POLITICS

Sessions Rejects Obama's Spending Freeze As Insufficient

01/25/2011 01:50 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If President Barack Obama was hoping to win over the Republican Party by proposing a five-year freeze in non-security discretionary spending during his State of the Union address, he's unlikely to be satisfied.

"It's not enough," Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) told HuffPost after the news of Obama's freeze proposal broke. "We've surged spending in the last three years. So that's not sufficient."

Obama has attempted to immunize himself from charges of profligate spending by calling for similar freezes, including on pay for federal workers, in the past, but Sessions said he is unimpressed. "He proposed that last time, as I recall, some sort of freeze and it hasn't made much difference," the judiciary committee's ranking Republican said.

Sessions said the GOP would only be satisfied by budget cuts. "We're on the wrong trajectory and what we really, desperately need is presidential leadership to get us on the right trajectory. Presumably he's got other spending increases, too," said Sessions.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was also quick to dismiss the spending freeze. "At a time when the Treasury Secretary is begging Congress to raise the debt limit, a 'freeze' is simply inadequate," he said in a statement.

A recent study by the Congressional Research Service found that more than 1.4 million people have been out of work for at least 99 weeks. From this pool, out of every 10 over the age of 45 have been looking for work for at least that long, suggesting that the economy is in further need of economic stimulus. That would require additional deficit spending.

Sessions, however, argued that it is the spending itself that is dragging down the economy, an opinion not shared by most economists. "There's got to be some reduction in spending and we need to do it soon," he said. "Every month that goes by destabilizes our economy with this roaring debt."

In his address, Obama will also call on Congress to embrace the Defense Department's five-year plan to shave $78 billion from its budget. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the department could save money by improving the efficiency of its acquisitions process and preventing cost overruns, but rejected the notion that the top line should be trimmed.

Sessions, though, said he was wiling to see the defense budget cut. "Defense is not immune," he said. "Nothing is immune. I think we're going to have to see defense take some reductions, but that's not the first place to start. The first place to start is the areas that have surged under President Obama."

Suggest a correction