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Sen. discusses issues of healthcare, warfare

How has the Democratic control of the U.S. Senate dulled your ability to influence policy to better suit the needs of Alabama?

It would be best if we (GOP) were in control because I would be chairman representing the ranking republican on the on the Banking Committee and also on the Appropriations Committee. We are still in pretty good position to influence policy, because republicans will be at the table. We Have 49 senators and the democrats have 49. They have two independents caucusing with them, so it is a close, close senate. Nothing is going to pass without the republicans acquiescing it, agreeing to it.

How have limits on earmarks reduced you ability to bring special projects to the state?

Right now we don’t have any earmarks because they passed a continuing resolution, in other words last years appropriations with no special projects in them. But I am for earmark reform, earmark transparency. I am for meritorious projects, and if they aren’t meritorious we should knock them all out. Where they do have merit &045; whether it is infrastructure or university projects for the common good, for the greater good &045; we ought to debate them and vote them up or down. I think I will continue to be able to be effective up there for the people of Alabama, just like anybody else.

What is your stance on troop buildups in Iraq, in relation to the proposal by President George W. Bush?

I am for the troops. I talked to General (David) Petraeus at length several weeks ago when he took over the command about the 20,000 troops &045; I wish they could send 100,000 troops instead of 20,000. We need to stabilize Iraq if it is possible. I know it is late in the game; we made a lot of mistakes there. We had a lot of success militarily four years ago. We will have to see what happens, but we should not be driven out of Iraq politically or on the ground &045; I don’t think we will be driven out on the ground. I am against any democratic proposal that would not be for the troops, but would be for a non-binding resolutions that would condemn the troops or condemn our stay there. I am against all of those kinds of things.

What do you see as the ideal endpoint to bring people home from Iraq?

I would like to do it as soon as possible, and this has been the goal all along, is to build up the Iraqi Army and the police force so they can bring some stability to the area. And that might not be possible, but we ought to try. We ought to do everything we can, and we are going to do this for the next seven, eight or nine months and we will have an idea then. If that doesn’t work, then we are going to have to reassess what we are going to do. But in the meantime lets give our troops every opportunity to succeed.

How do you feel about Alabama’s position in regards to bringing international businesses to the state, as there is a special legislative session in Montgomery coming up on that subject?

I think it is very good. We have benefited greatly from foreign direct investment. Look at the Mercedes presence and all of the German companies in Tuscaloosa, in my area of West Alabama. Look at Honda over in Talladega County, look at Toyota in Huntsville, look at Hyundai &045; these are automotive place. Now we are trying to get a joint venture in Mobile. We are also trying, and the governor is working hard &045;I talked with him about it when he came back from Germany &045; to try and get the German steel maker, ThyssenKrupp, to come to Mobile and bring thousands of jobs. I don’t know if they will come, but we have a great package for them. I tell people in Alabama and all over the world, we are open for business. When you come here and you invest, we will make conditions good for you if you will create jobs for our people and that has been working.

Are you in favor of a national healthcare policy?

No, not a national healthcare system. If you do that, and a lot of people are going to promise that running for president, there won’t be the healthcare policies you have today. You better be careful what you wish for here, because we will have a government run, government-controlled healthcare. We have the best healthcare system in the world now. Is it perfect? No, but it is good, you better be careful tinkering with it.

Is there is republican presidential candidate you have given support?

I have not endorsed anyone running for president. I know everybody fairly well that is running for president for the republicans: Sen. (John) McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. (Sam) Brownback (R-Kan.), Mitt Romney, Rudolph Giuliani and there may be some others. I know them well. I have interacted with them for years, but I am not endorsing anybody just yet.

U.S. Sen. Shelby will host a town hall meeting today at 4 p.m. at Linden City Hall.