Feb 07 2007

Shelby pushes support

The Times-Journal

By Kati Burns

Sen. Richard Shelby continued his support for U.S. troops in Iraq, but did not commit to supporting President Bush’s troop increase.

Speaking at a town hall meeting Saturday at the DeKalb Theatre, Shelby, R-Ala., encouraged others to help keep moral high among the men and women of the Armed Forces.

“We cannot send a message to the troops that we back you but we don’t think you can win,” Shelby said. “That’s wrong. We shouldn’t keep our troops there forever, but we shouldn’t just move them out. This war on terror is not going away.”

Shelby said there is a divide over the war, one that will continue 50 or 100 years from now, a statement that was almost mirrored in Bush’s State of the Union several week’s ago, just before he asked Congress to authorize an increase in the size of active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years.

“I wish I could make the war on terror go away but I can’t,” Shelby said. “The president has the power to move troops. But never cut off moral support for our troops. Otherwise, all is in vain.”

The Senate was expected to vote this week on a non-binding resolution that would express disagreement with the president’s plan.

Several employees from various Fort Payne hosiery mills expressed gratitude to Shelby for his continued support of the sock industry following his opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

“What do you say when a third generation steel worker, who has made their living in the industry, has a wife and children, comes to you because their job is now gone?” Shelby said. “We’ve built a middle class off of manufacturing. I don’t necessarily believe in free trade. In the past year, CAFTA has lost over 1,100 employees from the sock industry.”

One 21-year veteran from a local sock mill said she had recently been laid off, but she thanked Shelby for his continued support. She said she is now looking at moving on and going to college. Shelby said she could be an example and inspiration for others with her similar experience.

Shelby also said an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants are in the U.S. and if America is going to have immigration laws, they should be either enforced or done away with entirely.

“There is very soon going to come a law through the Senate that is going to have amnesty wrapped all in it,” Shelby said. “I’m not voting for any of that stuff. What does that say to people who come here legal? If this law goes through, then 20 more years from now, we’ll have 50 million here.”

Shelby said the issue concerning children, who gain citizenship in the U.S. when born to illegal immigrants, is an issue that should be re-evaluated.

“There are 300 million people in this country and researchers project there will be 400 million in 37 years,” Shelby said. “This brings problems. We can’t take everybody. I understand that they want a better way of life but they should go through the legal process.”

Shelby was presented with the Spirit of Enterprise Award by representative from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Debbie DeLong, before his speech.

DeLong said the U.S. Chamber polls the American business community to find which issue matters most , and then evaluates members of Congress on how they voted on those issues. Members who vote 70 percent or greater receive the award. Issues evaluated this year included, bankruptcy reform, class action reform, comprehensive energy legislation reform, CAFTA and long-term highway bill.

Shelby earned an 89 percent and had a 72 percent cumulative score to win the award.

At the conclusion of Shelby’s speech, Fort Payne Mayor Bill Jordan presented him with the key to the city.