U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, spoke with The Daily editorial board Wednesday on topics ranging from the "fiscal cliff" to President Barack Obama's cabinet nominations to the debt ceiling. Here are excerpts of the conversation, edited for clarity and length.
Q: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) recently said, without naming you, that one explanation for Senate approval of the "fiscal cliff" deal was that many senators are elderly and the vote took place at 1:30 a.m. Does he by chance have it wrong?
A: Yeah, he's got that wrong. But it was 1 o'clock in the morning. It would have been easy to vote "no" because you don't have to explain. People seem to interpret it one way. I felt we got out of that about as good as we could. The president campaigned on raising taxes on upper income people. A law had to be passed to keep the taxes from going up on everybody. The president could have vetoed it, and his members of the Senate were not going to vote for anything he didn't support. (Senate Minority Leader Mitch) McConnell and the vice president reached an agreement that protected 99 percent of the people from a tax increase and made it permanent. It also fixed the death tax and the alternative minimum tax. I thought it was the right thing to do.
One of the frustrations was there were no spending cuts. That's a legitimate concern. That collapsed. The president was demanding things that were not acceptable. He wanted more taxes than he originally wanted, to increase spending. All that was dealt with in the cliff vote was the tax question. ... The continuing (budget) resolution expires in March. That and the debt ceiling provide the opportunity and duty for Congress to insist that the government rein in its spending. It's going to be a tough spring.
Q: What is your position on the debt ceiling?
A: The president dug his heels in on the debt ceiling. That's very irresponsible. Historically there have been many opportunities when we hit the debt ceiling to negotiate long-term spending reductions. That's got to be done. We don't have the money, and we can't keep spending at this level.
I expect to see some spending reductions on the debt ceiling. The obvious problem is the House has said they're not going to raise the debt ceiling until they get some sort of spending reduction. Some say the debt ceiling is not the best place to confront the (spending) issue, that you should do it on the continuing resolution which comes up in March. But I don't think we should pass up the debt ceiling. I think the president should understand he's burned through $2.1 trillion in about 16 months. This has got to end.
Q: What Obama says he wants is stimulus spending now, until the economy recovers, combined with long-term cuts.
A: That's incorrect. President Obama does not want to cut anything. He wants to spend more. ... He is a big-government liberal. He's a man of the left. He believes in bigger and bigger government. He wants more taxes and he wants history to record that he permanently altered the American heritage of limited government.
The Democrats make this argument, that we don't want to cut now because it will hurt the economy; we'll cut in the future. But when you talk to them about the big future drains on the Treasury -- the entitlement programs -- they attack anybody that proposes a plan.
Q: What's you position on Jack Lew, Obama's nominee as secretary of Treasury?
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