Jan 14 2006

Shelby: Simplify drug plan

Mobile Register

By JEFF AMY

 

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby told people at a Mobile meeting Friday he thinks the federal government needs to work to simplify the new Medicare prescription drug program.

 

Shelby, a Tuscalooosa Republican, also said he plans to take a harder line than President Bush on new immigration rules and that he supports tougher rules on federal flood insurance.

 

About 40 people came to Shelby's meeting, held at Spring Hill College 's Byrne Memorial Hall. The crowd was liberally sprinkled with public officials and other people active in civic life. The meeting was the last of nine that Shelby held in southwest Alabama counties Thursday and Friday.

 

Nationally, there's been widespread confusion reported over the advent of the Medicare drug plan. Shelby indicated he continues to support the drug plan, but said he agrees with complaints, including one voiced at the Mobile meeting, that it's too hard to figure out how to sign up.

 

Shelby held up a full-page ad from the Wall Street Journal that was supposed to explain the system. "I thought, 'Hmmm, this is supposed to be explaining it,'" the senator said. "I think they need to start again. Don't you?"

 

On Iraq, Shelby said the United States should withdraw from Iraq when it meets its own measures of success, echoing language that's been used to attack backers of a quick pullout.

 

"If we cut and run we'll pay the price," he said. "We'll lose prestige in the world and a lot of the terrorists will follow us here, make no mistake about it."

 

Shelby's stance on immigration was questioned by William Brantley of Grand Bay , who said Bush "could care less and couldn't meet an illegal alien he didn't like.

 

Summoning an aide to hold a prepared poster citing an estimate of 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, Shelby said lawbreaking immigrants should not be rewarded with legal status.

 

"We benefit from immigrants," he said. We all come from immigrants, but we ought to come legally."

 

Shelby said he believed the Federal Emergency Management Agency has done a "very good job" overall fafter August's Hurricane Katrina. He said that he supports plans to make more people buy federal flood insurance, and wants to toughen rules about sales to people whose properties are flooded multiple times.

 

"Where there's more than a little chance that these areas will be flooded again, I don't think we should subsidize or bail out (property owners)," he said.