After months of speculation about whether he would seek re-election, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) has signaled the end of his legislative career.
Shelby, 86, made the announcement on Monday via an official statement on his congressional website. He also posted his retirement plans on Twitter. Shelby is the longest serving Senator from Alabama in U.S. history.
With a over 42 years of service in Washington, the stalwart Senator from Alabama has amassed considerable political power and clout. Shelby’s ability to influence policy and impact political change his home state has made him especially beloved, particularly in Alabama’s economic circles.
Shelby’s reputation for “bringing home the bacon” is well earned. Over his 34 years in the Senate, he has helped steer innumerable projects and federal dollars to his district and across the state. Prior to the Biden administration, Shelby had been the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls federal spending. Since the Senate is currently Democratically controlled, the retiring lawmaker now holds the vice chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee.
Because his identity has, in recent years, been associated with his conservativism and staunch support of Donald Trump, contemporary political observers might make the mistake of thinking that Shelby has always been aligned with the GOP. They would be wrong.
When he was first elected to the Alabama Senate in 1970, Shelby was a registered Democrat. He was voted in as one of Alabama’s Democratic Congressmen in the 1978 election and gained his U.S. Senate seat by a narrow margin as a Democrat in 1986. During the Clinton administration, Shelby was re-elected as a Dem despite the fact that Clinton lost Alabama in the 1992 race. Up until the Republican Revolution of November 8, 1994, when the GOP gained 54 House seats and 8 Senate seats to control both chambers of Congress, the conservative Democrat remained with the party. However, the day after the Republican Revolution shifted political power, Shelby officially changed course, becoming the Republican Senator from Alabama.
Shelby’s legacy as a lawmaker was largely solidified during his years with the GOP. From 1994 to present, he has served as chairman of four major congressional committees including the Senate Rules, Banking, Intelligence, and the aforementioned Appropriations committee. He has also chaired the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
After Shelby tweeted the news of his retirement yesterday, many Twitter users responded with calls for the Senator to vote in favor of impeaching former President Donald Trump. Others on the social media site questioned the lawmaker's allegiance to America over unanswered questions involving Trump and Russian election interference. Apparently, Twitter did not forget Shelby's much-maligned July 4, 2018 trip to Moscow with 7 other GOP lawmakers. One Twitter user lamented the fact that Shelby had been in Congress since he was 17; that user is now 50.
Partisan politics and Twitter commentary aside, Senator Richard Shelby has undoubtedly made major contributions to economic and developmental progress in the state of Alabama. In his parting announcement, Shelby reassured citizens that although his work is ending, he is not yet done.
“Although I plan to retire, I am not leaving today,” Shelby’s statement said. “I have two good years remaining to continue my work in Washington. I have the vision and the energy to give it my all.”
Shelby is one of four GOP Congressmen who have announced that they will not seek re-election, setting the stage for a pitched battle in nationwide during the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. Senators Rob Portman (Ohio), Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and Richard Burr (N.C.) have also announced their retirement.