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Richard Shelby

Richard Shelby

United States Senator from Alabama
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro United States Senator from Alabama
A.K.A. Richard Craig Shelby
Countries United States of America
Occupations Politician Lawyer
Gender male
Birth 6 May 1934 (Birmingham)
Star sign Taurus
Education University of Alabama, University of Alabama School of Law
The details

Richard Craig "Dick" Shelby (born May 6, 1934) is the senior United States Senator from Alabama. First elected to the Senate in 1986, he is the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. He also serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Shelby received his law degree from the Birmingham School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1961. After law school in 1963, he went on to serve as city prosecutor (1963–1971). During this period he worked as a U.S. Magistrate for the Northern District of Alabama (1966–1970) and Special Assistant Attorney General of Alabama (1969–1971). He won a seat in the Alabama Senate in 1970. In 1978, he was elected from the 7th District to the United States House of Representatives, where he was among a group of Conservative Democrats known as the boll weevils.
In 1986, Shelby won a tight race as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate. Partway through his second term, he switched to the Republican Party in 1994, the day after the Republican Revolution in which they gained the majority in Congress in midterm elections midway through President Bill Clinton's first term. Shelby was re-elected by a large margin in 1998 and has faced no significant electoral opposition since. He is currently the dean of the Alabama delegation.

Early life, education, and early career

Shelby was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the son of Alice L. (née Skinner) and Ozie Houston Shelby. He attended the University of Alabama, receiving an undergraduate degree in 1957. He attended the Birmingham School of Law, where he earned his Juris Doctor in 1961. He was admitted to the Alabama State Bar on August 29, 1961. He received an LL.B. from The University of Alabama in 1963.

Shelby is a member of the American Bar Association and Alabama State Bar, as well as the American Judicature Society, Alabama Law Institute, Delta Chi Fraternity, and Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity.

Shelby was a city prosecutor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama from 1963 to 1971. From 1966 to 1970, he was a U.S. Magistrate for the Northern District of Alabama; from 1969 to 1971, Shelby was a Special Assistant State Attorney General.

Alabama political career, 1978–1986

Shelby was elected to the Alabama Senate in 1970 and served until 1978. That year he ran for and was elected to the House of Representatives from the Tuscaloosa-based 7th District. He was re-elected three times. Shelby was one of the more Conservative Democrats in Congress, and a member of the boll weevils, a group of moderate to conservative-leaning Democrats who often worked with Republican President Ronald Reagan on defense issues.

Richard Shelby during his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. Senate


In 1986 U.S. Senate election in Alabama, Shelby won the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat held by Republican Jeremiah Denton, the first Republican elected to the Senate from Alabama since Reconstruction. He won a very close race as the Democrats regained control of the Senate. He was easily re-elected in 1992 even as Bill Clinton lost Alabama's electoral votes.

On November 9, 1994, Shelby switched his party affiliation to Republican, one day after the Republican Revolution in which they won control of both houses in the midterm elections, giving the Republicans a 53–47 majority in the Senate. He won his first full term as a Republican in 1998 by a large margin. He has since faced no significant opposition in 2004 or 2010. He was re-elected to a sixth term in 2016.

A September 2009 poll showed Shelby had a 58% approval rating, with 35% disapproving.

The Wall Street Journal criticized Shelby for hoarding campaign and PAC contributions and not sharing them with other colleagues.



In 1987, Shelby opposed Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court; a move attributed to lobbying by Alabama African-American leaders who reminded Shelby that he had relied on support from African-American voters in defeating Denton in 1986.


Shelby publicly feuded with President Bill Clinton during the first half of Clinton's first term. At a meeting with Vice President Al Gore, he turned to the TV cameras and denounced the Clinton program as "high on taxes, low on [spending] cuts".

Shelby served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1995 to 2003, stepping down because of a Senate rule limiting committee terms to eight years. Shelby took an adversarial stance toward the intelligence community during both Clinton and Bush administrations. He helped sink Anthony Lake's nomination as CIA director in 1997 and promised to investigate the use of American-made satellites by the Chinese to gather intelligence. Shelby took a hard line on leaks of classified information. In 2000 he introduced a bill (vetoed by President Clinton) "that would have broadened the law that criminalizes release of national defense information." According to the Washington Post:

Civil liberties groups and news organizations, which argued that the legislation would chill their ability to get information from officials, lobbied for the veto. . . .

In 2002, with George W. Bush in the White House, Shelby reintroduced his language, but then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said that "rigorous investigation" and enforcement of existing laws—not new legislation—were the best way to fight leaks.

In 1991 Shelby supported the 1991 Crime Bill S.1241 sponsored by then Senator Joseph Biden that instituted a national waiting period for handgun purchases as well as a federal ban on semi-automatic firearms.

In 1999, he opposed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, which repealed parts of the Glass–Steagall Legislation, and was the only Republican Senator and one of eight Senators overall to vote against it.


Shelby was highly critical of CIA Director George Tenet in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. From 2003 until 2007, he chaired the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. He is a member of the Appropriations Committee where he chaired its subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science and Special Committee on Aging. He lost his chairmanships in 2007 when the Democrats regained control of the Senate.

In 2004, a federal investigation concluded that Shelby revealed classified information to the media when he was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Specifically, Shelby revealed classified information on June 19, 2002 to Carl Cameron, the chief political correspondent on Fox News. The information consisted of two messages intercepted by the National Security Agency on September 10, 2001, but not translated until the day after the attacks—"the match is about to begin" and "tomorrow is zero hour." The Department of Justice declined to file criminal charges against Shelby and transferred the case to the Senate Ethics Committee. It dismissed its probe into the alleged leak.

Shelby, in his role as chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs, opposed proposed legislation that would have permitted additional competition in the title insurance industry.

Shelby is currently co-chair of the Congressional Privacy Caucus and Zero Capital Gains Tax Caucus. He is also the Senate co-chair of the National Security Caucus. In addition, he is a member of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Centrist Coalition.

In February 2010, Shelby placed a hold on more than 70 of President Obama's nominees to various government posts, in a protest over an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker contract and the FBI's Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center. Shelby lifted all but three of the holds 3 days later, saying that "The purpose of placing numerous holds was to get the White House’s attention on two issues that are critical to our national security—the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker acquisition and the FBI’s Terrorist Device Analytical Center (TEDAC). With that accomplished, Sen. Shelby has decided to release his holds on all but a few nominees directly related to the Air Force tanker acquisition until the new Request for Proposal is issued." White House spokesman Robert Gibbs criticized Shelby for "hold[ing] up qualified nominees for positions that are needed because he didn't get two earmarks"; Shelby denied the holds were over earmarks.


Shelby's extraodinarily high campaign contribution spending has been criticized; from 2008 until 2014 he had reimbursed himself and his wife more than $500,000 from his campaign and leadership PACs. The Wall Street Journal called him a "stingy lawmaker".

Political views


In 2010, Shelby initially opposed the Republican Party's moratorium on earmark funding.


Shelby has supported development of the Space Launch System (SLS), but disagreed with how funds for the program have been spent. He favors competition for the strap-on booster design. The SLS earmark has been opposed by fiscal conservative groups, including the Tea Party. When President Obama decided to cancel Constellation, the Bush-era NASA program that was to provide America's next manned rocket and instead give NASA a new $6 billion to ramp up a commercial space industry while NASA studies deep-space missions, Shelby ridiculed the plan as a "faith-based initiative".


Both under the Bush Administration, in 2008, and the Obama Administration, beginning in 2009, Shelby was vocal in his opposition to bailing out the banks and other corporations (such as AIG).

In 2010, Shelby voted to block three amendments to regulate banks, including an amendment #3812 to S. 3217 to cap ATM fees at $0.50 per transaction, and to bar banks borrowing taxpayer money through TARP funds to use those funds for their own benefit. Shelby also believes that bank oversight violates the right to privacy and is against the Government Office of Financial Research being able to collect the financial data it needs to regulate the bank industry.

In 2011, Shelby opposed the nomination of Nobel Economics Prize laureate and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Peter Diamond to serve on the board of the Federal Reserve, on the grounds that professor Diamond "lacked the necessary qualifications". Since becoming Senate Banking Chairman Shelby has made "regulatory relief and financial regulation reform his top priority". In May 2015, he revealed the so-called "Shelby Bill", easing regulatory restrictions on smaller banks and increasing scrutiny of the Federal Reserve.


Shelby opposes abortion and has stated on his Senate campaign website that Roe v. Wade is "...terribly flawed on both a constitutional and moral basis." Shelby also opposes taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and has voted against a short-term funding bill in Congress because it did not defund Planned Parenthood.


He advocates a flat tax and supported the Bush Administration's tax cuts. He cites disagreements with the Democrats on tax policy as one of the main reasons he became a Republican; he feels the Democrats are too willing to enact tax increases.

Shelby is a signer of Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

Health care

Shelby opposed President Barack Obama's health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

Following Senator Ted Cruz's 21-hour speech opposing the Affordable Care Act, Shelby joined Cruz and 17 other Senators in a failed vote against cloture on a comprehensive government funding bill that would have also continued funding healthcare reform.


Among the bills sponsored by Shelby over the years have been bills to make English the sole language of the federal government, to limit federal government spending by statute, and to provide a moratorium on certain forms of immigration, and to support a Federal Marriage Amendment.

In 1999, Shelby was one of ten Republican senators to vote for the acquittal of President Bill Clinton on the charge of perjury when Clinton was tried in the Senate in 1999, although he voted for Clinton's conviction on the charge of obstruction of justice.

Shelby opposed the initial bailout proposal to extend billions of dollars in loan money to the Big Three US auto manufacturers. He is often seen as a front man for the GOP Senate opposition. In late 2008, he opposed a Federal government bridge loan for US-owned auto companies, saying: "We don't need government—governmental subsidies for manufacturing in this country. It's the French model, it's the wrong road. We will pay for it. The average American taxpayer is going to pay dearly for this, if I'm not wrong."

Interest group and ideological ratings

See current Lawmaker Ratings at The Hill

  • National Journal
    • Economic: 42% Liberal, 57% Conservative
    • Social: 16% Liberal, 81% Conservative
    • Foreign: 0% Liberal, 67% Conservative
  • Americans for Democratic Action: 15
  • Human Rights Campaign: 20
  • American Civil Liberties Union: 0
  • Chamber of Commerce of the United States: 86
  • Christian Coalition: 100
  • League of Conservation Voters: 0
  • American Conservative Union: 88
  • National Taxpayers Union: 74
  • National Rifle Association: A+

Committee assignments

Senator Shelby as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
  • Senate Committee on Appropriations
    • Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science (Chairman)
    • Subcommittee on Defense
    • Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
    • Subcommittee on Homeland Security
    • Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education & Related Agencies
    • Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
  • Senate Committee on Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs (Chairman)
    • As chair of the full committee, Sen. Shelby may sit as an ex officio member of all subcommittees.
  • Senate Committee on Rules and Administration

Buildings named after him

  • The Shelby Hall Research Center at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, named for Senator Shelby and his wife, a professor emerita at that university. The 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2) new center opened in 2007 and combines mathematics, chemistry and biology research in one building.
  • The Richard C. and Annette N. Shelby Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Building at the University of Alabama at Birmingham opened in April 2006. The 12 story building cost $70 million and is 310,000 square feet (29,000 m2).
  • The Senator Richard C. and Dr. Annette N. Shelby Center for Engineering Technology, part of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University, was dedicated on April 18, 2008. Shelby helped secure $30 million of the $54 million cost of Phase I of the project.
  • In Mobile, Alabama, Shelby Hall houses the University of South Alabama College of Engineering and School of Computer and Information Sciences. The 155,000 square feet (14,400 m2) facility was named after Senator Richard C. and Dr. Annette N. Shelby for their commitment to higher education in the state of Alabama. Senator Shelby was instrumental for securing $40 million in Federal grants to fund the $50 million project. The building was dedicated on Sunday, September 9, 2012.
  • The 207,000-square-foot Shelby Center for Science and Technology was dedicated at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in October, 2007. The $60 million facility is named for Sen. Richard Shelby. It includes 18 teaching laboratories, 13 classrooms, 15 research laboratories, two teaching auditoriums, and 146 offices.

Electoral history

Alabama's 7th congressional district, 1978:

  • Richard Shelby, Democrat – 77,742 (94%)
  • Fulton Gray, Conservative – 3,285 (4%)
  • Jim Scruggs, Republican – 1,841 (2%)

Alabama's 7th congressional district, 1980:

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Democrat – 122,505 (73%)
  • James E. "Jim" Bacon, Republican – 43,320 (26%)
  • Joe Walker, Libertarian – 2,132 (1%)
  • Mary Owensby, Statesman – 847 (<1%)

Alabama's 7th congressional district, 1982:

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Democrat – 124,070 (97%)
  • James Jones, Libertarian – 4,058 (3%)
  • Write-in candidates – 11 (0%)

Alabama's 7th congressional district, 1984:

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Democrat – 135,834 (97%)
  • Charles "Chuck" Ewing, Libertarian – 4,498 (3%)

United States Senate Democratic Primary election in Alabama, 1986:

  • Richard Shelby – 420,155 (51%)
  • Jim Allen, Jr. – 284,206 (35%)
  • Ted McLaughlin – 70,784 (9%)
  • Margaret Stewart – 26,723 (3%)
  • Steve Arnold – 16,722 (2%)

United States Senate election in Alabama, 1986:

  • Richard Shelby, Democrat – 609,360 (50.2%)
  • Jeremiah Denton (inc.), Republican – 602,537 (49.7%)

United States Senate election in Alabama, 1992:

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Democrat – 1,022,698 (65%)
  • Richard Sellers, Republican – 522,015 (33%)
  • Jerome Shockley, Libertarian – 31,811 (2%)
  • Write-in candidates – 1,275 (0%)

United States Senate election in Alabama, 1998:

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Republican – 817,973 (63%)
  • Clayton Suddith, Democrat – 474,568 (37%)
  • Write-in candidates – 864 (0%)

United States Senate election in Alabama, 2004:

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Republican – 1,242,200 (68%)
  • Wayne Sowell, Democrat – 595,018 (32%)
  • Write-in candidates – 1848 (0%)

United States Senate Republican primary election in Alabama, 2010

  • Richard Shelby (inc.) – 405,398 (84%)
  • Clint Moser – 75,190 (16%)

United States Senate election in Alabama, 2010:

  • Richard Shelby (inc.), Republican – 968,181 (65%)
  • William G. Barnes, Democrat – 515,619 (35%)
  • Write-in candidates – 1,699 (0%)

United State Senate Republican primary election in Alabama, 2016:

  • Richard Shelby (inc.) – 505,586 (65%)
  • Jonathan McConnell – 214,770 (28%)
  • John Martin – 23,558 (3%)
  • Marcus Bowman – 19,707 (3%)
  • Shadrack McGill – 15,230 (2%)

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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