Alabama's Richard Shelby, In Office A Million Years, May Be Glued To Seat: Your Senate Sunday
Alabama's senior senator, Richard Shelby, was elected to the House in 1978, and has been in the U.S. Senate since 1987. For the sake of perspective, that's the year of the Iran-Contra hearings and the year the Fox Television Network started broadcasting (and that was nine years before Fox News slouched toward the Avenue of the Americas to be born). Originally elected as a Democrat, he switched to the Republican party in 1994, the day after the Republicans took over Congress. What we are saying here is that the Senate's fourth-oldest member has been there a while, and after spending nearly $12 million to beat back primary opponents who came at him from farther to the right than he already is, Shelby seems unlikely to be going anywhere after November.
Shelby's seeking a sixth term, and is running very enthusiastically against Barack Obama, almost as if he were unaware it's the president's final year in office. Take a look at this nifty ad from the primary, which features a line Shelby's campaign is awfully proud of, reminding voters that Shelby "stands up to Obama. Every. Single. Day."
The ad is so folksy that even the narrator can't help droppin' his gs, telling viewers that when Shelby's done with the hard work of opposing Obama in Washington, he "hightails it back here, listenin’ and workin’ and helpin’." Shucks.
Shelby is mostly notorious for helpin' Alabama get lots and lots of government pork, a decidedly unpopular credential with your Teabaggers these days, which explains the primary challenges. Back in 2010 when Senate Republicans banned earmarks, Shelby was one of the few to oppose the plan, at least initially. He still did what he could to steer federal dollars to Alabama, including an epic dick move in which he placed a hold on 70 Obama appointments because he really, really wanted an Air Force refueling tanker built in Alabama, as well as for a "Terrorist Explosives Devices Analytical Center" to be based in the state. Not that either was "pork" -- they were matters of national security, you know. Can't let Obama make America weak. In December 2010, Shelby arranged to keep $500 million in funding flowing to Alabama for a rocket program NASA had already canceled. and of course despite the earmarks "ban," he still likes to load up omnibus spending bills with pork, if only so he can proudly vote against 'em in the name of fiscal restraint. Hey, if they pass, Alabama gets a payday!
As ranking member and then chair of the Senate Banking Committee, Shelby has proudly touted his record of having opposed the bank bailout, because as another ad insisted, "He refused to put hardworking Alabama taxpayers on the hook." That ad, too, included the line about standing up to Obama, every single day, although if you want to get technical about it, the TARP bailout was passed under that George Bush fellow, and it turned out to be a good thing, preventing a further economic collapse and eventually returning more money to the government than the initial emergency loans. As Banking chair, Shelby accomplished an impressive feat of political dickery: With his primary coming up, Shelby managed to largely keep his committee from doing anything at all. In late February, The New York Times reported on Shelby's dubious achievement:
He now has the distinction of running the only committee in the Senate that has not acted on a single nominee in this Congress.
As a result, Mr. Shelby has interfered with economic sanctions and hampered the work of the Export-Import Bank and the Federal Reserve. The committee’s work spans a number of policy areas, and so do the officials it approves. Or in this case, fails to approve.
“My primary is Tuesday!” Mr. Shelby said in an interview on Tuesday. “We can talk about this later!”
While we're having thoughts and prayers for the Orlando massacre victims, it sure would be nice if the Senate would actually confirm the guy who's supposed to be leading the fight against terrorists' finances.
Donald Trump continues to be very unhappy about the terrible travesty of justice in the biased, unfair, and totally unjustified lawsuits against his "Trump University" scam.
“I don’t think he is racist at all,” Shelby said.
“What if he was German?” he continued, referring to Curiel. “Or what if he was Polish, or English? Think about it.”
Um. Trump hasn't been calling any of those people rapists and murderers who we need a wall to keep out, maybe? It's a thought.
Scuzzy though he is, Shelby's primary victory and his huge campaign war chest (over $9.6 million even after blowing all that money on the primary), plus the fact he is a warm body with an R following his name on the Alabama ballot, make his one of the Republicans' safe seats in 2016. His Democratic opponent, Ron Crumpton, is unlikely to get much traction against Shelby, who's also the beneficiary of $1 million in untraceable "dark money." Still, Crumpton is putting up a serious fight. Crumpton's a patient's rights advocate who has pushed for legalization of medical marijuana and for setting up a voucher system to help provide service dogs for people who can't afford them. Crumpton thinks there's an outside chance Alabama voters are ready for "new blood," and got into the race because he was tired of Alabama Democrats who tried to beat Republicans by masquerading as Republicans who also like clean air and water:
One of the main reasons that I decided to run was just that I was tired of seeing the Republicans walk in unopposed to Federal office ever year. I basically made my decision to get into this race a little more than two years ago, when nobody qualified to run against Jeff Sessions. And what we have had run the last few years on the Democratic side, I’m not, you know, real happy with. Nobody wants to stand up and be a Democrat. It’s more, everybody runs as Republican-lite. That doesn’t even work in the Republican Party! We need Democrats to be Democrats, and act like it.
Crumpton supports a $15 minimum wage, equal pay for women, banning private prisons, and comprehensive immigration reform; as a Democrat running in a red state, he's vocally pro-Second Amendment, but at least open to some reforms like preventing criminals and terrorists from buying guns, although his campaign website carefully avoids the words "universal background checks."
Crumpton's also doing what he can to remind voters that a federal investigation found Shelby had leaked classified information about the 9/11 investigation to the press 14 years ago. Shelby wasn't prosecuted, but the Justice Department did refer the case to the Senate Ethics Committee, which quietly closed the case in 2005, without comment. Crumpton says Shelby is hardly in a position to be claiming Hillary Clinton is "above the law":
"Apparently, the senator is saying that Secretary Clinton is not above the law and should be prosecuted, but he can purposely expose confidential intel to the press, and that is okay," Crumpton said in a statement. "So much for the idea of holding everyone to the same standard, regardless of where you stand on the issue of Secretary Clinton's emails, I think that any reasonable person would think it is a little hypocritical for him to chastise Clinton considering that he has shown that he is more than happy to expose confidential information when it suits his political purpose."
Crumpton's got moxie, that's for sure. He's also been calling Shelby the "King of Pork" and pointing out the hypocrisy of a supposed fiscal conservative who happily funnels taxpayer funds and tax advantages toward friendly industries. Crumpton also points out that, even after nearly 30 years in office, Shelby's a remarkably ineffective senator in terms of sponsored legislation, citing the website OpenSecrets.org: "(The site) says he's 97th, but he's in a four-way tie for last place,' Crumpton explains.
We like him, even if he's doomed -- here's hoping he at least gives Shelby a enough of a race to blow through a few more million bucks.
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