The voice of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is one of the Senate's firmest, particularly on matters judicial and fiscal, and one of the sharpest thorns pricking the sides of the Senate's Democrats. And that is doubtless intentional, for he is in the Senate because Democrats denied him a seat on the federal bench.
In a sly skewing of the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" proverb, Sessions reacted to that denial by running for and winning a Senate seat so that he could fight 'em from within the Senate -- not a cruel irony, but the slow twisting of a vengeful dagger!
The current fight that he is leading is to try to stop backroom deal-making on the "fiscal cliff" nonsense, something PowerLine's John Hinderaker discussed here:
[They] have now replaced the traditional, and statutorily mandated, budget process[.] ... The federal government, in violation of the law, has not had a budget in more than three years. The Democrats openly take the position that as long as they make closed-door deals with the Republican leadership, there is no need for a budget process or a budget.
This is an insane manner in which to make decisions[.] ... And yet, Republican Congressional leaders happily troop off to private confabs with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to decide our fiscal fate, in secret. One of the few Republicans in Washington who understands the folly of this approach, and has consistently opposed it, is Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.
Mr. Hinderaker then linked to Sen. Sessions' statement on the subject, the key portions of which are:
Americans feel right now like the world has been turned upside down[.] ...They balance their family budgets only to find out that the United States Senate, under Democrat control, will not even bring a budget plan to the Senate floor. The American people see the financial chaos. They know it must stop. They know their families are at risk. And that their country is in danger.
Yet the President does not rally the country to action. Instead, he says our debt course is nothing to worry about. He continues to insist that his budget plan will pay down the debt[.] ... Does the President's plan pay down our debt? Or does it leave our nation on a certain path to financial disaster? ... For the President to say his plan will pay down the debt is one of the greatest financial misrepresentations ever made to the American people.
... the Senate Democrat Majority has ... utterly failed to meet its most basic obligations[.] ... For the last three years ... [they] have deliberately violated the legal requirement to produce a budget plan[.] ... They also failed to pass a single annual appropriations bill[.] ... They would not even bring up the crucial national defense authorization bill[.] ... And they presented no plan to prevent the huge tax hikes and steep cuts to defense known as the fiscal cliff.
All these failures create uncertainty and weaken the economy[.] ... [T]he Republican-led House on the other hand, met its obligations[.] ... [I]t passed a budget ... [that] achieved $3.3 trillion in greater deficit reduction while fostering economic growth.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) confirmed Thursday that she will seek the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee next year but told The Hill that she cannot commit to doing a budget. This opens up the possibility that Senate Democrats will avoiding (sic) passing a budget resolution for the fourth year in a row.
However, Sen. Sessions is arguing for a return to "regular order," whereby the House and Senate pass bills that are reconciled in committee before passing and sending them for presidential signature. He was on the floor Thursday, and, as reported by the Weekly Standard:
In remarks ... Sessions blasted President Barack Obama and congressional leadership for holding "secret" fiscal cliff negotiations[.] ... The Alabama senator insisted Obama is not serious about cutting spending--or cutting government waste ... [and] criticized the fiscal cliff negotiations for not including the Senate[.]
Of the Senate's role, Sen. Sessions said:
News reports say that it is only the Speaker and the President of the United States who are negotiating. Apparently the Majority Leader of the Senate is not intimately involved, the Chairman of the Budget Committee is not involved, the Chairman of the Finance Committee is not involved. These are Democratic leaders in the Senate. Certainly Republican leaders are not involved.
The Senate is a great institution, and we ought to be engaged. The engagement of the Senate would allow the American people to know what's happening. They are entitled to that. I believe we can do better. We must do better.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will not allow this, for by so doing, Senate Democrats will have to go on record vis-à-vis "cuts" in entitlement spending, and the left is having nothing to do with compromise:
In last year's failed talks with John Boehner, the Republican House Speaker, Mr[.] Obama had been willing to discuss elements of the liberal sacred cows, Social Security for pensioners, and different ways to trim benefits paid through Medicare and Medicaid, the program[s] covering elderly healthcare and low-income families respectively.
Since the election, many of Mr[.] Obama's allies, in Congress, the unions and various lobby groups, have called for these so-called entitlement program[s] to be taken off the table in the fiscal cliff talks.
President Obama himself refuses to compromise:
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday there will be no deficit deal unless Republicans agree to raise tax rates on the wealthiest households. "There can be no deal without rates on top earners going up," said Carney, who reiterated that the president will not sign legislation that extends the Bush-era tax rates for the wealthy.
And the ever-polite Senate majority leader made his usual helpful contribution to the dialogue:
... Harry Reid launched a personal insult at John Boehner on Thursday when asked about the House Speaker's earlier comments on the fiscal cliff. "I don't understand his brain, so you should ask him," Reid said Thursday during the news conference at the Capitol.
Given all of this, Rush Limbaugh spent most of the first hour Thursday arguing that negotiating is a bad deal:
If he were really interested in economic growth, prosperity for all, the way you and I and apparently everybody in Washington understands it, then he'd be negotiating, he'd be trying to come up with a deal that makes sense for economic growth. Instead he's campaigning for what he wants. He's still campaigning.
And that the GOPers should just walk away:
So what is the leverage that the Republicans have? To my mind the only leverage they've got is to walk away from this, to stop playing, to stop talking, to stop playing this game.
Sean Hannity also spoke of walking away Thursday in an interview with Reps. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) on the same topic. Rep. Forbes reminded the audience that the House passed a budget and sent it to the Senate and said that it is up to the Senate to take up the bill. Rep. Gohmert called for "regular order" and laid out what that means.
It would appear that Sessions, Limbaugh, Hannity, Forbes, Gohmert, et al. are saying that the next step would be for the House to pass a continuing resolution and announce that they will either see Senate conferees in the Conference Room or watch President Obama sign the resolution. That's "regular order," and that's what's the situation now requires.
And they should do it before Mr. Obama hies himself off to Hawaii:
President Obama is reportedly scheduled to be vacationing in Hawaii on January 2, the date billions in spending cuts - and untold consequences for the economy - will kick in if a deal is not reached on the "fiscal cliff."
As Rush argued, and as the brilliant artist John Cox depicted, the GOPers should be sure that everyone knows who's driving:
But don't make book that that's what's going to happen!