Two GOP heavyweights find themselves at odds as a December 23 deadline looms over a spending package with potentially more than $650 million in earmarks connected to Alabama.
Outgoing U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa), the ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, and House Republican caucus leader U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House GOP's pick to be the Speaker of the House in the next Congress, are engaged in a public back-and-forth over whether or not to pass a $1.7 trillion omnibus bill to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year.
During his weekly press conference last week, McCarthy took aim at Shelby and his Senate Appropriations Committee counterpart U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), for their insistence on passage of the omnibus bill before the end of the current Congress.
"We're 20 days before the new members are being sworn in," McCarthy said. "We've got two members leading appropriations in the Senate who will no longer be here or be able to be held accountable to the constituents."
Shelby dismissed McCarthy's comments as posturing, with a House Speaker election approaching.
"The majority leader in the House, everybody has got their own opinion," Shelby said during a press gaggle last week. "He's running for Speaker, and we understand that. And he's got to put a coalition of Republicans together. But we all know it is the best thing to do is fund the government when you're here. Whether you're retiring or whether you got five more years, the problem remains the same."
"So I think it's irrational to shut down the government always," he continued. "It's the wrong message. The American people don't want that. A few people say, well, we will go to the edge of the earth, and we'll make people do so, and so I think it's best to try to work it out. You have to give and take. A lot of things are in the bill or will be that I don't like, and I wouldn't vote for. But military, veterans, safety nets for people and everything, let's do it."
However, Shelby's sentiment may also be somewhat self-serving, given he has $656 million in earmarks inserted into the omnibus package.
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 Shelby's hometown of Tuscaloosa, and $76 million for the University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Medicine.
McCarthy is not alone in his criticism of Alabama's senior U.S. Senator.
Former Reagan and Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who currently hosts a Fox Business Network program, argued Shelby was in danger of doing damage to his legacy, which spanned over 40 years on Capitol Hill.
In the House, U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) accused Shelby of being a sellout.
"Senator Shelby served a long time," Donalds said in an interview with Fox Business. "Thank you for your service to the country. But to take all this money out the door and cut a deal with the worst president in our history and which extends his agenda another nine months, is selling everybody out. That's just what it is."
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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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