By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
Sen. Richard Shelby’s ascent to Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee should be complete this week.
Here’s what’s about to happen…
- Monday afternoon, Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee will meet to nominate a new chairman – presumably, Shelby.
- Tomorrow, when Senate Republicans meet for their Tuesday lunch, Shelby’s chairmanship will be discussed and, presumably blessed, by the full GOP Senate Conference.
- Tuesday evening, a Conference Resolution will make its way to the Senate floor, where the entire Senate will have an opportunity to vote. That’s likely to happen by unanimous consent.
- In any case, by Wednesday morning Shelby expects to be working as Chairman.
Shelby was already slated to become Appropriations Chairman next year when the term of Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi was up. Then, in March, Cochran suddenly announced he would retire effective April 1 for health reasons.
Though Cochran’s retirement was potentially great news for Shelby, Alabama’s senior senator kept it classy in his statement and really hasn’t commented much publicly about the situation.
“Senator Thad Cochran is a good friend and has been an excellent colleague of mine for over three decades,” Shelby said. “I wish him and his wife, Kay, well and hope we are able to continue on the wise path he has paved for those governing this great country. History will reflect Senator Cochran’s legacy of strong leadership throughout an extraordinarily impactful tenure in public office. He has represented Mississippi with the utmost dignity and respect.”
Cochran’s decision moved Shelby’s timetable up by several months – but more importantly – by an entire appropriations season. Now, he will serve as chairman as Congress writes the Fiscal Year 2019 spending bills, giving him one full year worth of influence as chairman. That might especially matter if Republicans lose the House in November’s elections.
Shelby is also likely to chair the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Being chairman of the “full committee,” as they call it, has many advantages. One of them is serving ex-officio on each individual subcommittee and, by tradition, chairing a subcommittee of your choice. Shelby has chosen Defense, which accounts for about half of the discretionary spending Congress allocates.
One only need to look at the most recent federal spending bill to see just what kind of impact military spending has in Alabama.
Not wasting any time, Shelby plans to gavel in the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Wednesday at 10:00 Eastern Time for a budget hearing for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal plays a significant role in missile defense, and Lockheed’s THAAD missile is manufactured in Troy.
Shelby’s work to steer money back to Alabama through the federal appropriations process is legendary. His fingerprints can be seen on most every major spending project Alabama has acquired for more than 20 years.
Much more will be written and said about Shelby’s rise over the next few days. But, for now, because Shelby’s ascent to this influential perch has been decades in the making, let’s enjoy a throwback to a Shelby campaign ad from back in the day: “Mr Speaker, Point of Order!”