U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby's (R-Tuscaloosa) last hurrah may not work out as he had planned.
According to a report, Alabama's outgoing senior U.S. Senator has $656 million in earmarks in a $1.7 trillion omnibus bill to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year.
Included among those earmarks are funding for 17 projects, including $200 million for the Alabama State Port Authority, $100 million for Department of Transportation work on the Woolsey Finnell Bridge over the Black Warrior River in Tuscaloosa, and $76 million for the University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Medicine.
However, with Republicans likely to assume control of the U.S. House of Representatives, there is a difference of opinion on whether to proceed with this omnibus before Republicans take charge or to wait until next month when GOP lawmakers in the House have more leverage.
Shelby has argued against waiting until the new Congress.
"We know the best thing to do is to fund the government while we are here, whether you're retiring or whether you got five more years," he told reporters during a Capitol Hill press gaggle, according to the Washington Examiner. "The problem remains the same. You have to give and take. There are a lot of things in the bill that will be — that I don't like and I wouldn't vote for. But, military, veterans, safety nets for people — let's do it."
In a new Congress, Shelby's earmarks may not survive with him out of office and no longer playing a role in the appropriations process.
"Well you never know what's going to happen,” Shelby said to Mobile TV's NBC15 about the possibility. “But I feel optimistic today that we will pass the omnibus appropriations bill, with all … the funding of the government in it between now and December 23. But it's not passed until it's passed."
According to Politico, Alabama's senior congressman U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has also indicated it is better now than later to proceed, given the hurdles that lie ahead for House Republicans.
"Senior House GOP lawmakers, like Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt, have been warning for weeks about punting big spending decisions until next year, when the conference will be setting up a new Congress in addition to confronting the debt limit," Burgess Everett and Sarah Ferris wrote for Politico. "There's another big factor too: navigating a contested speaker's race, with the smallest of margins."
"House Republicans are going to be very skeptical. McCarthy made that clear in conference today," Aderholt said, according to the Politico report. "It will be good to get it off the plate now, if possible. But we'll see."
Even with the possibility of an influx of federal funds to the state, not all of Alabama's congressional delegation is aligned with Shelby and Aderholt.
U.S. Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) urges Republicans not to give in to Democrats, citing the midterm election outcome.
"Instead of rolling over and submitting to retiring and defeated Democrats, Republicans must insist that funding levels are extended past the lame duck session into the new Congress so that the American people can hold accountable the elected officials spending their tax dollars," Moore said.
Outgoing U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) also said he was a "no" vote on the current proposal.
"Well, I concur with the reasoning of Kevin McCarthy that the Republicans are about to take over the House in a scant three weeks," Brooks said during an interview with Huntsville radio WVNN. "So there's some legitimacy to the argument that we will hold more sway that arguably is more consistent to the will of the American people, since they just gave us the House of Representatives."
Jeff Poor is the executive editor of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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