Shelby advocates increased defense spending
By David Zaslawsky
Photography by Robert Fouts
Speaking at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues, Alabama’s senior senator was candid about the Middle East.
“I’d like to tell you we’re going to solve the problems in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, but we know better than that,” Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, said. “I think we have to be very careful going back in there and see what the end game is.
“The Shiites and the Sunni Muslims have been fighting each other to the death for 1,500 years. I don’t think it’s going to change whatever we do, but we do have vital interests there.”
Shelby pointed out the coup in Egypt and what he called a counter coup and the troubles in Syria where “you don’t know who’s fighting who because the sides change.”
He said that Russia under President Putin “has become an insurgent. I don’t see any end to it,” he said, referring to Russian incursions in Georgia and Ukraine. “They’re pushing people around.”
Shelby, a five-term senator who was re-elected in 2010, said that China “becomes a greater challenge to us every day – economically, and I believe will be a military challenge in the years to come.” He said that China’s economy will support a military buildup.
He blasted the automatic cuts to defense from sequestration, which Shelby said “has taken a toll and will take a bigger toll on just about every military installation around.” He said Congress needs to increase defense spending “for the sake of the safety of the country and perhaps the world.”That makes it all the more important, according to Shelby, to invest in national defense. He said the country should have a military “second to none.” With the GOP taking charge of the Senate and a greater majority in the House after the midterm elections, Shelby said that “there is a better audience for national security.” He said that Republicans “are going to make a big effort to bolster defense spending. How much will it be? We’ll have to see what our budget numbers are and what we can move around because when we pump money into defense, something else is going to have to give a little bit. National security is our No. 1 goal.”
One critical area is cyber security, Shelby said. And it could play a significant role here at Maxwell Air Force Base and Gunter Annex. “We’re going to have some of the best and brightest of our people” working on cyber security,” Shelby said. “It’s been neglected too long.”
On other issues, Shelby said:
The country benefits from immigration, but he wants the borders and immigration laws enforced.
He supports international trade deals.
There is not enough revenue for highway infrastructure projects and there is no sentiment in Washington to raise the gas tax or diesel tax to support such projects.
As the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, he wants to seek “regulatory relief” for small- and mid-sized banks that are being treated the same as the country’s largest banks. He said many small businesses obtain funding from small- and mid-sized banks.
He supports the Keystone XL pipeline project that was vetoed by President Obama. “The more oil we can get to the refineries … the cheaper our gas bills and diesel bills,” Shelby said.
Next year is “going to be interesting and expensive” with a crowded GOP field in the presidential race as well as all the House seats and one-third of the Senate seats being contested.
He supports changing the Senate filibuster rules on legislation from 60 votes to 51 votes – the same change that Democrats made on the president’s nominees.
Washington needs to “create the conditions for industry and jobs in America” and reduce regulations. ?
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby spoke as a part of the Montgomery Chamber’s Eggs & Issues series, bringing business people and community leaders together with our congressional delegation. Grand presenting sponsor of the Eggs & Issues series is Troy University.