R from Vestavia) , and Ranking Member John Conyers (D from Michigan).

The three veteran legislators introduced a joint statement on the legislation following the vote of the committee:  “We strongly support the Committee’s passage of the bipartisan Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act today. This bill was carefully calibrated to strengthen our nation’s bankruptcy laws and to ensure that the bankruptcy process is well equipped to resolve companies of all operations and sizes. This legislation enhances the Bankruptcy Code and its ability to resolve financial institutions in an efficient and value-maximizing manner for the benefit of the U.S. and global economies, employees, creditors, and customers.”

According to information provided by U.S. Representative Bachus’s office, the legislation draws on lessons learned from the financial crisis of 2008.  Then the existing bankruptcy process was not adequately equipped to deal with the special challenges posed by distressed and failing financial institutions.  At that time Rep. Bachus was the Ranking Member on the House Financial Services Committee and played an integral role in deliberations over the federal government’s emergency response to the crisis.

The Financial Institutions Bankruptcy Act of 2014, if ultimately passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, would establish a special process to facilitate an orderly resolution of failing financial firms through the bankruptcy code.

Congressman Bachus is the Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, which held numerous hearings with experts in bankruptcy law during the development of the legislation.

During the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009 a number of banks, including Alabama based Colonial Bank collapsed in a very short period of time and government regulators were forced to handle the transfer and liquidation of numerous financial institutions all at the same time in the unexpected financial crisis.

Congressman Bachus is retiring at the end of this year after 22 years serving the people of Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District. Representative  Bachus’s portrait was recently unveiled at the Capital.

Representative Terri Sewell (D from Selma) said on Facebook, “Congratulations to my friend and colleague Rep. Spencer Bachus on the unveiling of his portrait! He will truly be missed in the halls of Congress.”

The next U.S. Representative will likely be either Republican Gary Palmer or Democrat Mark Lester.  Palmer is the longtime President and co-founder of the Alabama Policy Institute. Lester is a former U.S. District Attorney in Arkansas and longtime Birmingham Southern College history professor.

 

Alabama Leaders Salute Constitution Day

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, September 17 marked the 227th anniversary of the adoption of the United States Constitution.  Several of Alabama’s elected leaders took time out from their busy days to comment on this key moment in American history.

Congressman Mike Rogers (R from Saks) said in a prepared statement, “Today marks the 227th anniversary of the ratification of the United States Constitution. I join my fellow Americans in celebrating this important document which continues to serve as the blueprint for America written over two centuries ago by our Founding Fathers.  Like all East Alabamians, I will fight for and defend our Constitution. Americans expect their government to adhere to the principles laid out in this important document. As Americans, we cherish our freedoms and we must protect them.”

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R) from Alabama said on Facebook, “On this day in 1787, the Constitution of the United States of America was signed in Philadelphia.”

U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R from Montrose) said in a statement, “Constitution Day was formally established by federal law in 2004, but schools, colleges, and civic organizations have been recognizing this special day for decades. Constitution Day is a great opportunity to highlight America’s most important and oldest living document. Our Constitution has always been a symbol of freedom for the United States, as well as people around the world.”

Rep. Byrne wrote on Facebook, “In honor of Constitution Day, I held a video chat conversation with students at Baldwin County, JU Blacksher, Foley, Davidson, Baker, and Saraland High Schools. It is important that our future leaders understand the meaning of our Constitution, so they can continue to protect and defend our nation's founding document.”

U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R) from Huntsville said on Facebook, “Today we commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution and honor the document that guides our nation. I encourage everyone to re-read the Constitution today.”

Rep. Byrne wrote, “It worries me when elected officials today try to ignore or disregard the Constitution in order to advance certain political goals. The Founders included a clear system of checks and balances to make sure no one part of the government becomes too powerful. When that system is broken or compromised, it runs in the face of our Founding Fathers.  From birth we have been a nation that guarantees our citizens’ very basic rights. And our government, as its very core function, is supposed to keep these rights secure. Our government does not create its own powers. Our government only gets its powers from the citizens’ consent. That is why our Constitution is so important.”

The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mike Hubbard (R from Auburn) said on Facebook, “Despite what President Obama says, no pen will ever take the place of our Constitution. It was, is, and always will be the law of our land.”

 

Mike Hale Addressed Greater Birmingham Young Republicans

By Brandon Moseley 
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, September 11, Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale addressed the Greater Birmingham Young Republicans at their monthly meeting in Birmingham at Pale Eddie’s Pour House, 2308, 2nd Avenue North.

Sheriff Mike Hale (R) is seeking re-election in November in a Jefferson County that has been trending heavily toward Democrats since 2008.  President Obama carried Jefferson County in both 2008 and 2012.  Dozens of Republican officeholders were swept out of office in the last elections in Jefferson County, fueled by a pro-Obama wave.

Sheriff Hale urged Republicans to come out and vote in the November election to support himself and other Jefferson County Republican candidates including himself and Jefferson County judicial candidates.  Hale said he knows that Governor Bentley is still going to be the Governor after the election, Gary Palmer is going to represent the Sixth District in Congress, and Jeff Sessions is still going to be our Senator but many races in Jefferson County will be decided by Republican turnout.

Hales said that he is a strong Second Amendment supporter.  Hale said it is important to have a strong pro Second Amendment sheriff because ultimately the sheriff is the last line of defense of our gun rights.  If the worst were to happen and the Federal government strips citizens of their right to keep guns, the sheriff can simply deputize the people of the county so that they can keep their weapons.  It is also important that he be re-elected so that the GOP has one of the three seats on the committee that oversees elections in Jefferson County.

Sheriff Hale said that there is a lot of dissatisfaction in the courthouse with Democratic control but it is up to groups like the Young Republicans to go out to the people and motivate them to come to the polls in November to elect Republicans.

Former Jefferson County Drug Court Judge Davis Lawley also addressed the GBYR and he told them that it is very important that they re-elect Mike Hale as Sheriff.  Lawley said that re-electing Hale, “Is even more important than my race.”  Lawley said that he lost his race in the Obama coattails of 2012, but is running again.

Lawley said that a lot of people were elected then simply because they had a D behind their names without regard for their judicial abilities.

Lawley said that there is a lot of people including many lifetime Democrats who do not like the way that Jefferson County’s courts are being run and urged Republicans to get behind their judicial candidates.

Jefferson County Chief Deputy Randy Christian was also in attendance and he told the group that it is good to see that the Republican Party is in good hands going forward.

This month the GBYR asking attendees to bring a pet product to the meeting to benefit the Birmingham Humane Society.  Last month the group collected laundry detergent for a local homeless shelter.

This month, the GBYRs will have a service opportunity at the Jimmie Hale Mission - Shepura Men's Center.  The group’s scheduled serving times are Tuesday, September 23rd from 4:30 - 5:45

GBYR Chair Jackie Curtiss said, “We need 5-7 volunteers for meal serving time. Please RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .”

Curtiss said two GBYR members are running for office this year.  “If you are interested in helping Joel Blankenship (Jefferson County Tax Assessor) or Darius Foster (State House) win in November, please contact Jackie (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) or Marshall (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

Curtiss also announced that the group is holding a YR Trivia Night later in the month.

Curtiss said that prospective members should contact our Secretary Ward Henneker, for membership information (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

In August, the group heard comments from Alabama Political Reporter Editor Bill Britt.

In the Alabama Republican Party the Young Republicans state Chairperson has a permanent seat on the state steering committee.

 

Concentrated Poverty and Lack of Affordable Health Care Revealed in Census Survey

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—According to a Census Bureau report released Tuesday, more than one-in-five working-age Alabamians lacked health coverage in 2013.

The Census Bureau has also ranked Alabama as the seventh poorest state in the Nation.

The survey found that overall, more than one in eight Alabamians lacked health insurance last year. This recent estimate is based on a new survey and cannot be compared to previous years, according to the Census Bureau.

The new survey will provide a baseline for the Census Bureau to track changes in the number of people without health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. The current data does not reflect individuals in states with expanded Medicaid, because parts of the Affordable Care Act were not fully implemented at the time of the survey.

However, in state’s like Alabama where the Governor and the Republican Supermajority have vowed not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, the statistics do have merit, today and for the future.

Kimble Forrister of the Arise Citizens' Policy Project  (ACPP), commenting on the survey said, “Alabama can and should do more to make sure health insurance  affordable, especially for people who are struggling.”

According to Arise, the new survey does not reflect the enrollment of nearly 100,000 Alabamians in the new Health Insurance Marketplace, but next year’s Census data will.

However, again, the Governor and the Republican Supermajority chose not to build a state-run Health Insurance Marketplace, deferring to the Federally run program.

Forrister applauds the State’s efforts in “covering children and seniors,” but adds that, “Now it’s time to do the same for working Alabamians.” He also stresses the need to expand Medicaid, “which would help more than 340,000 Alabamians get health coverage.”

The 2013 Census Report also showed the more than one-third of Alabamians live in concentrated “poverty areas.”  According to the Census Bureau, poverty areas are census tracts which have a 20 percent poverty or higher. The State ranks as the Nation's seventh poorest, with 19 percent, or nearly 900,000 Alabamians living below the Federal poverty line. More than 60 percent of that number live in “poverty-dense census tracts.”

Alabama Possible Executive Director Kristina Scott, said of the Census survey, “Concentrated poverty is linked with reduced educational and employment opportunities, higher crime rates, poor health outcomes, and hindered asset building. In today’s interconnected society, that negatively impacts all of us.”

In 2010, so-called “Pro-Business Republicans" were swept into power by the people of the State. Some studies have shown that the people of the State would approve the expansion of Medicaid as long as it is not seen as being a part of Obamacare.

The Republican Supermajority came to power blaming the President for all the State’s ills and in the recent Republican primaries each candidate try to “Out Obama,” his opponent.

That being the mind set of current State leadership a handful of statistics will not move the group of politicos to address the suffering of the State’s poorest citizens.

 

 

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