On the Friday broadcast of Mark Levin's radio program, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) revealed language was slipped into the budget deal eliminating a provision that required 60 votes in the Senate to increase spending and taxes beyond what was specified in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (the sequester). Under the rule change only a simple majority would be required. The House passed the budget deal late last week.
Mark Levin wondered why the House would pass a bill with such language in it, especially since it only affects the Senate. Sessions said he believes the House didn't understand the significance of it.
JEFF SESSIONS: One of the things we lost in this is the budget point of order that I’ve used three times, and we stopped new spending. Three times in the last year or so, that got stripped out in this package, which we’ve been more than, I think there was probably error somehow that happened, except those pushing for it.
MARK LEVIN: Wait, I don’t understand that.
SESSIONS: I wish that had not happened too, I’m concerned about that and others are.
LEVIN: All right, Senator. I’m not sure what you just said. What just happened?
SESSIONS: In the legislation that came over, it would eliminate the 60-vote requirement when you spend more money than the budget control act approves for spending. Even if you offset it with a fee or a tax. I’ve used that three times and three times the Republican Senate stood firm and voted not to waive the budget. Kept them from spending more and taxing more.
So that has been eroded in this legislations, I think there’s no question about it. I wish that this hadn’t happened.
LEVIN: Senator, that’s a pretty big deal.
SESSIONS: It’s a pretty significant deal, and there could be some legislation even larger than the ones we were able to block that could involve even more money than we were able to block in the future.
LEVIN: So, by changing the procedure in this legislation, which the house voted in favor of, with overwhelming Republican support. You’re talking about further votes for further increases in spending. Correct?
SESSIONS: It would make it somewhat easier in a number of circumstances, yes.
LEVIN: Well… Why would we agree to that? Why would Republicans in the House agree to that?
SESSIONS: I don’t think Republicans in the House understood the significance of it. It’s a rule that would only impact the Senate. If I and my staff had been aware of it, we perhaps could have pushed back and –
LEVIN: Well why weren’t you and your staff given this information by Paul Ryan and his staff? This is what I want to know, I’m very serious about this.
SESSIONS: Well I’m disappointed at that. I think it ceased to be operating as a conference committee. It began to be operating in really sort of a negotiation between the two chairmen. And he senators who were on the budget conference committee were never consulted about the details of the agreement or shown the legislative language until the deal was done.
LEVIN: So even beyond the numbers we’ve been told. Now we have a loophole in the Senate for the big spenders. And rather than a super majority procedure, now they can go through with a simple majority. Do I understand that correctly?
SESSIONS: That absolutely is a factor. Our ability to block spending has been reduced and it amounts to that. On votes that we were able to force a 60 votes on a budget, two points of order would be eliminated.
LEVIN: That’s just—I don’t know how people can call that an oversight. That to me is, and I’m a little slow on the uptake here, on all the rules, but that to me is a huge issue. And how any Republican in the House or Senate can vote for this is amazing to me. Let me ask you this question.
We have a debt ceiling coming up. When does that come up?
SESSIONS: February 15, maybe we could probably continue beyond that before the final deadline is reached, but next spring we’ll hit the debt ceiling and the government can not borrow anymore unless Congress authorizes it.
LEVIN: So they can push that all the way to the spring because of funny numbers. With Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Is that correct?
SESSIONS: There’s some limited authority to delay that date.