How Will Alabama Fare in Washington after Richard Shelby
By Steve Flowers
Some of you have inquired how Alabama will fare in Washington after Senator Shelby retires at the end of 2022. The answer is that it will be nothing less than devastating for the Heart of Dixie. The amount of federal dollars that Senator Shelby has individually brought home is incalculable and irreplaceable. Alabama is going to be in the proverbial boat without a paddle in 20 short months. We will have negligible power in Washington and for a state that depends on federal dollars, that is not going to be a good position to be in for Alabama.
Whoever wins the 2022 race for Shelby’s seat will have no real power for at least 18 years. The senate is a venerable institution where power is based on seniority. You have to wait your turn and patiently await the day when you can be a committee chairman or player in the senate. Even if we elect someone with the acumen, ability and temperament to be an effective senator, they will be in waiting two decades before they are modestly important.
Tommy Tuberville has only been in the senate for four months. He is 66 and will be irrelevant in probably one term in the Senate. In short, we are dead in the water in the U.S. Senate for this generation. There is hope for future generations of Alabamians if someone under 55 with ability takes Shelby’s seat.
There is a glimmer of hope for Alabama to sustain and preserve some of the mountains of largesse that Shelby has bestowed on our beloved state. However, that power rests in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Congressman Robert Aderholt could be our hope for salvation for the upcoming decade.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell is in her sixth two-year term representing Alabama’s seventh Congressional district. She is one of the first women elected to congress from Alabama in her own right and is the first black woman to ever serve in the Alabama Congressional delegation.
She is the only Democrat in the entire Alabama delegation. Therefore, she is our only conduit to the Democratic Presidential throne. She is highly respected by the Biden Administration, as well as the U.S. House leadership. She is on a fast track too within the House Democratic Party. In her short time in Congress, Sewell has held several leadership positions including freshman class president and currently serves as Chief Deputy Whip under the tutelage of Democratic Whip James Clyburn.
Sewell has made her mark within the Democratic Caucus. The Democrats not only occupy the White House, they are also in the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. The majority party controls all the committee chairmanships and all of the power in Congress. The most important aspect of Congresswoman Sewell’s ability to help Alabama is that she sits on the exclusive House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the federal budget.
By far the brightest Republican star in our Washington delegation is Congressman Robert Aderholt. This clean cut, conservative was first elected to Congress in 1996 at the age of 31. He is now in his 25th year in Congress and is a member of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations. His sprawling north Alabama 4th District extends in a band across north Alabama from Mississippi to Georgia. Huntsville’s hope is that when the new Congressional districts are drawn this year for the 2022 elections, that Aderholt can be brought into Madison County to help protect the Redstone Arsenal, which is truly dependent on federal dollars from Washington.
Congressman Aderholt was born and raised in Haleyville where he and his wife, Caroline, reside when not in Washington. His father is a revered and respected, retired circuit judge. Caroline has deep political roots in the Huntsville/Madison area. Her father, Albert McDonald, was a prominent farmer who was a state senator from the Tennessee Valley and was Alabama’s Agriculture Commissioner.
A third member of the House delegation, Mike Rogers of Anniston, could give us a triumvirate of power in the U.S. House. Congressman Rogers is the ranking republican on the House Armed Services Committee.
Congresswoman Sewell, Congressman Aderholt and possibly Congressman Rogers, can be a hope for salvation in the post Richard Shelby era for the State of Alabama.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.