Sen. Jeff Sessions: Collapse of ‘Gang of Six’ Means Senate Can Focus on Budget

May 18, 2011 1:59pm

ABC News' Rick Klein reports: The apparent collapse of the bipartisan "Gang of Six" senators engaged in deficit talks has actually brought relief to some senators on the outside of those talks.

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said he wasn’t surprised that those negotiations have come to an impasse, with the declaration by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that he’s no longer participating. (The group is now meeting as a “Gang of Five,” but it’s lost its bipartisan balance, along with any sense of critical momentum.)

Sessions said he hopes Coburn’s decision will force the Senate to turn to the business of actually passing a budget, before Memorial Day.

“It may not be a final end of it, but I always felt that it was unlikely that they could hold together with a firm agreement that others would accept,” said Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.

“There are some fundamental disagreements about the size and scope of government. Some people here believe we ought to raise taxes and keep government [spending] high, and others believe we can reduce spending and keep government smaller. So it’s a fundamental difference, and it’s hard to bridge that gap at times.”

“We’re the members of the Budget Committee,” Sessions continued. “So the budget committee is supposed to have produced a budget by April 15th — we’ve not yet had a hearing. We’ve not even begun to mark up a budget in the senate. It’s 749 days since the Congress has passed a budget, at a time when this country has never faced a more serious financial crisis. … We should absolutely move before the Memorial Day recess and get this thing moving.”

Sessions also applauded Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner for being “honest” in acknowledging that the real date where exceeding the debt limit is problematic will come in early August, not this week, where the U.S. technically reached its debt ceiling.

“I think the secretary had to be honest about that. It was always disputed that it had to be done by May and I don’t think that was accurate. So now he’s giving us an accurate date,” he said. “A responsible Congress and a responsible White House and Democratic senate have to come forward and acknowledge that business as usual cannot continue and they’re gonna make some changes — else they’re not going to get  a debt-limit-ceiling increase.”

Sessions, who also serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, weighed in on President Obama’s nomination of Goodwin Liu for a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals – a nomination that Sessions is vowing to filibuster this week.

“The extraordinary circumstances are clear–he’s never tried a case, he’s very inexperienced, very liberal progressive activist lawyer who believes in a vision of the role of a judge that’s contrary to the great American heritage that a judge is an independent adjudicator of disputes,” Sessions said. “He’s the most activist nominee I think we’ve seen by far. That’s pretty much a consensus of the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee.” 

Watch the full interview with Sen. Jeff Sessions HERE.

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