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Shelby delivers farewell speech on Senate floor

Shelby is the longest-serving senator in the history of the state of Alabama, first elected in 1986.

Sen. Richard Shelby.
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Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, on Wednesday issued his farewell statement to the U.S. Senate during time set aside for senators to recognize his service. 

A native of Tuscaloosa, Shelby is the longest-serving senator in history of the state of Alabama, first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986.

He previously served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and two terms in the Alabama Senate.

Shelby is the current vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, where he previously served as chairman. He is also the former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

Shelby’s farewell message, as delivered Wednesday afternoon on the Senate floor, is below.

“Madam President, today I come to the Senate floor for what will probably be one of my last times – perhaps not my last time but close. I want to start off by thanking the people of Alabama, my home State. They have put their trust in me for more than 50 years. It is more than I could ever wish for, and this has been truly been an experience of a lifetime – something I could have never dreamed.

“I came to the House 44 years ago and served 8 years as a Democrat coming from the State of Alabama. I had a good run in the U.S. House, and I appreciate that. I am grateful for that. However, I always wanted to come over here to the U.S. Senate.

“In 1986, I ran for the Senate against the incumbent, Jeremiah Denton—a prominent war hero, a great man—and I won that race by 6,854 votes. It was razor, razor thin, as you can imagine.

“In 1994, after years of being told to join the Republican Party and that I should be there, from President Reagan and all the way down, I decided to switch parties. I joined the Republican

Party. Some people would say that I was in the vanguard of the realignment of the Republican Party in the South. That is for history to decide. 

“During my time in the Senate, I have been given the great opportunity of chairing four committees—four committees—something I couldn’t have believed. In these positions of leadership, I have tried to influence legislation that will have a lasting impact, creating conditions to improve our country. On the Select Committee on Intelligence, I served there for 8 years and was chairman of the full committee.

“On the Banking Committee, where I am grateful to still serve after 36 years, I was chairman for three Congresses and was ranking member for three Congresses. On that committee, I worked with various Senators. 

“I had the opportunity, as some of you have had, to chair the Rules Committee, which is important to the running of the Senate. We worked together and instituted some very serious legislation.

“But, finally, after many years of work, I chaired the Appropriations Committee. Working across the aisle in a bipartisan way, we passed and enacted the most on-time spending bills in 2018 for the first time in 22 years. We did that, I believe, by working together.

“As I look back on the Senate, I think of some of the people who were here who are not with us anymore, but they have had a lasting impact on this body—the Senate.

“I think of Senator Bob Dole—Presidential candidate, Vice Presidential candidate, majority leader, minority leader, friend, mentor—I thought had a lasting impact.

“I think of Senator Byrd – Democrat of West Virginia, former majority leader, later chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He had strong views and was a man of the Senate.

“We also had Senator Mark Hatfield – a Republican, former Governor of Oregon, distinguished chairman of the Appropriations Committee – whom I had the opportunity and privilege to serve with here in the Senate.

“We had Senator Ted Stevens—Republican of Alaska, well known, strong views, Appropriations chairman, and a good role model for me on the committee. He spent 40 years in the Senate.

“We had Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii—a Democrat, a war hero. He was a great Senator and chairman of the Appropriations Committee and powerful chairman of the Defense Subcommittee of Appropriations for years.

“We had here in the Senate—who we called the lion of the Senate—Senator Ted Kennedy, a Democrat. He was involved in a lot of stuff. A lot of it I voted against; some of it I didn’t. But he would reach out. One thing about Senator Kennedy—if he told you something, he kept his word. That is so important, not just in the Senate, but everywhere.

“I remember my good friend Bob Kerrey—a war hero, Congressional Medal of Honor winner, former Governor of Nebraska, Senator. We served together on the Intel Committee and the Appropriations Committee.

“On the Banking Committee was Paul Sarbanes of Maryland—a stalwart here, a Democrat. We had our differences, philosophically. I was ranking and then chairman of the Banking Committee, and he was ranking, and he was chairman. But we made things work because we worked together toward that end.

“Senator Harry Reid was here—former majority leader, right here, an old friend of mine from our House days, a personal friend. People knew that. People knew. They would see us talking and say: Why are you all speaking today? And I would say: Well, we are talking about everything. It may be personal; it may not be. We may be trying to get something done.

“We had Senator Cochran from Mississippi—a nice man, a real gentleman, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who served here 40 years.

“And my friend from Maryland, Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat—what a fighter—chairman of the Appropriations Committee. We worked together, when I was ranking on the Appropriations Committee, to get things done, and we did.

“I would like to touch on some of my colleagues whom I served with from my State of Alabama. First I want to mention that today is the 203rd birthday of my State of Alabama. Today, they became a State 203 years ago. I was not there then.

“As for some of my colleagues from Alabama—Senator Howell Heflin, who some of you will remember, was bigger than life and larger than life. He served 18 years here in the Senate.

“Jeff Sessions—a lot of you remember Jeff—he served 20 years in the Senate.

“Luther Strange, who is here on the floor now—his tenure was short, but we remember him well. He is a dear friend.

“Doug Jones served here for three years in the Senate. He was a Democrat from Alabama, and we had a good relationship. We did a lot of things together in a bipartisan way.

“My current colleague, Tommy Tuberville—he is doing well. He is ending his second year in the Senate. He was a great coach—too great a coach when he played Alabama. He beat the dickens out of us a few times. So I said: Let’s keep him in the Senate.

“I want to mention my friend Pat Leahy—chairman of the Appropriations Committee, President pro tempore of the Senate, long-term serving member of the Appropriations Committee. When I was chairman, he was ranking. We worked together on the committee, and we got things done. 

“I told him that I would rather be chairman, but if a Democrat is going to be chairman, it had to be him because he was the only one in the room when I said that.

“Pat and I have worked together to get some things done. We have got work to do before this year is out, and we, hopefully, are on the right track.

“Mitch McConnell is sitting right here—friend, accomplished leader, the longest serving Senate Republican Leader, majority leader, minority leader now, a long-term friend with deep roots in Alabama, but from Kentucky.

“Mitch, I have said to other people that I have seen a lot of people work, but you know how to work the Senate and you know how to make it work. I consider you a friend, and I have enjoyed my time with you.

“During my time in the Senate, I have had the great privilege to serve with eight Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter; Ronald Reagan; George H. W. Bush; Bill Clinton; George W. Bush; Barack Obama, who was a former colleague of ours; Donald Trump; and Joe Biden now, former colleague and Senator. That is a great honor. 

“I want to speak just a few minutes here to what I think is important here in the Senate. We are in the Senate, but we are the Senate. I want to speak about why bipartisanship is important. It is important because it is good for the country. It is important because it brings people together. It is important because we all have our differences in philosophy, but the country, I believe, should be first, the Nation should be first. It is important, I also believe, because of the oath we take—all of us—when we are sworn into the Senate. 

“And I want to share this with you. You have done it, you have taken it—all of us do—you take that oath and you swear: I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic—That is a lot—That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

“That covers a lot of ground. Everybody here knows that. As I look back on my years here this afternoon, a lot of it was at a time when we did things together here. We ate together. We socialized together. We worked together. But today I think we have become too polarized, and there are a lot of reasons for that. We understand.

“But I can say that we need to get back to the basics and put the country first. We must not put ourselves or our party first. We must put America first. We have to. And many of us—a lot of you—have tried to do this at times. We all have, in our own way. Senator Leahy and I have worked toward that end.

“I have always believed—and this goes back—that we should strive for Plato’s instruction to all of us—to strive to work for the ideal. I know that he means the utopia. That is probably never going to happen, but that is the goal.

“In the Senate, having taken that oath of office, I have always thought that the security of the Nation is the number one obligation of the Senate and the House, the Congress, and the President of the United States. My parents taught me this, and I believe this, and it is referenced in the oath of office that I just shared with you.

“It is important to have, I believe, priorities. I have done my best to focus on things that will have a big impact on America and also my home State of Alabama. I always look at it that—being in the U.S. Senate, I am a Senator from Alabama, but I am also a United States Senator—for America. We all are.

“Some of my priorities have been national security. As you well know, I have chaired the Intel Committee. I have worked and I was on the Armed Services Committee with Senators

Nunn and Warner. Education is a high priority for all of us, on both sides of the aisle. It has to be. Creating manufacturing and workforce development—that is education and training. You have to have it. Infrastructure is so important. It covers everything from communications to roads. Outstanding Federal judges that we vote on here are very important.

“Also, as my days are ticking away, I want to mention my successor that is coming, Senator-elect Katie Britt. She is here today. She will be coming into office. I think she will serve the Nation and all of us well. She has a lot of promise.

“Lastly, toward the end, I also want to thank my family for their enduring support. I want to thank my wife Annette, who is here, my wife of 62 years. My service here would not have been possible without her. I am also immensely grateful for her dedication to my career, and her ambition and ability to break her own glass ceiling in academia along the way.

“I want to thank my two sons, Richard and Claude. I want to thank them for their support and perseverance while growing up in political times and in a political family. It was tough on them. 

“I also want to thank my two grandchildren. One of them, Anna Shelby, is here, and my grandson William—he better be in the library studying.

“I want to thank my parents for everything—I mean, everything.

“I also want to say thank you to my staff over the years. Many of them are here today, and there have been many of them. They are outstanding people. I couldn’t have done anything without them. 

“I don’t know where I would start calling the staff roll, but I do want to thank Anne Caldwell. A lot of you know Anne. She has been with me 44 years. Wow. I thank her for her loyalty, her perseverance, and for getting me to meetings on time. Anne, thank you, very much. Thank you.

“Also, lastly, I have had a lot of chiefs of staff. I have had good ones—many good ones. But I have a young man working for me now, and he took a leave of absence from a big job with a big pay to work the last two years up here, Watson Donald. Thank you, Watson.

“I want to thank my friends back home in Alabama for their support over the years, as well as my friends here in the Senate.

“And, importantly, I want to thank the people of Alabama for electing me 12 times to public office. It has been the honor of my lifetime.

“I yield the floor.”

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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