Shelby, Sessions are very different senators

Published 6:42 pm Tuesday, February 18, 2014

There are two schools of thought as to what role a U.S Senator should play on the stage in Washington. One model is called the “caretaker.” This senator believes that he or she should bring home the bacon. If there are any pork projects for roads, schools, bridges, universities, parks or any grant money in the annual federal budget then that senator’s state should receive its share or more.

The second model should be referred to as the “ideologue.” He or she should be known as either a right wing or left wing philosophical zealot. For example, if you are from Texas, Oklahoma or Alabama you should be known as the most conservative or reactionary member of the senate in Washington.

Our two U.S. Senators are the clearest examples of these two models in present day Washington. It is brought up by Washington insiders every time I have a conversation with a friend on the Potomac. They marvel at how different each of our senators is in their outlook of their role for Alabama. Both men are very diligent and even though they are different they get along remarkably well.

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Jeff Sessions, who has been in the Senate for 18 years now, is the ultimate ideologue. He and John Cronyn from Texas are referred to in the same breath as the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate. They are hardcore conservatives on fiscal as well as social issues. Their voting records, as well as their time before the camera or in senate debates, revolve around fundamental prudence.

They are looked upon as extreme and far right. However, Sessions reflects the conservative nature of our state. We are one of the most conservative states in the nation. Therefore, it is only appropriate that we have one of the most ultraconservative senators representing our views. You can bet your bottom dollar that Jeff Sessions will be a safe bet for reelection to his fourth six-year term this year.

Our senior senator, Richard Shelby, is in his 28th year in the U.S. Senate. He is considered to be one of the 10 most powerful members of the U.S. Senate. It would be mindboggling to try to ascertain how much money he has brought home to Alabama in his five terms in the Senate. There is hardly a city or town or University in Alabama that has not received a federal grant from Washington because of Richard Shelby. Take a drive through practically every university in the state and you will see a state-of-the-art building named for Shelby. Decades from now the University of Alabama at Birmingham medical mecca will be benefiting from Washington largesse garnered by Shelby. The same can be said for the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.

Shelby is the ultimate caretaker. Some in Washington like to refer to him as the “King of Pork.” Shelby votes very conservatively generally right down the line with his Republican colleagues. However, he has always had his eye on the budget because he believes in bringing home the pork.
Shelby is also known in Washington as one of the most prolific fundraisers in the Senate. He seems to enjoy the fundraising aspect of Senate life, whereas most of his fellow senators detest this chore. Shelby continues to raise campaign money at a record clip. At last count, he had a campaign war chest exceeding $15 million. If he ever had a serious opponent it would only cost $3 to $5 million to dispense of the idiot.

Richard Shelby is also a safe bet to win reelection to his sixth six-year term in 2016. He plans to run. Even though he is 79, he is fit and looks 65. If you have any doubts that he will run again in 2016, just check out his schedule for this month. He is currently visiting all 67 counties in the state and holding town hall meetings in every nook and cranny in the heart of Dixie.

What about our congressional delegation? All seven are representative of their constituency. They vote right with the Alabamians they represent. They hardly ever stray from their party philosophy or mantra. Therefore, all seven could be referred to as philosophically attuned to their people and reflect that in their voting records. All six Republicans are very Republican and our lone Democrat Terri Sewell is very Democratic. When it comes to bringing home the bacon none of the seven seem to have the flair or ability that Shelby exhibits. However, most of them have not been there very long. Seniority is the key to power in Washington.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in more than 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at