By Steve Flowers
There have been monumental budget battles in Washington and Montgomery this year. The big difference is that the State of Alabama has a constitutional requirement that we have a balanced budget. We cannot spend more than we can take in. Unfortunately, the United States does not have the same constitutional provision. To his credit, our Senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby has proposed just such a measure in every session of his 29 years in the Senate.
Our national debt is the biggest problem facing our country. It weakens us in every aspect of national power, prestige, prosperity and security. Barack Obama has never really cared about this national crisis. This socialist Democratic philosophy has been the downfall of several European and third world countries, as well as early Rome.
Obama’s prescription of higher taxes on upper income workers and earners and increased benefits for non-workers and illegal immigrants has been thwarted by the Republican capture of the U.S. Senate last year. With the Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, Obama and his socialist liberal Robin Hood concept of government with no regard to the federal deficit has been held in check. Obama has become irrelevant in the budget process.
Senator Shelby has moved into an elite circle of power in Washington. Our Senior Senator is one of the five most powerful members of the Senate. As he approaches 30 years in the Senate, Shelby is one of the leaders in seniority and thus power. He currently chairs the Senate Banking Committee. His committee affects every aspect of the U.S. economy. However, he probably will move to chair the even more powerful Appropriations Committee next year. If you think he has been helpful to Alabama in the past, then you have not seen anything yet.
Shelby is an Alabama treasure. At 80 years old, he is in excellent health and looks about 10 years younger than his chronological age. Fortunately for the state, he plans to run for reelection in 2016. Shelby will be a prohibitive favorite to be reelected to a sixth six-year term. Therefore, the bigger question is what happens nationally and can the Republicans keep control of the Senate after the 2016 elections.
Of the 34 Senators up for reelection in 2016, 24 are Republicans and 10 are Democrats. These numbers put pressure on Republicans to retain control of the upper chamber. It will also be a problem for Republican retention if Hillary Clinton routs the GOP candidate for president. This could very well happen if the Republicans nominate someone from the right-wing.
The 10 Democrats up for election are from solidly blue liberal Democratic states. Therefore, the incumbent or another Democrat will likely win. On the other hand, several of the Republicans are running in states that have voted repeatedly for Democratic presidential candidates.
The list of Republican Senators from swing or blue states is lengthy. Included on the list are Sen. Ron Johnson (Wisconsin), Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), Sen. Pat Toomy (Pennsylvania), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), and Sen. Mark Kirk (Illinois). Besides Senator Shelby here in Alabama, there are three southern Senators who should be safer than their six colleagues mentioned above. That list includes Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Paul and Rubio are running for President. However, another Republican would probably take their place.
Another problem awaiting the GOP’s retention of seats in blue or swing states is that historically there is an increased voter turnout in presidential years, which tends to favor Democrats.
On a positive note for Republicans is the presence of the deep-pocketed GOP benefactors the Koch Brothers. Top officials in the Koch Brothers political organization have a staggering $900 million budget to fund the billionaires’ involvement on behalf of right leaning GOP candidates in 2016.
Charles and David Koch’s political involvement is monumental. It is obvious that the Koch Brothers intend to continue building an operation that rivals or exceeds the national parties in size. They are dedicated to advancing their libertarian principles.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.