Sweet Home Politics

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017   |   Español

Author Archives: Bradley Byrne

  1. Questions Linger on Taliban Prisoner Exchange (Bradley Byrne)

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    Two weeks ago, five mid to high-ranking Taliban officials were exchanged for U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held captive in Afghanistan for the past five years. I don’t blame President Obama for wanting to bring home an American prisoner of war, but I do have serious concerns about how it happened.

    It is a longstanding policy that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists, and for good reason. I worry this exchange has set a dangerous precedent, and that our military members serving in the Middle East, and Americans the world over, are in greater danger today due to the release of these hardened terrorists. The Taliban now has even greater incentive to capture Americans and use them as bargaining chips.

    Last week, I had the opportunity to question Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. While I appreciate Secretary Hagel spending over five hours answering questions from committee members, his testimony actually raised more questions than it answered.

    I specifically pressed Secretary Hagel and Department of Defense General Counsel Stephen Preston about why the Obama administration ignored a provision in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires the Secretary of Defense to notify Congress 30 days before releasing prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. President Obama consulted with Congress in the months leading up to the Osama bin Laden mission, so why couldn’t his administration keep Congress apprised of this exchange?

    Every American should be concerned that the President believes he can unilaterally decide when he will ignore the law. It is eerily reminiscent of the Nixon administration idea that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” President Obama’s continued disregard for the rule of law is now affecting our national security.

    When I held town hall meetings in Monroeville, Flomaton, and Lillian earlier this month, many of those in attendance expressed the same concerns.  I understand this prisoner exchange has already occurred, and there is little Congress can do to change that. But I believe we must get answers to ensure that a future exchange of this nature doesn’t happen again. Our men and women in uniform deserve it.

  2. Committee Passage of Fisheries Bill Means Relief (Bradley Byrne)

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    So often, it seems that Washington operates outside of the realm of common sense. The Red Snapper issue is no different, with the federal government refusing to sample on reefs for this reef fish, hurting our coastal communities. Thankfully, last week the House Natural Resources Committee, of which I am a Member, passed the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act. This bill, which reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, was last reauthorized in 2006 and has jurisdiction over all federal fisheries – including authorizations for setting Red Snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico each year.

    More than anything, our fishermen and coastal communities need relief. This bill will grant it to them.

    First, the bill repeals Section 407(d) of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which imposed inflexible quotas on Red Snapper fishing. Earlier this year, I introduced legislation called the SNAPR Act which mirrors this language in order to give the courts added flexibility to restore our season back from the devastating 9 days that was ordered this year.

    Second, this legislation extends the Alabama state water boundary from the current 3 nautical miles to 9 nautical miles from shore. Fishermen’s groups have made the case for this reform, arguing that it would effectively give the state more control over its own resources and the option for a more reasonable fishing season as well as creating equality in state water boundaries between all the Gulf states. We know that the federal government’s incompetence in regulating this issue is the root of this problem. This is a step in the right direction to direct more power back to the states.

    Finally, I am pleased the committee adopted my amendment to remove stock assessment and data collection responsibilities for reef fish currently held by the federal government. Local experts like Dr. Bob Shipp at the University of South Alabama have long argued that the federal government’s data collection practices are flawed and do not accurately reflect the Red Snapper stocks in the Gulf. By removing this authority from the federal government and placing it in the hands of the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, a state-run organization, we will clear the way for the Gulf Council to be able to rely on better data to make decisions moving forward.

    This fight is not over, but we are making progress. We are forcing the federal government to give back power to those who know what they are doing and have a vested interested in caring for these stocks. I’m glad to restore common sense into the regulatory process and provide relief to our fishermen who are in dire need, and I’ll keep working to make steps forward on this issue.

  3. A Time to Build (Bradley Byrne)

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    Last week was National Transportation Week – an excellent opportunity for our community to have a discussion about transportation needs in Southwest Alabama. Most of us agree that our most pressing need is to build a new I-10 bridge that is able to handle increased vehicle traffic as we continue to attract more businesses to relocate to our community. Everyone living in Southwest Alabama who has tried to cross the Bay at rush hour understands that this is an issue of critical importance.

    In honor of National Transportation Week, I convened a group of nearly 50 local officials, business leaders, and community voices at the AIDT Maritime Center overlooking the current I-10 route to have a roundtable discussion on where we are today on the project, and how we can all work together to finally build this bridge. We had a very productive discussion with agencies like ALDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) to gauge their needs and roadblocks and to hold these entities accountable. After hearing these agencies make their case, I called for a July 1 deadline to release an Environmental Impact Study – the current document that we are waiting on the FHA to finish so this project can move forward.

    We still face significant hurdles ahead. Our national infrastructure fund, the National Highway Trust, is in poor financial health. However, I believe this project is a national priority – one that demands urgent action. This stretch of the I-10 highway is the number one chokepoint from coast to coast. It’s clear that my challenge as our Representative in Washington will be to communicate the need for this project effectively and clearly to my colleagues. This is a top priority of mine heading into a potential Highway Bill reauthorization – the legislation passed every few years by Congress to maintain our roads and bridges.

    Now is the time to build. I feel confident that we are forging consensus and getting everyone in our community on board to push for this project. It will take a coalition of voices like those at our roundtable to make this finally happen. I’m more optimistic today than I was yesterday that progress is being made. With this meeting, I believe we are one step closer to making this project a reality. I’ll continue to be a positive, proactive voice bringing our community together in pursuit of this common goal that we share.

  4. Bipartisan Support for LCS Means Alabama Jobs (Bradley Byrne)

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    Last week, the House Armed Services Committee considered the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation that the committee passes every year to authorize funding and set policy for the military. The scope of this legislation is so wide, it typically takes well over 12 hours to complete committee consideration of the bill. Last Wednesday, we worked past midnight to make sure this bill was finished. Of importance to Southwest Alabama, the jurisdiction of this bill includes our Mobile-built Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which requires authorization by the Armed Services Committee every year to continue supporting the 4,000 jobs represented at Austal. I’m very proud that the committee passed this legislation authorizing construction on four LCS and including complimentary language about the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), boding well for the future of these ships built in Alabama’s First District.

    The consideration of this legislation was not without controversy, even in regard to the LCS. Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) offered an amendment that would have blocked all funding to the LCS pending a report from the Pentagon on a follow-on version of the ship, even if the report was late or incomplete. I argued that this amendment could have placed a devastating chokehold on construction of the LCS, unnecessarily slowing the delivery of ships to the Navy and risking the jobs housed here in Southwest Alabama. The amendment was defeated on a bipartisan basis.

    Although there were controversial amendment fights, I continue to be encouraged by the bipartisan atmosphere among the Members on the Armed Services Committee. Working through our differences, the Committee passed the NDAA by a vote of 61-0, giving the legislation strong bipartisan momentum as we head to consideration before the full House of Representatives next month. Every Member on this committee, Republican or Democrat, recognizes the critical function our military serves and the need for Congress to support its success. I’m proud to serve alongside these men and women.

    As we move forward with this fight to preserve the LCS, I am mindful of the fact that we still have work to do. However, I consider the passage of this legislation through our committee a substantial victory for the ship. It shows that the committee stands fully behind this program and recognizes its importance to the future fleet. It also underscores the need for Southwest Alabama to have a voice in this process, and makes me proud to serve as a member on the Armed Services Committee to represent our area. As we consider this legislation before the full House, I continue to be optimistic that we will be successful. I’ll keep working hard to preserve these important jobs for Southwest Alabama.

  5. A Busy District Work Period (Bradley Byrne)

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    This month, Members of Congress were given an Easter District Work Period of two weeks to travel home and be with their families, but also to spend two weeks hearing directly from their constituents on issues that matter to the future of our country. Every chance I get to spend time at home, I plan a very busy schedule in order to reach as many of my friends and neighbors as possible in Alabama’s First District. These two weeks were no different.

    The Wednesday before Easter, I hosted a joint town hall discussion with Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (FL-1). As a Member of Congress, it is one of my top priorities to ensure that the men and women who have bravely risked their lives in defense of our nation are treated with respect and dignity and receive the care they’ve earned in service to our country. Today, with a massive VA backlog and a quality of care that is sorely lacking, it is clear there is much more we must be doing in service of these individuals. I was glad to have Chairman Miller in Mobile to listen to Southwest Alabama veterans and learn what he and I can be doing to improve the quality of care for our veterans.

    I also had the privilege of traveling to Monroeville to participating in the unveiling of the ‘A Celebration of Reading’ statue and enjoying a wonderful rendition of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ It’s important to support reading and the arts, especially in Monroe County, which has a rich literary tradition.

    Last Tuesday, I was able to tour the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley. This campus is the future site of Airbus, which will play host to thousands of direct manufacturing jobs for Southwest Alabama residents. However, I learned Brookley’s potential goes far beyond one company. As suppliers move in to manufacture goods that will be used in the construction of Airbus airplanes, the multiplier effect for jobs and economic activity at Brookley will be tremendous. I’m very excited about the future at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, and I am glad I was able to learn how I can support its future development.

    I was also privileged to speak last Tuesday at the Mobile Chamber’s Annual Military Appreciation Luncheon at Battleship Park. There, I was honored to be among so many current and retired servicemen and women, who have sacrificed much in the defense of our country. My speech centered on the fact that a strong America means a peaceful world. As Vladimir Putin, China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea challenge our position as the world’s dominant power, it is more important than ever that we give our military the tools it needs to carry out the mission the American people have asked it to. As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I’m working to make tough choices and ensure that national defense is considered to be the top priority it should be by our legislators.

    Wednesday, I was proud to host House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy at Austal headquarters in Mobile to showcase the important Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Congressman McCarthy is a very important friend to have in our fight to preserve these jobs. As the third-ranking House Republican, he is charged with informing Members on how to build a conservative voting record and on the policy merits of each vote. I was pleased that Congressman McCarthy was impressed with our shipyard and expressed his support for fully funding this program that is vital to the Navy’s future. I look forward to working with Congressman McCarthy to advocate for these jobs in Congress.

    Thursday, I was pleased to host two town hall meetings in Baldwin County – one in Robertsdale, and one in Fairhope. To date, I have completed over twenty town hall meetings since being sworn-in this January. It’s important for me to hear directly from my constituents on the issues that are most important to them so that I can be a more effective representative for our area in Washington.

    It’s important for me to continue listening to your concerns so that I can be a more effective voice for our community in Washington. I am honored to represent Alabama’s First District in Congress, and I’ll continue working hard every chance I get to earn your trust as our Representative.

  6. Red Snapper Season on the Line (Bradley Byrne)

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    On March 27, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the federal government failed to properly regulate the established quotas for Red Snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Based upon this finding, earlier this month the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted in an emergency meeting to shorten the 2014 Red Snapper season from its original 40 days to 11 days this summer.

    Unnecessarily stringent restrictions on fishing have effects far beyond our charter boats, commercial vessels and private anglers. Local bait and tackle shops, gas stations and marinas, boat dealers, restaurants, grocery stores and the hospitality industry all bear the impact of overly restrictive fisheries management policies. Tourists book trips months in advance of the summer season to fish on charter boats, stay in local residences and hotels and eat at local restaurants that all feature Red Snapper on the menu.

    The Alabama coast clearly depends heavily on this industry, and an 11-day Red Snapper season would be a devastating blow to these coastal communities. This decision merely highlights the fact that our regulatory system in the Gulf of Mexico is unquestionably broken, and that significant reforms must be made to achieve any kind of a workable solution.

    Earlier this month I introduced the Supporting New Avenues for Protecting our fishermen’s Resources (SNAPR) Act to provide relief to these coastal communities reliant on a more reasonable Red Snapper season. This bill is simple: it repeals the mandatory quotas under the Magnuson-Stevens law governing Red Snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. By repealing this section which played a significant part in the Court’s decision, I am confident we will give the Gulf Council sufficient flexibility to reverse their decision limiting the Red Snapper season to 11 days. We have to take action to alleviate this burden on our Gulf coast communities. I’m working with my colleagues on the House Natural Resources Committee to communicate the urgent need for reform to provide emergency relief right away to these fishermen.

    In the long term, I firmly believe that in order to reach a solution that works, the federal government must be cut out of this process entirely. NOAA has proven it is completely incapable of providing sound science that accurately portrays the health of the Red Snapper fishery in the Gulf, and the federal government’s regulatory framework is clearly flawed. As we move forward with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act reauthorization in the Natural Resources Committee later this year, I’ll look for solutions that return more power to the states and give fishermen a Red Snapper season based in reality, not flawed science.

  7. House Passes Responsible, Balanced Budget (Bradley Byrne)

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    Our country is on an unsustainable fiscal course. On our current trajectory, the debt will reach nearly 170% of our national Gross Domestic Product by 2040. In just 10 years, we will spend more on servicing the debt than we will on national defense. With China already holding $12.3 trillion of our debt, a 47% share, there is no question we must take bold action to stem the flood of spending and debt that threatens to pull our country under.

    Last week, the House considered several different budget proposals as we worked to keep our promise to pass a responsible and balanced budget that will reduce spending and shrink the debt. My first choice was the Republican Study Committee budget – a bold and aggressive plan that would balance the budget in just four years. Unfortunately, when this budget failed to garner sufficient votes for passage, I supported the next best alternative – the House Budget Committee proposal that cuts $5.1 trillion in spending and brings the federal budget into balance by 2024. Notably, the President’s own budget proposal was offered – a liberal wish list of more tax-and-spend policies that never balances – and only 2 Members of the whole House voted to support this unrealistic approach.

    We elect leaders to go to Washington to achieve results and make tough decisions, not beat around the bush without ever effecting positive change. I didn’t come to Washington to continue the status quo. I fully realize that we have to start making tough choices about what we can fund, and what we simply can’t. Many Members of Congress want to have it both ways, talking about fiscal responsibility without having the courage to make tough choices. That wasn’t the mission I was given by my friends and neighbors in Southwest Alabama when I was elected.

    Now, Harry Reid and Senate Democrats say they will refuse to pass a budget this year because it’s not politically convenient. My colleagues and I in the House believe that’s just no way to govern. We will continue promoting solutions that will make America a strong and prosperous nation again. We believe that’s what we were sent here to do. We’re not giving up on this fight, and we won’t back down.

  8. Vibrant Maritime Economy Means Alabama Jobs (Bradley Byrne)

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    “Whoever rules the waves rules the world.” Alfred Thayer Mahan, an American naval strategist and historian once called the most important American strategist of the nineteenth century, wrote these words as he referred to the importance of projecting power abroad through naval dominance. This mantra still holds true today not only as we build our future naval fleet, but also in terms of trade, as we build a diverse and thriving domestic maritime economy.

    In 1920, Congress passed the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known today as the Jones Act after its author, Senator Wesley Jones (R-WA). This law applies to all aspects of the United States Merchant Marine, private vessels that constitute the lifeblood of American shipping power. On a domestic fleet of over 40,000 vessels, the industry moves all goods that are shipped between American ports and constitute the building blocks of American economic dominance, allowing us to ship these goods anywhere in the world.

    The Jones Act mandates that all goods sent from an American port and bound for another be owned and operated by American merchants – and for good reason. This has a huge positive effect on local economies, ensuring that American ships and American jobs are being kept at home for commerce between American ports. Nationwide, the Jones Act is responsible for 480,000 jobs and a gross economic output of over $92 billion annually. In Alabama’s 1st District, the Act supports 5,230 jobs, representing over $450 million in labor income, making us twelfth out of 435 districts for jobs related to Jones Act industries.

    The Jones Act is also vitally important to our national security, which is why every modern administration has supported it.  American shipyards, vessels and sailors provide for secure domestic commerce on our waterways and provide our Navy with a reserve component in times of war. During Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (2002-2008), U.S.-flag commercial vessels, including ships drawn from the domestic trades, transported 57% of all military cargoes moved to Afghanistan and Iraq. As important, the American domestic fleet also provided fully half of the mariners used to crew U.S. government-owned sealift vessels activated from reserve status, which carried an additional 40% of the total cargoes delivered.

    In Southwest Alabama, we know that shipping is a crucially important part of our local economy. The Port supports 127,500 direct and indirect jobs, with $506 million in direct and indirect tax impact, and a total economic value of $18.7 billion. 25.3 million tons of cargo passed through the Port in 2013 – nearly 225,000 containers. As a major outlet for trade and shipping in the Southeast, this is an important selling point for our community as we continue to invite new manufacturers like Airbus to locate to Southwest Alabama.

    As our Representative, I am committed to supporting this industry with a major economic impact in our area. A vibrant and thriving domestic shipping economy means Alabama jobs, greater prosperity, and opportunity for all of my constituents. I’ll continue working with these important job providers to ensure America remains a global economic powerhouse through a strong shipping and shipbuilding presence.

  9. Ukraine an Opportunity and a Test (Bradley Byrne)

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    As the situation in Ukraine has unfolded over the past weeks, I have watched closely as a member of the House Armed Services Committee. I am gravely concerned with developments that continue to expose this Administration’s dangerously anemic foreign policy. Ukraine is a sovereign nation whose people have demonstrated a strong desire to align themselves with the West. Yet today, we stand on the precipice of losing this nation to the growing influence of Moscow.

    I am discouraged that the President has not acted more forcefully to protect these people from the expanding power of Vladimir Putin in the region, projecting timidity in the face of Moscow’s strength. Bullies like Putin do not respond to simple rhetoric. A series of actions, including President Obama’s acquiescence on a missile defense program in Poland, and inability to make progress in Syria or Iran, have caused Putin to judge us as weak. He is taking advantage of a perceived opportunity to capitalize on a listless American foreign policy, and so far, he is succeeding.

    I strongly believe the United States can and should do more to ensure that Russia does not continue to expand its sphere of influence in this region. That is why I was proud to support the Ukraine Support Act. This package is a mixture of foreign aid for the people of Ukraine and sanctions that target the Russian economy and its leaders. This is a positive step forward. It sends a message to Putin and the Ukrainian people that Congress firmly backs the democratic process in Ukraine and opposes any meddling from Moscow.

    The situation in Ukraine is an opportunity for the United States to assert ourselves on the world stage as the beacon of democracy that we are. The people of Ukraine are with us. Vladimir Putin will continue to test our resolve, but we must rise to the challenge. Moving forward, I will work with my colleagues to promote policies that protect the people of Ukraine and our interests in the region, and place a check on the expanding power of Putin.

  10. Checks and Balances Crucial for Good Governance (Bradley Byrne)

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    Last week, the House of Representatives focused our efforts on legislation to target executive overreach, fulfilling our constitutional responsibility as a check on the power of the Executive Branch. The Founding Fathers constructed our government in three branches, giving each the duty and the authority to provide checks on the other, so that no one branch could become too powerful. As a Member of Congress, I know the Legislative Branch cannot be passive in the face of an executive who is seeking to use executive orders to accomplish administratively what he cannot legislatively.

    This issue is far-reaching. President Obama has used his executive powers to influence immigration policy, refusing to deport individuals who have broken the law and are in our country illegally. He has waged a ‘war on coal’ through the Environmental Protection Agency, driving up home energy costs in Southwest Alabama and across the country at the very time when many families are still struggling to make ends meet. Additionally, he has granted exemption after exemption to his healthcare law, which is falling apart at the seams. Just last week, the Administration attempted to sweep a politically motivated exemption under the rug, granting a ‘hardship exemption’ under the individual mandate. But this issue has been building for decades, with Presidents of both parties expanding the scope of the executive at the expense of the Congress and the courts.

    The need for action is clear. That’s why I was proud to support two measures this week that will provide a check on the expanding power of the President. I voted in favor of H.R. 4138, the ENFORCE the Law Act, which gives standing to Congress to file suit against the Executive Branch for failure to execute the laws passed by the Legislative Branch. Additionally, I was an original cosponsor of H.R. 3973, the Faithful Execution of the Law Act, which passed this week. This bill forces the Administration to report to Congress and the American people if they refuse to fully enforce any law.

    Congress must remain vigilant to prevent the President from acting outside the boundaries of the Constitution. The Administration cannot continue to disregard the intent of the Founding Fathers, placing political convenience above the law of the land. I will continue to work with my conservative colleagues to make a stand against this misuse of power, placing a forceful check on the President and bringing the federal government back into constitutional balance.