We already told you about the extraordinary “blanket hold” Sen. Richard Shelby has reportedly placed on all of President Obama’s nominations to the Senate yesterday. Shelby’s D.C. office hasn’t returned our phone calls and emails looking for comment, yet, but digging around on the web a bit this morning, we found a nugget that could provide some insight into what’s going on. According to Shelby, the Obama administration is biased against Alabama.As we reported, Shelby’s holds are based, among other things, on two national security programs that would send billions to his home state. One, a multi-billion dollar air-to-air refueling contract currently under review at the Pentagon, has been controversial for years. But in an interview with an Alabama TV station this week, Shelby suggested that what’s holding up the contract now could be hometown bias from Obama and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Both men are from Chicago, which has been home to Boeing’s headquarters since 2001. That company is competing for the contract to build the tankers with a consortium of companies led by European airplane manufacturer Airbus and U.S. defense contractor Northrop Grumman. The Airbus deal calls for the planes to be manufactured in Mobile, Alabama. According to details of the Boeing proposal released last year, its tanker would be built in Seattle, WA and Wichita, KS.
Airbus was awarded the contract to build the planes in the 1990s, but Boeing protested, setting of years of rancorous debate in the Capitol and defense circles about who should be allowed to build the plane, which the Air Force has said is badly needed to replace its aging fleet of existing tankers.
Shelby seems to think that, despite the years of debate about this issue already, the tables turned in Boeing’s favor when the Obama administration entered the White House. Here’s what he said to Mobile CBS affiliate WKRG about the deal this week:
“I’m very dubious of the present process being fair…You got to remember where Obama is from and where Rahm Emanuel is from, Chicago, and that’s Boeing. They’re going to do everything they can to tilt this process to Boeing.”
Here’s video of Shelby saying the government can’t create jobs from WKRG: