For the past several decades, Alabama’s power has been centered around the U.S. Senate – primarily because of former Sen. Richard Shelby’s immense power and influence.
During Shelby’s 36-year tenure, he chaired the Intelligence, Banking and Rules Committees. However, he became immensely powerful his last six years as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Shelby practically moved Washington to Alabama when it came to bringing home procured earmarked funds to the Heart of Dixie. We received more federal funding than any state in America. National publications labeled Shelby the “Greatest Pork King” in federal history, surpassing the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
Lest we forget, Shelby also had a very respected and tenured wingman in Sen. Jeff Sessions, who served with distinction for 20 years in the Senate. They were a great team.
In the halls of Congress, especially in the U.S. Senate, seniority equates into power and we had it. However, we who follow Alabama politics have been cautioning you that our day of reckoning would arrive in January 2023, when Richard Shelby retired from the Senate and that day has arrived.
Alabama will never be able to raid the federal vault like Shelby has done. Fortunately, as he was walking out the door, he brought so much largesse home with him that it will take other states 10 years to catch up.
Under the U.S. Senate seniority system, it will take young Katie Britt about 10 years before she will have any impact and influence in the Senate. Katie Britt took office with zero years seniority and that places her 99th in seniority status in the U.S. Senate. Our senior U.S. senator, Tommy Tuberville, has two years seniority. That places him 89th in seniority in the 100-member senate.
However, we have several members of our U.S. House delegation who are garnering some seniority and are emerging as powerful members of the lower body. Therefore, for at least the next decade, our power in Washington will be in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Jefferson/Shelby 6th District Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) has been instrumental in helping to garner extremely good committee assignments for our six Republican members of Congress. Palmer, who is a quiet, policy issues congressman, was the founder and leader of the Alabama Policy Institute prior to going to Congress. Therefore, it was apropos that he would gravitate to the 30-member Republican Party Steering Committee. This committee has emerged as a powerful entity in the past decade. They essentially chose the House Committee Assignments along with Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Congressman Gary Palmer will serve as Chairman of the House GOP Policy Committee. He will also retain his position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This committee has jurisdiction over health care, which is vital to UAB – the heart and soul of the 6th District.
Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) is our senior congressman. He got to Washington at a very young age. He is now only 57 years old and has 28 years seniority. He is one of the cardinals on the House Appropriations Committee and is now chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Resources. This committee will be very important to Alabama because of the biomedical research going on in Birmingham and Huntsville. If the Republicans maintain their majority into 2025, Aderholt is in line to become chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Saks/Anniston) has emerged as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. This is a very important coup for Alabama and an impressive appointment for Mike Rogers. The U.S. military has a very large footprint and importance in the Heart of Dixie. Defense dollars dominate Alabama’s economy.
In addition to Rogers, two of our newest members of Congress have scored seats on the Armed Services Committee – Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) and Rep. Dale Strong (R-Huntsville). Both Carl and Strong are bright stalwart stars for our congressional delegation. They have also become close friends and allies.
In addition to garnering a seat on the Armed Services Committee, Jerry Carl has been placed on the Appropriations Committee. He will be a workhorse for his coastal Alabama district.
Freshman Congressman Dale Strong’s appointment to the Armed Services Committee is a great feather for Strong given the importance of the Redstone Arsenal and the immense amount of defense dollars in Huntsville.
Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) landed an appointment to the prestigious Judiciary Committee.
Alabama’s lone congressional Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell, will retain her position as Chief Deputy Whip within the Democratic caucus. Sewell will also continue to serve on the powerful and prestigious House Ways and Means Committee.
The paradigm of our power in Washington has moved to the U.S. House of Representatives.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers’ weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state Legislature. Steve may be reached at: www.steveflowers.us.