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Tyndall AFB

Members of Congress to feds: Speed up Tyndall recovery

In a rare moment of bipartisanship during a fierce campaign season, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson joined Panhandle Congressman Neal Dunn to send a letter to the Department of Defense urging them to expedite repairs at Tyndall Air Force Base.

The base was critically damaged during Hurricane Michael.

The storm made landfall Wednesday near Mexico Beach, southeast of Panama City. Tyndall is directly in between the two cities and was in the path of Michael’s eye.

The Air Force described the damage sustained as “catastrophic.” High winds shredded hangars that were housing fighter jets.

An F-15 on display was flipped on over onto the ground. Vehicles were tossed around the parking lot. Even brand-new roofs were ripped from buildings.

The group of two Republicans and a Democrat explained that the base is home to the F-22 Raptor, the nation’s premier air-to-air fighter jet that ensures American military dominance in the skies.

The base also is home to the 601st Air Operations Center that serves as the front-line defense against threats to homeland security and conducts critical relief efforts after natural disasters like Hurricane Michael.

“The base serves a critical role in protecting and promoting U.S. national security interests and it is vital that we rapidly repair infrastructure and restore operations in the wake of the storm,” the group wrote.

The trio requested “consistent, immediate and detailed communication of the funding and support needed to repair infrastructure, restore operations and provide for local service members, civilians and their families.”

The storm made landfall as a strong Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 155 mph around the eyewall. That’s just 2 mph less than a Category 5, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit north Florida.

Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were left without power as others suffered devastating wind and flood damage.

Tyndall AFB

Tyndall Air Force Base sustains ‘catastrophic’ damage

Tyndall Air Force Base suffered catastrophic damage when Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida Panhandle, ripping roofs off airplane hangars, tossing vehicles around a parking lot and leaving a fighter jet that had been on display flipped over on the ground.

The home to the nation’s 325th Fighter Wing “took a beating,” Col. Brian Laidlaw said in a letter posted Thursday night to the 3,600 men and women stationed at the base located 12 miles (19 kilometers) east of Panama City. The Air Force evacuated the base in advance of the storm’s arrival Wednesday afternoon.

“I will not recall you and your families until we can guarantee your safety. At this time I can’t tell you how long that will take, but I’m on it,” Laidlaw wrote. “We need to restore basic utilities, clear our roads of trees and power lines, and assess the structural integrity of our buildings. I know that you are eager to return. I ask you to be patient and try to focus on taking care of your families and each other.”

The evacuations were ordered Monday and everyone except the “ride-out” team left the base by Tuesday afternoon. Michael was a strong Category 4 hurricane as it lashed the base, which is between Panama City and Mexico Beach.

On Thursday, Air Force officials conducted the first aerial assessment of the base and found extensive damage. A report posted on the base website said the flight line is devastated and every building on the base suffered severe damage, with many considered a complete loss. In addition, the Tyndall marina, the drone runway and Tyndall Elementary School sustained severe damage.

A number of aircraft were left in the hangars due to safety or maintenance reasons and all of the hangars are damaged, said Ann Stefanek, a spokeswoman for the Air Force. “We anticipate the aircraft parked inside may be damaged as well, but we won’t know the extent until our crews can safely enter those hangars and make an assessment.”

She said “the Air Force remains capable of executing its combat mission across the world with aircraft from other bases, as well as those that were evacuated from Tyndall in advance of the hurricane.”

Florida’s two U.S. senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, said in a letter Friday to top Air Force officials they want detailed assessments of the money and other support needed to repair the base, restore operations and assist base personnel.

“We are committed to its full recovery and we look forward to working with you to achieve that goal,” the letter said.

Meanwhile, Air Force Special Tactics Airmen with the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron have returned to controlling air traffic at Tyndall, according to a news release from the Air Force. They received the first airplane at 7:06 p.m. Thursday. Officials say the opened runway will help allow aircraft with supplies and food to land for distribution in the Florida Panhandle.

Laidlaw said power and basic utilities have not been restored to the base. In the letter to staff, Laidlaw said crews will need time to clear trees from roads and repair power lines before anyone returns.

Evacuees who took base transportation to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, were restricted to one large luggage piece per family and one carry on per person. They were asked to make sure they had 72 hours’ worth of items.

Bill Nelson touring North Florida: ‘It looks like a bomb went off’

After touring devastated areas around Panama City Thursday, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said “It looks like a bomb went off” and pledged he and Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio would do everything they could to make sure full federal aid comes to areas struck by Hurricane Michael.

Nelson also visited Tyndall Air Force Base, which he said suffered a catastrophic hit.

A release from his U.S. Senate office after Nelson spent all day Thursday in the Panama City Beach area said he is working with Rubio and other Senate colleagues to “Make sure the area gets everything it needs.”

“I was in the area where the eyewall of the storm passed and the destruction is substantial,” Nelson stated while standing before what was a boat storage site in Panama City Beach.

“It looks like a bomb went off.”

The release said Nelson toured areas of demolished buildings, overturned trailers and vehicles, downed utility lines and washed out roadways. He said residents were experiencing widespread power and cellular outages as well.

Recovery starts amid ‘unimaginable’ destruction

More than 400,000 utility customers remained without power Thursday morning as thousands of rescue and utility crew members spread out across coastal and rural Panhandle communities to respond to the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael.

Gulf Power, which provides electricity in hard-hit Bay County, anticipates people in the impacted areas could be without power for weeks as the utility rebuilds parts of its system.

Gov. Rick Scott called the destruction from Wednesday’s storm “unimaginable,” as “homes are gone, businesses are gone.”

A state emergency-management official said all hospitals in the impacted region have reported some form of “critical failure” — water and sewage problems or infrastructure issues such as crumbling walls — that required patients to be relocated and medical field hospitals to be set up.

The official said that after Hurricane Irma in September 2017, a field hospital was required in the Florida Keys for a year, and similar situations may be required with Michael.

Similar issues were arising at nursing homes, and crews were flying in supplies to Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee, which serves patients with mental illness.

Meanwhile, the state is expecting a surge in humanitarian needs, from a lack of food and water to housing.

Scott was set to travel Thursday afternoon with the Florida National Guard to Panama City and Mexico Beach, where Michael came ashore midday Wednesday with 155 mph maximum sustained winds, the strongest ever recorded in the region.

Scott, who expressed frustration about people dismissing evacuation orders on Tuesday as Michael rapidly grew into a Category 4 storm, told evacuees not to return home as roads remain closed by flooding, downed trees and power lines.

“It’s going to take some time to survey and clear all the roads,” Scott said.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted late Thursday morning that President Donald Trump granted a request for federal assistance for 14 counties: Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Wakulla.

Scott said he talked to Trump early Thursday.

“He is committed to making every federal resource available to help the recovery,” Scott said.

In a letter to Trump on Wednesday requesting assistance, Scott wrote that the state had already spent close to $40 million on its response.

The Florida National Guard has deployed 3,500 members for search-and-rescue and humanitarian aid, with assistance from National Guard units from as far away as New York and Kansas. The Florida Highway Patrol has 450 troopers working in the Panhandle, while 150 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers are conducting rescue missions.

Search teams — working by air, boat and on the ground — have entered Panama City, Mexico Beach, Alligator Point, Eastpoint, St. George Island and Apalachicola. The U.S. Coast Guard ran 10 rescue missions into the region Wednesday night.

The Red Cross is bringing in 500 disaster relief workers.

More than 5,000 people were in 34 shelters that have been opened across the region.

Scott said one benefit of the rapidly moving Michael was that it hit during the day and was out of the state before sunset.

More than 19,000 utility workers from companies in Florida and across the country have started assessing the damages.

The Division of Emergency Management reported 400,666 customers of Gulf Power, Duke Energy and a number of smaller utilities were without power Thursday morning.

Pensacola-based Gulf Power, which reported some 120,000 customers were in the dark at one point, said progress was made in its westernmost regions, but the hardest-hit areas may take weeks to rebuild.

“The Gulf Power system held strong from Pensacola to Fort Walton Beach — a testament to the investments we’ve made to harden our infrastructure,” Gulf Power spokesman Jeff Rogers said in a statement. “But the hardest hit areas around Panama City may need to be rebuilt from the ground up.”

Bay County, which includes Panama City and Tyndall Air Force Base, was 98 percent without power Thursday morning, according to the state Division of Emergency Management.

Calhoun, Gadsden and Jackson counties, which are north of Bay County, were 100 percent without power. Gulf and Franklin counties, which are on the coast, and Holmes County, which is to the north, were all more than 90 percent without power.

The storm forced the closure of Interstate 10 west of Tallahassee, requiring some rescue crews to take alternate routes west from staging areas.

Although Tallahassee avoided a direct hit from the Category 4 storm, Mayor Andrew Gillum said on Facebook that “our community has been pretty significantly impacted.” He said 110,000 residences and businesses were without power Thursday, morning, representing about 90 percent of the customers served by the city’s electric service.

In addition, Gillum said the storm knocked out one of the city’s sewage systems, including the backup power source.

By comparison, about 75,000 customers lost power during Hurricane Hermine, which struck Tallahassee in 2016, said Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor.

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Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

U.S. Senate authorizes reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee

The U.S. Senate authorized a proposal for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, which should cut down and potentially eliminate the discharge of blue-green algae into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said the news should help Florida deal with the twin catastrophes of algal blooms in the rivers and red tide explosions on the east and west coast.

The Water Resources and Development Act, a massive bill that budgets money for inland waterways and maintenance for America’s locks, damns and ports, passed by a vote of 99-1, Only Utah Sen. Mike Lee voted against the bill.

TC Palm reports the bill includes federal funding for the $1.6-billion Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, a solution proposed by the South Florida Water Management District.

Florida Sens. Rubio and Bill Nelson pushed for the reservoir’s including in the water bill this year.

The Army Corps of Engineers schedules discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee, which is coated with cyanobacteria, into the adjacent rivers to prevent the flooding of populated areas around the lake, but Nelson called for a complete re-evaluation of the schedule.

A number of environmental groups in the state say there’s a correlation between the blue-green algae and blooms with red tide because nutrients from one feed the other when the water discharges reach estuaries and saltwater.

The water management district said in its proposal use of the reservoir will “reduce damaging discharges to northern estuaries, deliver clean water for Everglades restoration and achieve water quality standards.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Sarasota Republican, said the bill this year included $15 million over five years to identify and develop strategies to fight red tide, and $3 million annually for the Army Corps of Engineers to identify and develop technology to detect, prevent and manage harmful algal blooms.

““Red tide poses a serious threat to our environment, marine life and economy,” said Buchanan. ““We need to understand more about the toxins in red tide so we can stop the damaging effects.  I strongly support efforts to prevent and mitigate this and other algal blooms.”

The bill passed the U.S. House by a unanimous voice vote last month.

President Donald Trump signaled support for the legislation this week and is expected to sign the bill into law.

Florida congressional delegation seeks state of emergency

Florida’s U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and 13 members of Florida’s congressional delegation have formally asked the White House to declare a pre-landfall state of emergency for Florida as Hurricane Michael looms.

The letter to President Donald Trump declares their “full support” for the emergency declaration sought by Gov. Rick Scott, stressing the need for early preparations. Such a declaration would authorize mobilization of federal resources immediately.

“We write in full support of Florida’s request for a pre-landfall emergency declaration in anticipation of Hurricane Michael. Based on the current forecast, this hurricane has the potential to severely impact communities across northern Florida and down the coast. We urge you to immediately approve this request to ensure that all federal resources are made available,” the letter declares.

In addition to Democrat Nelson and Republican Rubio the letter was signed by Republican U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, Carlos Curbelo, Neal Dunn, Matt GaetzIleana Ros-Lehtinen, and Dennis Ross, and by Democratic U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, and Darren Soto.

“Since 2016, Florida has been hit by Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew, Irma, and Nate. While Floridians are still in the process of recovering from previous storms, federal resources are crucial to ensuring a successful response to Hurricane Michael,” the letter states. “Preparation has been shown to be key in reducing the potential for loss of life and destruction of property. As such, we strongly urge you to consider all of the circumstances referenced in our Governor’s request, and approve this pre-landfall emergency declaration that will provide the assistance necessary to ensure the safety of Floridians.”

Personnel note: Jeremiah Hawkes now state Senate’s top lawyer

Jeremiah Hawkes, formerly a top official under Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, is now general counsel of the Florida Senate, its spokeswoman said Friday.

Hawkes, who started Monday, will be paid $135,000 a year. He replaces Dawn Roberts, who served as the Senate’s top lawyer under outgoing Senate President Joe Negron.

Roberts is returning to her previous job as staff director of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, spokeswoman Katie Betta said.

Hawkes, who unsuccessfully ran for a Pasco County judgeship this year, was asked to take the position by Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, Betta said. Hawkes also has previously applied for judicial appointments.

The 41-year-old is the son of Tallahassee lobbyist Paul Hawkes, a former 1st District Court of Appeal judge.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the younger Hawkes was commander of the Management Services bureau under Nocco, overseeing budgeting, finance, and legal operations.

“He joined the department in 2009 under then-Sheriff Bob White as part of a post-election shake-up among the sheriff’s top aides that also saw (outgoing) House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Nocco come to the agency,” the Times reported.

“All three had worked under (U.S. Sen.) Marco Rubio during his tenure as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, with Hawkes serving as the House’s general counsel.”

In other moves in the general counsel’s office, Christie Letarte moves to “special counsel to the President” from deputy general counsel, and Ashley Istler replaces Letarte as deputy general counsel. Istler was the attorney for the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

Marco Rubio, Rick Scott lament ‘political theater’ in Brett Kavanaugh hearings

On Friday, one incumbent Republican Senator and a Governor looking to join him in D.C. defended President Donald Trump‘s Supreme Court pick and decried the ongoing process regarding his unresolved sexual assault claims.

However, their defenses of Kavanaugh read differently in light of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s decision to forestall a floor vote on the nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, to allow an FBI investigation of lingering questions over sexual assault accusations from his past from Dr. Christina Blasey Ford and presumably others.

Sen. Marco Rubio said earlier Friday that he’d vote for Kavanaugh, decrying the “embarrassing” process as a “dark moment in Senate history” in an extended statement that also linked the hearings to a larger cultural unmooring.

“This entire ordeal is indicative of something that goes beyond the nomination before us. It has revealed how our culture has become increasingly sick and demented, unmoored from the values upon which this great nation was founded and which have allowed our society to flourish,” Rubio asserted.

“The virtues at the core of our Judeo-Christian heritage have become character flaws. And the character flaws the ancient prophets warned against, and Christ challenged us to overcome, have become virtues,” Rubio said, adding that the “ramifications of the rot we have witnessed will be felt far beyond the question before us now.”

Rubio went on to call the hearings a “modern political equivalent of the Roman circus – where the crowd is entertained by the spectacle of watching human beings destroy one another or get devoured by wild animals.”

“I will not vote against the nomination of someone who I am otherwise inclined to support and in the process add credence to charges which have already done permanent damage to his [Kavanaugh’s] reputation, on the basis of allegations for which there is no independent corroboration and which are at odds with everything else we have heard about his character,” Rubio said.

We await Rubio’s thoughts on the decision to delay and investigate those “allegations” from Blasey Ford and, potentially, others.

Gov. Rick Scott, running for Senate this year, agreed with Rubio’s read of the political theater, saying Kavanaugh and Ford “have been used and abused as pawns in a partisan Washington political theater, which is clearly the product of career politicians playing games at the expense of these individuals’ lives and reputations.”

The Judiciary Committee conditionally moved the nomination to the floor on Friday, with a delay agreed to for an investigation.

 

Democrats push Hurricane Maria response as campaign issue; Republicans cite efforts

On the one-year mark of Hurricane Maria’s devastating landfall on Puerto Rico, Florida Democrats are charging that Republicans in Washington and Tallahassee neglected the island while Republicans are countering with statements on efforts they undertook.

The bottom line may be the still-hobbled island, parts of which went months without adequate power, drinking water, and health care, while thousands of Puerto Ricans at least temporarily relocated to Florida. Many of them are still here, and many still struggle to find housing and help.

Democrats in particular charged that the struggles on the island and for many Puerto Ricans who came to Florida can be blamed in large part on the inadequate responses from President Donald Trump. And in a press call Thursday they also charged that Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Republican gubernatorial nominee U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis cannot hide from their long and deep ties to Trump, regardless of statements they may have made recently seeking to distance themselves from him on Puerto Rico.

“We know that post-Maria there was a catastrophic failure by the administration in its response to fellow U.S. citizens, not just in Puerto Rico but in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Democratic state Rep. Robert Asencio of Miami said in the press call organized by the Florida Democratic Party. “That is at the direction of, or at the administration of, our President.”

“They [Scott and DeSantis] are fully aligned,” added Democratic state Rep. Amy Mercado. “They can’t do anything without the President’s blessing.”

Democrats also charged that Florida’s efforts failed to adequately address the housing needs of Puerto Rico refugees in the state or to provide any “wrap-around case management” services that Democrats had requested in the days after the storm.

“It’s a shame that we haven’t really moved to help these families in our state as we promised a year ago,” said state Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando.

In various statements and letters they released Thursday, a number of Republicans pointed to actions taken by Scott’s administration and by the federal government, while allowing that the problems simply were overwhelming. Scott proclaimed a commitment to continue helping at a rally Tuesday in a Puerto Rican region of Orlando. He is in Puerto Rico on Thursday to join with the island’s leaders to commemorate the storm, his eighth trip to the island since the storm. He also ordered that Florida’s flags be flown at half-staff Thursday in sympathy.

“The days, weeks and months that followed have been tough,” Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs wrote in a statement Thursday. “The widespread devastation left in the wake of this catastrophic natural disaster put many island residents in dire straights. But it also provided Florida with an opportunity to shine as we welcomed many Puerto Ricans to the Sunshine State.”

Noting the efforts to welcome storm refugees with centers directing them to services and efforts to eliminate much red tape for social assistance, employment and education as families relocated here with nothing, Cortes concluded, “I’m proud of the way Florida has given our fellow Americans from Puerto Rico a warm welcome.”

The White House also put out a statement declaring, “The Federal Government has helped lead a historic recovery effort in Puerto Rico in the year since Hurricane Maria hit.” It cited more than $25 billion in aid and other efforts including, “the longest sustained domestic air mission of food and water response in our history.”

Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio sent a letter to Trump Thursday urging him to “renew his commitment to the long-term stability of those impacted by the storm.” Rubio’s letter, in the first sentence, declared that the storm “contributing to the deaths of an estimated 2,975 people,” a clear break with Trump, who outraged many last week by tweeting that he believes that estimated death toll is fake news pushed by his political enemies.

Scott and DeSantis, in their own tweets, both also have disavowed the president’s claims about the death toll being fake.

Nonetheless, those Trump tweets continued the pattern the president has asserted from the beginning that the federal efforts toward Puerto Rico were historically strong, not slow and inadequate. Those claims remain at the heart of the awkward position many Florida Republicans are in, and which the Democrats are moving forward to highlight in the campaigns this fall, in the battle for votes for the estimated 1.2 million Puerto Ricans living in Florida. Full electricity was not restored on the island until last month, and reports throughout the year indicated much of the island was hampered so much by inadequate recovery that thousands of people died from while many others who fled to Florida continue to struggle to adjust.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum pledged not just hurricane aid but future partnerships with the island on cultural and other exchanges, in an open letter to the Puerto Rican community that he released Thursday afternoon.

“I still believe, as many of you do, that the way in which our government responded to our fellow U.S. citizens was a complete disaster,” Gillum wrote. “You deserved better. Puerto Rico deserved better. Our nation deserved better. And again, I want you to know here in the state of Florida we stand in solidarity with you.”

DeSantis’s campaign sought to address the matter last week with a statement from his Communications Director Stephen Lawson.

“Ron DeSantis has always worked to help the Puerto Rican community, both on the Island and here in Florida. As chairman of the National Security Subcommittee, he conducted an oversight hearing earlier this year to identify deficiencies in the federal response to Hurricane Maria. He has worked alongside Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon to secure support for rebuilding efforts. In August, he visited the island to meet with elected leaders and get the latest briefing from FEMA regarding recovery efforts,” Lawson wrote. “Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated. Ron is focused on continuing to help our Puerto Rican neighbors recover and create opportunities for those who have moved to Florida succeed.”

Marco Rubio: Bredesen tries to ‘pull a fast one’ in Dem Senate bid

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Friday that Democratic former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is “trying to pull a fast one” on voters by promising to be moderate if he’s elected to the Senate in a critical race.

The Florida senator made the comments to reporters Friday after attending a Tennessee campaign roundtable with Hispanic community members for Bredesen’s opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn. Rubio praised the congresswoman as having the right background to contribute to what Republicans are doing in the Senate.

Bredesen and Blackburn are locked in a tight contest to replace retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker. Democrats’ hopes to overturn a 51-49 GOP Senate majority could hinge on the outcome in Tennessee, a red state where Bredesen is hoping to draw some support from moderate Republicans, and Blackburn is trying to curb his crossover appeal.

Rubio said Democrats like Bredesen promise that they’re middle of the road, but when they get to Washington, they vote 99.9 percent of the time with lawmakers whom Tennesseans would never vote for themselves. Rubio also touted the recent economic growth, tax cuts, GOP judicial appointments and other occurrences while Republicans have been in control.

“So you have a great candidate,” Rubio told reporters. “You have someone on the other side who’s trying to pull a fast one on you. And you have real progress in this country, despite all the rhetoric and the noise, that would all stop if too many of the wrong people get there, like the individual running as a Democrat here in this state.”

Bredesen campaign spokeswoman Alyssa Hansen responded Friday that, like Bredesen, Tennesseans are independent thinkers and don’t need out-of-state politicians telling them what to do.

“Congresswoman Blackburn should keep this in mind the next time she wants to bring one of her D.C. friends to town,” Hansen said in a statement.

The roundtable event delved into a discussion on immigration, a system that Rubio said needs to be modernized away from being “almost entirely built on, ‘How many relatives do you have living here now?’”

“Now, if you can dunk a basketball or throw 98 mile-an-hour fastballs, you’ll have no problem getting into the U.S.,” Rubio said. “But if you’re going to be a Ph.D. that’s going to cure cancer, you may or may not get to come depending on when you apply and how lucky you are. That’s got to be fixed.”

Blackburn has been a strong advocate of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown plans, including his proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

She also has opposed a President Barack Obama-era program that shields from deportation young immigrants brought or kept here illegally as children. Blackburn said in September 2017 that the program offers “the false hope of amnesty that led to a surge of illegal immigration and stole jobs from American citizens by giving illegal aliens work permits,” while also calling for a larger fix to the immigration system.

Hansen, the Bredesen campaign spokeswoman, said Blackburn’s roundtable displayed “jaw-dropping hypocrisy” on immigration.

When a reporter asked Blackburn why Friday’s discussion didn’t touch on Trump’s wall, she refocused the conversation on support for economic growth, entrepreneurial activity and emphasis on “religious liberty” to help charities under Trump.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

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