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Sessions on Budget Deal

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama was frustrated and deeply concerned by the budget deal process in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Sessions said in a written statement, “Senate and House budget resolutions were committed to Conference. They were not acted on. The result is legislation from Chairman Ryan and Chairman Murray, leaving Congress without a budget resolution for the fourth straight year. This legislation is not a budget and was never formally considered, crafted, or voted upon by the conferees. I appreciate the hard work Chairman Ryan and Chairman Murray put into their deal, but I am not able to support it.”

Early Wednesday, Sen. Sessions issued another statement, “As we near a Senate vote on the spending package that emerged from the House, I remain deeply concerned about a provision in the legislation that undermines the right of Senators to enforce spending limits and block tax increases by raising a key point of order. Careful review of the legislation leaves no doubt as to this fact.

Under the deal, the 302(f) Budget Act point of order cannot be raised if the Senate majority produces legislation that breaks spending limits, increases spending, and offsets those increases with higher taxes or fees. This point of order has been used to enforce budgetary rules successfully on numerous occasions since the Budget Control Act was passed in 2011. Its erosion, pushed by Senate Democrats, makes it far easier to tax and spend.”

Sen. Sessions warned, “In a post-cloture setting, a tax hike could pass with 51 votes where previously this point of order would apply…Senate Democrats have seized this opportunity to eliminate this enforcement tool. While I know Chairman Murray and Ryan faced a difficult negotiation, this outcome was totally unexpected and a genuine surprise to our experienced committee analysts when they unearthed it after the legislation became public.”

After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) from Nevada and his conference voted to block Senators from offering amendments to the budget deal. Sessions released a written statement, “Today, Reid and his majority quashed the ability of any Senator to offer amendments to the spending deal that emerged from the House. They voted to undermine their own ability as Senators to offer amendments and do legislative work in the clear light of day. They voted to block the Senate from working to improve this tax-and-spend deal. Finally, by blocking my amendment, they voted to cut pensions for wounded warriors. Senators in this chamber have many valid ideas for replacing these pension cuts, including my proposal to close the tax welfare loophole for illegal filers, and all deserved a fair and open hearing. But they were denied.”

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Senator Sessions is the Ranking Member on the Senate Budget Committee and was on the special committee assigned with developing the budget package, but did not support the bipartisan deal crafted by the Co-Chairs of the Committee.

Sen. Sessions said, “A series of concerns, on balance, cause me to be unable to support the legislation produced by Chairman Ryan and Chairman Murray, including:

While I favor reorganizing elements of the Budget Control Act to smooth the impact, I do not favor increasing total discretionary spending above what was agreed to over the 10-year BCA period (exchanged for the already-exhausted $2.1 trillion debt increase in 2011).  I specifically do not favor using trust fund savings to increase discretionary spending.  Much of the spending increase in this deal has been justified by increased fees and new revenue. In other words: it’s a fee increase to fuel a spending increase—rather than reducing deficits.  Disappointingly, CBO’s analysis states that $47 billion out of the $85 billion in offsets occur outside the original BCA window, and the spending cut portion of those out year offsets are of dubious validity. It is not disputable that net spending in the BCA window is increased.”

Despite Sen. Sessions opposition the deal cruised through passage in the House of Representatives last week and passed in the Senate after 12 Republicans voted with the Democrats to override a filibuster by conservatives including Alabama Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby.  Only nine Republican Senators voted for the deal.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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