Senate and House Republicans deserve much credit for holding the line on additional taxes as part of an alternative to the scheduled sequester. In Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) had another solid week in advancing his agenda for his last year in office. But one senator seemed to be everywhere, landing blow after blow and making the effective case for fiscal sobriety. As a former U.S. attorney and district court judge, he has a knack for methodical questioning and command of the details.
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, has been keeping a steady drumbeat going for a return to “regular order” (pass a darn budget) and transparency in the budget process.
Last week he did yeoman’s work on two problematic nominees. On Treasury secretary nominee Jack Lew, he’s been making the case that Lew’s serial misrepresentations to Congress on the budget are disqualifying. Last week he hit pay dirt, making the case that Lew willfully ignored the law requiring that he present a plan to preserve Medicare solvency when the Medicare trustees sound a warning. Lew hasn’t done that in his years as budget director.
On defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, Sessions followed his masterful hearing interrogation of Hagel (primarily on Hagel’s support for the Global Zero initiative) with a full-throttle attack on his lack of transparency. Sessions told the Cable: “A number of senators wrote and asked for additional financial information that I thought was reasonable and the chairman agreed and directed that information be provided …. It has not been provided. Those were reasonable requests. I believe the request for financial information was legitimate and should be complied with before a vote takes place.”
He also suggested there was an unresolved personnel matter including a complaint from an ex-staffer who believes that her complaint about treatment in her office was mishandled, but he did not grandstand or engage in unsubstantiated rumor-mongering. (“I think Hagel is entitled to fair treatment. If he had been warned or there were indications [of the alleged incident], all of us have certain responsibilities. So let the facts speak out.”)
I disagree with Sessions when it comes to immigration reform, but he raised legitimate and specific issues concerning failure to enforce promised border control and the potential cost and impact from immigration reform on Obamacare.
In short, Sessions demonstrated last week the model behavior of a senator in the Senate minority. Make the case. Ask tough questions. Insist on proper procedure. Have your facts lined up. Insist that executive-branch officials act with integrity. For all that, we can say, well done, Sen. Sessions.