PRIORITIES

Bring integrity back to Washington

I’m working hard to bring integrity back to Washington and back to Alabama politics. The people of Alabama have been embarrassed by corruption and a string of ethics investigations and convictions of people they placed into positions of power and trust. They deserve better. We all deserve better.

We are all tired of politicians who have been bought and paid for by special interests and who view the world through a partisan lens instead of considering the best interest of those they are supposed to represent. I’m proud to work for the betterment of all of the people of Alabama without regard for partisan politics.

Throughout my career, I have tried to demonstrate honesty, integrity and character while treating everyone as equals. I not only fulfilled my term as U.S. attorney, but continued as a special prosecutor to ensure the successful prosecution of two men who bombed a place of worship, killing four innocent little girls.

When I was sworn in as a Senator, I swore an oath to the Constitution. I vowed to protect the people of the United States against all enemies. I take that oath incredibly seriously and strive to not only represent all the citizens of Alabama, but do so with integrity.

Health care: We can’t go backward

Millions of Americans have obtained health care through the Affordable Care Act. Reasonable people on both sides of the aisle know the law, which brought the level of uninsured Americans to a record low, needs improvement.

However, I am disturbed about repeated efforts to repeal the bill or weaken it, leaving as many as 32 million more Americans without insurance, driving up rates for others and likely leading to the closure of more rural health care facilities vital in many regions of Alabama. That is a nonstarter. I adamantly oppose any proposal that does not protect Alabamians from rising healthcare costs, higher premiums, and out-of-pocket expenses while ensuring those with preexisting conditions cannot be denied coverage or charged more.

I believe:

  • Health care is a right, not a privilege limited to the wealthy and those with jobs that provide coverage.
  • Coverage must meet basic standards that protect individuals. Nobody should have to sell their house because a family member has cancer. A “cheap” plan that won’t cover preventative care, serious illness, pharmaceutical coverage, mental health, maternity care, birth control or other care for women is a sham. So is a policy that nobody can afford.
  • No woman should be denied coverage of services based on the religious beliefs of her employer.
  • We must ensure that quality health care is available not only in our cities, but in rural areas as well. As pointed out recently by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, “Alabama’s rural hospitals have been struggling for years, largely due to inadequate reimbursements, low volume and high operating costs.” Since 2010, five rural hospitals have closed in Alabama, leaving residents without local care. As Rep. Sewell notes, “We need more robust Medicaid funding in Alabama if our rural hospitals are to survive.”
Economy

Economy

The most productive, innovative people I know are entrepreneurs who have had the courage to turn an idea into a business that makes their community better and grows jobs. Small businesses are truly the backbone of the American economy. We must support the growth of small and mid-sized businesses that make up our communities here in Alabama. We need to streamline regulations and reduce the impediments to their success.

Education is the key

We must invest sufficient resources to ensure that our educational system provides the skills, knowledge and tools necessary for our children to succeed in a 21st Century economy. Further, we must focus on life-long training and education that meets the needs of employees and employers as the economy continues to grow and change. Providing a quality education to all children is the key to a long-term thriving economy.

While our economy has generally recovered from the depths of the Great Recession, some people have been left behind. All Americans should have a place in this economy, and tax breaks or loopholes for the wealthiest among us hurt our ability to invest in education and other needs for lower to moderate income families. It is unconscionable to talk about lowering taxes on the wealthy while cutting funding for education, nutrition, childcare, housing and infrastructure—the very things that empower people to participate meaningfully in our economy and our democracy.

When Franklin Roosevelt proposed the New Deal, much of our state was in abject poverty, without electricity or even clean water. We must remember that those advancements were the result of U.S. government investments in the people of Alabama to improve the infrastructure of the state while creating jobs and improving our standard of living.

I believe that Washington can still work for the people to ensure wider economic prosperity and the American Dream of ensuring our children have a better life than we do.

A Living Wage

People in Alabama should not have to work two or three jobs just to provide food, housing and other necessities for their families, often foregoing healthcare and other needs. I strongly support ensuring working Alabamians receive a living wage for their hard work. It is past time. They are then less reliant on the government and those dollars help lift the economy.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

Today’s champion for equal pay is Lilly Ledbetter and her battle for equality in Gadsden, Alabama. I am committed to extending the spirit of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to make it mandatory that two people, doing the same job with the same qualifications, are paid equally – regardless of their gender.

Environment

Environment

I want to be perfectly clear: I believe in science.

The consequences of our unchecked use of fossil fuels for our planet and our health have been clear for decades. Period. Clean air and clean water are not controversial. They are essential to our health, our prosperity, and our quality of life. We should be encouraging investment in renewable energy and conservation as ways to create new jobs and make ourselves energy independent.

Having said that, I fully appreciate and understand the impacts that environmental regulations have had on many people and businesses. I am the son of a steelworker and the grandson of a coal miner. I have enormous sympathy with the families in our state that have seen their incomes decline or their jobs vanish as coal prices have dropped. Rather than promise that miners can return for generations to dangerous, scarcely regulated jobs, I believe America must step up to provide a safety net of health care and job retraining for these workers and prepare all children in Alabama for a 21st century economy.

America is great when it accepts and shoulders the responsibilities that come with being the leader of the free world. Unfortunately, President Trump and many of his nationalist advisors seem determined to wrap us in our own cocoon. By withdrawing from the Paris Accords, the President has moved us further from the international community. I know that we can provide economic prosperity to our citizens AND be a beacon of democracy and human rights for the world.

Criminal Justice

State and local government spending on jails and prisons has risen at more than three times the spending on education in the last two and a half decades. We can do better. We must do better.

More spending on education could result in less spending on prisons.
While I sought harsh punishments for violent offenders as U.S. attorney, not all cases require severe sentences. My hands were tied by mandatory minimum sentences during my time with the Justice Department. Judges and prosecutors should be given flexibility and be empowered to decide the fate of those before them in the justice system.

As both a former federal prosecutor and practicing attorney, I disagree with the attorney general rolling back sentencing reform efforts. Those sentencing reforms reduced the prison population, saving money that could be better utilized to provide education and services to families.

I support continued efforts at sentencing reform and back creating options for alternative sentencing, seeking to rehabilitate those in the justice system instead of sending all of them to prison at a high cost to their families and to taxpayers.

These reforms are vital as Alabama officials contemplate how to address a prison population that is at almost twice its intended capacity, possibly costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars to build more prisons.

Along with sentencing reform, we must reduce sentencing disparities that see a disproportionate number of black and Latino Americans sentenced to prison. People of color make up 67 percent of the prison population, even though they make up only 37 percent of the population of the United States.

I also support modifying the three-strikes law to provide alternatives to lifetime sentences for men and women convicted of non-violent offenses capable of returning to their families and to society as productive citizens.

We must ensure the safety of our citizens while exploring smart justice in order to provide alternatives to expensive lifetime incarceration.

Civil Rights

I was born just outside of Birmingham in Fairfield, Alabama in 1954 and came of age during the height of the heinous hatred and violence of 1960’s Alabama. Along with the horrors of racial discrimination, I had a front row seat to the bravery and persistence of the American heroes of the Civil Rights Movement –many of whom became friends and mentors.

For me, those formative years forged my values and a deep sense of responsibility to fight for what’s right and to treat everyone with dignity and respect as fellow human beings. I followed those values to law school to learn to fight for justice. I am proud of my service as U.S. Attorney, and am proud to have successfully taken on the Ku Klux Klan, terrorists like Eric Rudolph, and many others who sought to use fear, hatred, and violence to inhibit the rights of others.

I believe that we are all created equal in the eyes of the Lord and the law. While we have made progress on civil rights as a nation, we cannot be complacent with continued threats to equality and justice. The racially motivated Charleston church massacre and Charlottesville are stark reminders of that continued threat. I believe that the United States of America is a land of laws, justice, freedom, equality, and opportunity, and I am dedicated to working for what’s right in the Senate – whether it’s popular or not.

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