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Opinion | Senator Katie Britt’s amazing first year

I have never seen an elected official handle a new position with such skill and personal poise.

Hearings to examine combatting transnational criminal organizations and related trafficking. (Official U.S. Senate photo by John Klemmer)

As Christmas approaches, Alabama’s new senator, Katie Britt, prepares to mark one year in office. Those of us who have known her since before she was elected to the Senate, knew she would be successful, but we could not have imagined the accomplishments and achievements that she has had over the past 12 months. 

In all my years of following Alabama politics, I have never seen an elected official handle a new position with such skill and personal poise. Britt has achieved the best first year in U.S. Senate history.

Britt’s predecessor in the Senate, Richard Shelby, holds the distinction of being one of Alabama’s greatest senators. Shelby even eclipsed political giants Lister Hill and John Sparkman. Replacing Shelby, after his more than 40 years in the Senate, was going to be a tall task, but Britt has proven herself more than capable and is already forging her own path into Alabama’s political hall of fame.

To begin with, Katie Britt garnered seats on the three most important committees in the U.S. Senate – Appropriations, Banking and Rules. It is unheard of for a freshman senator to get on any one of these three committees. No one in Washington history has ever seen a freshman senator hit the trifecta of Rules, Banking and Appropriations until Katie Britt.

Not only was Britt able to secure a seat on the Appropriations Committee in her first year, she was then able to use that position to secure more than $1.2 billion for Alabama. To put that number in perspective, although starting out the year dead-last in seniority, Britt finished in the top 10 of all Senators when it came to securing investments for her home state. The projects funded include much-needed waterway and infrastructure improvements and new construction at Fort Rucker, Maxwell Air Force Base, and Redstone Arsenal, but also fill critical needs such as expanding ambulance coverage in North Alabama and growing capacity at Troy University’s nursing school.

However, it is not all about dollars and cents. Britt holds the distinction of being the only freshman senator to ever serve as the top Republican on the Appropriations subcommittee for Homeland Security. With this position, she made three trips to the border in her first two months in office and has quickly become one of the top advocates in Congress for securing our southern border and cracking down on illegal immigration. 

On the Senate Banking Committee, where Shelby and Sparkman spent decades fighting for Alabama’s credit unions and community banks, Britt has been a strong advocate for our state’s financial institutions. After the highly publicized failures of Silicon Valley Bank, First Republic, and Signature Bank earlier this year, she pushed federal regulators to accept responsibility and worked to prevent a misguided bureaucratic power-grab. 

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As a sign of the regard in which she is held by her colleagues on the Banking Committee, despite the fact that she is one of their most junior members, she led their crucial hearing last month on American financial sanctions against Iran, filling in for the chairman, Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Every time folks see Britt on TV, hear her speak to a local group, or even meet her one on one, I hear about how they walk away encouraged about the future of our state and our country. I will say this, the most heartening part of this whole story is the fact that the rest of America is seeing what the people of Alabama saw long ago, that Katie Britt is truly one of our best and brightest. She conducts herself with old-school southern grace, integrity, and class, which has resulted in her being respected and liked by colleagues and constituents on both sides of the aisle.

National outlets like CBS and Politico are even talking about Britt being on a presidential ticket someday. She has quickly risen to be a conservative voice at the Republican leadership table in the Senate. This influence means Britt is in prime position to be effective for Alabama, elevating our state’s priorities and values to a new height.

If this is what she has accomplished in only her first year, I can’t wait to see what the years ahead will bring. 

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.

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