During Sen. Richard Shelby’s Wednesday visit to Eufaula, the seventh-most senior member of the U.S. Senate was versatile in his speech, discussing everything from friends he’s lost and still has in Barbour County to countries posing the greatest threat to the U.S.
Shelby was in Eufaula as part of his tour in the southern part of the state during a 10-day break from the senate, speaking to the audience at the Eufaula Barbour Chamber of Commerce.
Shelby was first elected to senate in 1986 and is chairman of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. He also serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Committee on Rules and Administration.
Prior to being elected to the U.S. Senate, the Birmingham native served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and eight years in the Alabama legislature.
Shelby began his speech by noting that he was a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and believes funding must be secured for law enforcement.
Shelby said 2015 marked his 29th consecutive year to visit Barbour County. His previous visit had been to Eufaula for the funeral of friend, Ben Reeves, whom Shelby said he “would never forget.”
Shelby talked about duck hunting with Reeves. “Ben didn’t like to get up early in the morning but he would get up at four in the morning to shoot ducks.”
Expanding industry is on everyone’s minds, Shelby said, but added that regulations and taxes did not create jobs, only made them “an uphill struggle.”
“We (Republicans) control the House but we don’t control the presidency,” Shelby said. “We could be in trouble. We can stop a lot of things he’s doing but not when what he’s doing is an executive order. We live in a tough world, but the economy has improved a lot.”
Being a senior member of the U.S. Senate, Shelby said, “enables me to help my state. I realize where I’m from and who I represent.”
Hydraulic fracking, Shelby said, has enabled the U.S. to find a reserve of gas and oil it had not enjoyed. “Our country could become the next Saudi Arabia,” Shelby said.
Shelby recently announced he would seek re-election in 2016.
While discussing foreign matters, Shelby noted that the Shia and Sunni Muslims have been fighting for 1,500 years, and sometimes “we don’t know who we’re fighting sometimes.”
As for the cost of lives and money with battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, Shelby asked, “Are we honestly better off than we were?
But Shelby warned about several countries.
“Russia is a basket case,” he said. “(President Vladimir) Putin is very aggressive. It’s dangerous because there so much nuclear capability around. I believe he’ll do whatever he has to do.
“China is most dangerous in the long run because its biggest advantage is it’s so wealthy. There are, of course, rogue countries such as North Korea and Iran. Iran is a game-changer with a lot of oil and a lot of money and almost 100 million people/”
Shelby said Washington faced many challenges in the days, months and years to come.
“We live in an uncertain world,” Shelby said. “We don’t have as many friends in the world as we would like to think.”
According to a report published last year from the U.S. Army Environmental Command, automatic budget cuts could potentially adversely affect nearby Fort Rucker and its surrounding communities with a reduction of nearly 2,500 military personnel, a total loss of about $157 million in income and $195 million in sales over several years.
“Fort Rucker is not only important to Alabama but also to national security,” Shelby said. “And you cannot have a second-rate military. I am concerned about the cutbacks – sequestration – that’s something I voted against.”
The senator said he placed little confidence in President Barack Obama’s leadership when it came to national security.
“I don’t believe the security of this nation is in (Obama’s) top priority,” Shelby said.