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Sen. Richard Shelby (R)

Richard Shelby Contact
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DC Contact Information

Phone: 202-224-5744

Address: 304 RSOB, DC 20510

State Office Contact Information

Phone: (205) 731-1384

Address: 1800 Fifth Avenue North, Birmingham AL 35203-2113

Huntsville AL

Phone: (256) 772-0460

Fax: (256) 772-8387

Address: 1000 Glenn Hearn Boulevard, SW, Huntsville AL 35824-2107

Mobile AL

Phone: (251) 694-4164

Fax: (251) 694-4166

Address: 113 St. Joseph Street, Mobile AL 36602-3606

Montgomery AL

Phone: (334) 223-7303

Fax: (334) 223-7317

Address: 15 Lee Street, Montgomery AL 36104

Tuscaloosa AL

Phone: (205) 759-5047

Fax: (205) 759-5067

Address: 2005 University Boulevard, Tuscaloosa AL 35401-2816

Richard Shelby Staff
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Legislative Assistant
Manweiler, Kelsey
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Carter, Morgan
Legislative Correspondent
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Dunn, Jay
Legislative Assistant
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Legislative Correspondent
Dunn, Jay
Legislative Assistant
Manweiler, Kelsey
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Dunn, Jay
Legislative Assistant
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Dunn, Jay
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Manweiler, Kelsey
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Cantwell, Shannon
Legislative Assistant
Carter, Morgan
Legislative Correspondent
Carter, Morgan
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Dunn, Jay
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Legislative Assistant
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Adams, Heather
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Swanson, Jeff
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Legislative Assistant
Carter, Morgan
Legislative Correspondent
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Caldwell, Anne
Office Manager; Scheduler ; Executive Assistant
Miller, Torrie
Communications Director; Press Secretary
Adams, Heather
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Johnson, Brennan
State Representative
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District Representative
Jordan, Vera
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Richard Shelby Committees
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Richard Shelby Biography
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  • Elected: 1986, term expires 2016, 5th term.
  • State: Alabama
  • Born: May. 06, 1934, Birmingham
  • Home: Tuscaloosa
  • Education:

    U. of AL, B.A. 1957, LL.B. 1963

  • Professional Career:

    Practicing atty., 1963–78; City prosecutor, Tuscaloosa, 1963-71; U.S. magistrate 1966-70; Spec. asst. to Alabama atty. gen., 1969-71.

  • Political Career:

    AL Senate, 1970–78; U.S. House of Reps., 1979–87.

  • Ethnicity: White/Caucasian
  • Religion:

    Presbyterian

  • Family: Married (Annette Nevin); 2 children

Alabama senior Sen. Richard Shelby has held the top Republican slot on committees dealing with banking and spying, but the issue for which he remains best known at home is spending. Adept at securing federal money for his state, he has five buildings at Alabama’s public universities named for him, and in 2013, he became the Senate Appropriations Committee’s ranking member. Read More

Alabama senior Sen. Richard Shelby has held the top Republican slot on committees dealing with banking and spying, but the issue for which he remains best known at home is spending. Adept at securing federal money for his state, he has five buildings at Alabama’s public universities named for him, and in 2013, he became the Senate Appropriations Committee’s ranking member.

Shelby grew up in Birmingham, the son of a steelworker. After earning two degrees from the University of Alabama, he stayed in Tuscaloosa and practiced law with Walter Flowers, who was later a conservative Democratic congressman. Shelby, a Democrat at that time, was elected to the state Senate in 1970 at age 36. When Flowers ran, unsuccessfully, for the U.S. Senate in 1978, Shelby ran for his House seat. The critical contest was the Democratic runoff against Chris McNair, an African-American state legislator whose daughter, Denise, was one of the four young girls killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing. Although the district had the highest black percentage in Alabama at the time, Shelby won 59%-41%. In the House, Shelby had a conservative voting record, opposing the Voting Rights Act extension and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. He ran for the Senate in 1986 and won the Democratic primary with 51% of the vote after then-Secretary of State (and later governor) Don Siegelman withdrew. In the general election, he ran ads against incumbent Republican Jeremiah Denton, a retired admiral who had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam, for voting to cut Social Security and for owning two Mercedes-Benz cars. Shelby won by 7,000 votes.

As one of a half a dozen or so conservative Southern Democrats in the Senate in the mid-1980s, Shelby at first attracted little notice. In 1992, he was reelected 65%-33%, breaking a jinx on a seat that before Shelby’s election in 1986 had had four different occupants in 10 years. Soon after President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, Shelby broke ranks with the Democratic Party. At a meeting with Vice President Al Gore, he turned to the assembled Alabama television cameras and opposed the Clinton program as “high on taxes, low on spending cuts.” In response, the administration announced that a multimillion-dollar space facility would be built not in Alabama but in Texas (although it eventually was built in Alabama). The more he defied Clinton, the better Shelby’s favorable ratings were at home. The day after Republicans regained control of the Senate in 1994, Shelby announced he was switching parties, increasing the GOP majority to 53-47. Republicans happily allowed him to keep his seniority on the Banking Committee and gave him seats on Appropriations and its Defense Subcommittee. He got a seat on the Intelligence Committee as well, putting him on a course to assume the chairmanship of that panel in 1997.

By the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Senate was back in Democratic hands, but Shelby, as the ranking Republican on the Intelligence panel, was an important player in the ensuing weeks and months. He had adopted an adversarial posture toward the intelligence agencies during the Clinton and Bush presidencies, and soon after the terrorist attacks, Shelby stopped just short of calling for the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, who was appointed by Clinton and retained by Bush. Shelby also was critical of the lack of information about the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. In June 2004, when Tenet announced his resignation, Shelby said, “What was a surprise was that he held onto the job as long as he did.”

Aside from his positions on the intelligence agencies, Shelby was mostly supportive of the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terrorism. In December 2001, he was one of 10 senators to sign a letter calling for a plan “to eliminate the threat from Iraq.” But he clashed with the two Intelligence Committee chairmen, Democratic Sen. Bob Graham and Republican Rep. Porter Goss, both of Florida. He helped push aside their choice of staff director for the joint probe of intelligence agencies, and he installed his own candidate. At first, he opposed the appointment of an independent Sept. 11 commission as unnecessary, but relented in 2002. He was out front in calling for the creation of a director of national intelligence after the intelligence agencies, in his view, were unable to work together and to share information. That position was later upheld by the 9/11 commission and adopted in the intelligence bill approved by Congress in 2004. That bill included a Shelby proposal to give the DNI ombudsman access to all intelligence for analytical reviews, but he was displeased that the new director would not be a Cabinet member.

On domestic issues, Shelby has compiled a conservative record. But he is not a free market purist. Despite his party switch, he has remained friendly with trial lawyers, who usually support Democrats in Alabama. Lawyers and law firms have been his biggest source of campaign contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He opposed Alabama colleague Jeff Sessions’ amendment to cap lawyers’ fees in tobacco cases and insisted tort reform was a state issue. He voted against a 2004 bill to protect gun manufacturers from liability for actions of users of their products. He was the only Senate Republican to vote against financial services deregulation in 1999, and he opposed allowing federally insured banks to sell real estate or insurance. In 2013, Shelby was one of only five Senate Republicans to oppose the New Year’s Eve fiscal cliff agreement, saying that the bipartisan deal on taxes and spending “falls far short of the measures necessary to promote job creation, economic growth, and fiscal stability.”

A deft politician, he is quick to backslap with colleagues and recount war stories during downtime. But when it comes to legislation, Shelby is a notoriously tough negotiator, known for keeping his cards close to his chest and preserving his options for as long as possible. Such tactics can frustrate participants on and off Capitol Hill, and, at times, nearly thwart would-be deals. Between 2003 and the end of 2012, Shelby was either the chairman or the ranking minority member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, and from that perch, was at the center of congressional attempts to stem problems in the mortgage and insurance industries. His term limit on the panel forced him to step aside in January 2013 in favor of Idaho’s Mike Crapo.

On a hotly lobbied issue in 2003, Shelby supported defining stock options as expenses, a measure opposed by the high technology industry. The same year, he presciently quizzed Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan about the increasing number of home loans to borrowers with weak credit histories, a trend that sent the home mortgage market into a tailspin by 2008. That same year, Democratic Chairman Christopher Dodd of Connecticut pushed a compromise housing bill that would allow bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages and another proposal to refinance mortgages for millions of homeowners at risk of defaulting. Consumer groups pushed for both, but could not get by Shelby. The government, he said, should not engage in a “taxpayer funded bailout of investors or homeowners.”

He also opposed the $700 billion rescue of the financial markets in September 2008, though President Bush was pushing the legislation. Two months later, he opposed a massive government loan for the Big Three domestic automakers, which he called “dinosaurs.” He threatened to filibuster and the bill did not pass the Senate, though President Barack Obama proceeded with a successful administrative version. When he was criticized on the grounds that he was defending foreign automakers with plants in Alabama, he pointed out that he had voted against an earlier bailout of Chrysler long before the plants were built. In 2010, Shelby again came under fire for blocking the nomination of esteemed economist Peter Diamond to the board of the Federal Reserve. He insisted Diamond was not ready to serve and lacked experience and knowledge in monetary economics, comments that were derided by national media outlets after Diamond won the Nobel Prize in economics in October of that year.

Shelby was a key player in efforts to reform the nation’s financial regulatory system in 2009-2010. The bill reined in the over-the-counter derivatives market as well as granted regulators the power to take over firms and liquidate them as a way to prevent future government rescues. Shelby and Dodd appeared ready to work together during the early stages of negotiations on the bill. When the Obama administration wanted to designate the Federal Reserve as the top regulator of systemic risk in the financial system, both Shelby and Dodd opposed the idea. They also agreed, in theory, with the creation of a consumer financial protection division or agency. However, a persistent sticking point surfaced over the details of creating the new entity. While Dodd and Obama wanted the new consumer protection agency to be housed within the Federal Reserve and given more independence, Shelby wanted to create a consumer protection division within the FDIC. The amendment failed 61-38.

Shelby expressed other reservations about the bill, including its failure to address Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the quasi-governmental mortgage agencies that received substantial rescue funds. When the initial financial services reform bill was passed by the Senate in late May, Shelby voted against it. In the final version, Shelby fought for and won an amendment giving the Securities and Exchange Commission greater powers and independence in monitoring the financial markets. His provision allowed the SEC to circumvent the White House and submit its budget request directly to Congress, and it gave the commission authority to use up to $100 million a year in reserve funds to respond quickly to unforeseen problems in the markets.

Despite his objections to the creation of the Troubled Asset Relief Program to assist failing banks, Shelby drew praise from the program’s special inspector general, Neil Barofsky. In a 2012 book criticizing Congress and the Treasury Department for its handling of the issue, Barofsky singled out Shelby for being more interested in substance than many of his colleagues. In one briefing with the senator, he wrote, “I probably covered more in fifteen minutes of rapid-fire questions and answers than in most hour-long meetings with other members of Congress.”

Working with a new banking committee chairman, South Dakota’s Tim Johnson, in 2011 and 2012, Shelby remained at the forefront of Republican efforts to delay the Obama administration’s implementation of the new consumer protection bureau. He demanded changes to the bureau’s structure before he would consider approving a director to lead it; the objections by him and other Republicans eventually prompted Obama to circumvent the Senate in January 2012 and make a recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray.

In his role on Appropriations, Shelby looks out for Alabama’s interests. When it comes to earmarking, the special provisions tucked into spending bills by individual lawmakers, Shelby has “made a kind of art form out of it,” former Alabama GOP Rep. Jack Edwards told the Mobile Press-Register. When the sock industry in DeKalb County stood to be hurt by a 2002 free trade bill, Shelby held up the bill to get protection from socks produced in the Caribbean, and in 2004, he got country-of-origin labeling for imported and domestic socks. He has obtained some $70 million for University of Alabama at Birmingham medical campus buildings, one of which is named for him, and funds for refurbishing the Vulcan statue on Birmingham’s Red Mountain—a favorite target of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who has crusaded against earmarks. He registers near the top of the annual list of wasteful spending earmarks compiled by the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. He was critical of the Senate’s two-year earmark ban adopted in November 2010, saying it would put a significant crimp in his long-term goal of securing $1 billion for science, engineering, and research projects at the state’s colleges.

Shelby’s party switch caused him no trouble in increasingly Republican Alabama, in part because he routinely raises significant amounts of money to discourage serious challengers. In 1998, he was reelected 63%-37% over a retired ironworker who mortgaged his pickup truck to pay the $2,672 filing fee. For the 2004 election, his Democratic opponent was Wayne Sowell, Alabama’s first black Senate nominee and a telephone claims representative for the Social Security Administration in Birmingham. Shelby spent only $2.3 million of the $11 million he had stockpiled for the contest, and won 68%-32%, running behind in only nine black-majority counties in the Black Belt. He easily won reelection in 2010 against Democrat William Barnes, a Birmingham lawyer.

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Richard Shelby Election Results
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2010 General
Richard Shelby (R)
Votes: 968,181
Percent: 65.18%
William Barnes
Votes: 515,619
Percent: 34.71%
2010 Primary
Richard Shelby (R)
Votes: 405,398
Percent: 84.35%
N. C. "Clint" Moser
Votes: 75,190
Percent: 15.65%
Prior Winning Percentages
2004 (68%); 1998 (63%); 1992 (65%); 1986 (50%); House: 1984 (97%); 1982 (97%); 1980 (73%); 1978 (94%)
Richard Shelby Votes and Bills
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National Journal’s rating system is an objective method of analyzing voting. The liberal score means that the lawmaker’s votes were more liberal than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The conservative score means his votes were more conservative than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The composite score is an average of a lawmaker’s six issue-based scores. See all NJ Voting

More Liberal
More Conservative
2013 2012 2011
Economic 32 (L) : 67 (C) 30 (L) : 69 (C) 22 (L) : 77 (C)
Social 9 (L) : 90 (C) 10 (L) : 87 (C) 12 (L) : 83 (C)
Foreign 21 (L) : 76 (C) 10 (L) : 85 (C) 32 (L) : 66 (C)
Composite 21.5 (L) : 78.5 (C) 18.2 (L) : 81.8 (C) 23.3 (L) : 76.7 (C)
Interest Group Ratings

The vote ratings by 10 special interest groups provide insight into a lawmaker’s general ideology and the degree to which he or she agrees with the group’s point of view. Two organizations provide just one combined rating for 2011 and 2012, the two sessions of the 112th Congress. They are the ACLU and the ITIC. About the interest groups.

20112012
FRC7171
LCV1814
CFG9166
ITIC-63
NTU8470
20112012
COC91-
ACLU-25
ACU9076
ADA50
AFSCME0-
Key Senate Votes

The key votes show how a member of Congress voted on the major bills of the year. N indicates a "no" vote; Y a "yes" vote. If a member voted "present" or was absent, the bill caption is not shown. For a complete description of the bills included in key votes, see the Almanac's Guide to Usage.

    • End fiscal cliff
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Block faith exemptions
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Approve gas pipeline
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Approve farm bill
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Let cyber bill proceed
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Block Gitmo transfers
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Raise debt limit
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Pass balanced budget amendment
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Stop EPA climate regulations
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Proceed to Cordray vote
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Require talking filibuster
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Limit Fannie/Freddie
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Regulate financial firms
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Pass tax cuts for some
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Legalize immigrants' kids
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Ratify New START
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Confirm Elena Kagan
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Stop EPA climate regs
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Repeal don't ask, tell
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Overturn Ledbetter
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Block release of TARP funds
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass $787 billion stimulus
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Repeal DC gun laws
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Confirm Sonia Sotomayor
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass health care bill
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Bar budget rules for climate bill
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass 2010 budget resolution
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Let judges adjust mortgages
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Allow FDA to regulate tobacco
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Protect gays from hate crimes
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Cut F-22 funds
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Label North Korea terrorist state
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Build Guantanamo replacement
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Allow federal funds for abortion
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Cap greenhouse gases
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2008
    • Bail out financial markets
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2008
    • Increase missile defense $
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2008
    • Overhaul FISA
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2008
    • Raise CAFE standards
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Expand SCHIP
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Make English official language
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Path to citizenship
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Fetus is unborn child
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Prosecute hate crimes
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Withdraw troops 3/08
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Iran guard is terrorist group
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
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The Almanac is a members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics. Comprehensive online profiles include biographical and political summaries of elected officials, campaign expenditures, voting records, interest-group ratings, and congressional staff look-ups. In-depth overviews of each state and house district are included as well, along with demographic data, analysis of voting trends, and political histories.
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