U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby today said he hopes Congress returns to Washington, D.C., with a Republican majority after the November elections and begins to address the nation’s spending and tremendous debt, currently $17 trillion and increasing.
Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, is Alabama’s senior senator and is the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee and on the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. He is a tireless advocate for the state, nation, and business community.
Shelby spoke with Business Council of Alabama members via conference call prior to Senate debate and expected vote on a continuing resolution to authorize federal spending beyond the Sept. 30 end of the current fiscal year.
The resolution, which passed the House on Wednesday, would authorize current spending levels until mid-December. In addition, the resolution would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank of the United States until June 30.
Right now Washington is stalemated legislatively because Democrats control the Senate and Republicans control the House. Shelby said the challenge to a Republican-controlled Senate and House would be to “come to grips up here with spending,” spending which has required astronomical borrowing to support.
“The growth of entitlements is growing our debt,” Shelby said. “We’re going to be close to $20 trillion in debt. This is not chicken feed.”
Shelby said there is currently “no political will to deal with entitlements,” since trying to cut them is seen as political suicide. “We should try to put country first, go back to the drawing board or our children and grandchildren will suffer,” he said.
Shelby said controlling spending “is no easy thing” and will require a bipartisan effort.
“I don’t see it happening yet,” Shelby said. “If it doesn’t happen we’re kicking the can down the road for our children and grandchildren.”
Shelby, in his fifth term but who is not up for reelection this November, said if Republicans gain control of the U.S. Senate, he expects U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, will become chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Sessions, the committee’s ranking member, is expected to win a fourth term in November.
“We’ll come back after the election toward the middle of November and I hope we come back with a Republican majority in the House and Senate,” Shelby said. “In my judgment it would be good for America.”
Shelby said the controversial continuing resolution contains funding to train and equip opposition to radical Islamic fundamentalists in Syria that seek to establish an Islamic state in the Middle East.
Although President Obama has asked for money to fight Islamic fundamentalists, Shelby said, “I’m not sure our president is really committed to seeing this through.”
“It is so complicated,” he said. “The war on terror is not going away. It’s probably going to intensify.”