Jeff Sessions Threatens To Block Senate Vacation Over Budget

05/23/2011 04:21 pm ET | Updated Jul 23, 2011
  • Elise Foley Immigration And Politics Reporter, Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Monday he will attempt to block the Senate from going on its Memorial Day recess next week unless Democrats introduce a budget plan alternative to the House GOP budget.

The Senate will vote this week on the House Republican budget, creating a sticky political situation for Republican senators who are wary of voting in favor of a bill that radically alters Medicare for future seniors. The bill, drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), passed the House in April with no support from Democrats and is certain to fail in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Democrats are deploying the same strategy on the budget they used earlier in the year during a showdown over government funding: holding a vote on an sure-to-fail House Republican plan in an attempt to win over Senate Republicans to make a compromise.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who leads messaging for the Senate Democrats, said during a Monday a call with reporters the vote was part of a plan to get the Ryan plan "off the table" to allow for a broader deal between the parties on the budget.

At least four Republicans are likely to vote against the Ryan plan: Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Olympia Snow (R-Maine), and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) have said they will vote against it, and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she is leaning toward a "no" vote, according to Politico.

Republicans argue Democrats are using the vote to build campaign fodder against their colleagues. Sessions blasted the decision to hold a vote on the Ryan budget, calling it "cynical" and a political ploy rather than a serious effort at cutting the debt.

Sessions said the Democrats should produce their own budget plan and "tell the American people where [they] really want to go" with taxes and government programs. Democrats have not unveiled such a plan, he said, because they do not want to deal with political consequences.

Until they do, he said he would oppose "unanimous consent" for the Senate to recess for Memorial Day. (The Senate can still adjourn on a straight majority with support from 50 Democrats.)

"Why don't we hear it? Because, as one of their staff members said, it might cause somebody to object," he said.

Senate Democrats seemed to take Sessions' statement as proof that the GOP is afraid to vote "yes" on the Ryan budget.

"In case anyone had any doubts, Sen. Sessions just made it clear: Repubs are petrified of voting on their own party’s plan to end Medicare," Reid Spokesman Jon Summers wrote on Twitter.

Schumer took the same tack, telling reporters that the GOP was trying "to turn themselves into pretzels to figure out how to deal with this" and wanted "to mulligan on the whole idea."

One plan from Senate Republicans is to force a vote on President Barack Obama's 2012 budget, which was unveiled in February and would trim about $1.1 trillion from the deficit over the next decade, making it politically unpalatable for many Democrats in the current debt-focused environment.

Schumer said he would not speculate on whether Democrats would support an Obama budget, pointing out that the president has unveiled a broader vision for shrinking the nation's debt since February.

Schumer said Democrats are working on a budget proposal that will address the debt, pointing to an effort by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who has been floating his ideas to his Democratic colleagues to try to gather support. That plan will not come out this week, Schumer said.

"We want to come together on a bipartisan proposal. We've made the lines of what we want in a bipartisan proposal clear," Schumer said. "The focus is on seeing how many votes the Ryan budget has. You can't do anything until you get that off the table."