Senate Deals Setback To Immigration Bill

CAPITOL HILL: On issues from nuclear weapons to the spending cuts known as sequestration, political common ground has turned into a war-torn no-man’s-land where both sides fear to tread. That intractable divide between the parties was on full display this morning at One Constitution Avenue, across the street from the US Capitol, where Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions expressed Republicans’ deep, wide-ranging, and sometimes outright emotional distrust of President Barrack Obama.

Amidst the bitterness, however, Sessions held out a slender reed of hope for some kind of compromise that would slow sequestration down, if not reduce its 10-year total. Pentagon officials have been pushing for such “backloading” for months, starting with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno in April and with Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey joining in a week and a half ago.

“Will Defense have to take some more reductions? Yes,” he told me after his public remarks at a breakfast at the Capitol Hill headquarters of the influential Reserve Officers’ Association (ROA). But, he went on, “falling this rapidly will have more costs than… a phased-in reduction.” A “dramatic drop” in spending from one year to the next, instead of bringing the budget down on a steady curve over time, leads to inefficient and even counterproductive cuts, he argued.

Does that mean Sessions and his Republican colleagues might agree to backloaded cuts, where the ten-year total still came to $500 billion but the annual figure was below $50 billion in the early years and rose above $50 billion in the second half of the decade?

“Phasing in spending reductions is something that could be discussed and has potential,” Sessions said. Under the current law, “the cut’s pretty arbitrary.”

That doesn’t mean Sessions is full of bonhomie for Barrack Obama. Since the administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2014 assumed sequestration would not happen, Sessions said, “Republicans have been very much insisting that the Defense Department will lay out a plan how you would absorb these cuts and they basically haven’t done so, which indicates that the President wants to put maximum pressure to advance his agenda.”

Of course, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives also adopted a budget resolution that assumed a sequester deal, as did the Democratic-controlled Senate, and each sides’ terms for solving the problem are equally unacceptable to the other, making all their “solutions” equally unlikely. Yet both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees wrote up their 2014 policy bills based on these essentially imaginary numbers.

“I’m worried about it,” Sessions told the audience at the breakfast. “It is difficult to justify marking up to a number that is not likely to be the number we’re going to appropriate. I voted for the bill in committee. Secretary Hagel has promised he’s going to submit a report on how he’s going to manage these reductions shortly… but I’m uneasy about it.”

“We’re in a very grim position,” Sessions said.

But he’s hardly eager to get out of it by making concessions to the Democrats. “The only thing they’re demanding is more taxes and they just got $700 billion of more taxes in January!” Sessions told the group, his voice rising with emotion. “Republicans believe that they had an agreement to reduce spending [without] raising taxes,” the 2011 Budget Control Act. “When you eliminate the sequester and replace it with tax increases, you’ve increased spending.”

“Republicans feel like they reached an agreement with the President,” Sessions added to me afterwards. “To back off of the commitment they made to the American people is not feasible.”

Republicans want to cut domestic programs, especially the rapidly growing entitlement programs – Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security – that consume, by various counts, 45 to 62 percent of federal spending. But the sequester cuts fall only on discretionary spending, where they are equally divided between domestic and defense.

“One-half of the cuts are falling on one-sixth of the budget,” Sessions told the group. Unless the parties can make a deal, defense spending is going down by 11 percent over the next decade, he said. Democrats will happily hold Republicans responsible, Sessions said wryly: “If you were  a diabolical political guru and you were part of the ‘cut defense’ gang, and you could get defense cut and blame it on the Republicans, that would be a winner, wouldn’t it?”

Sessions’s distrust is worth noting because he is hardly a fringe figure, with National Journal rating him as only the 22nd most conservative Senator in 2012. That puts him smack in the middle of the 46 Senate Republicans, more conservative than the former ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services, John McCain (28th), and McCain’s protégé Kelly Ayotte (36th), but more liberal than current SASC ranking member, James Inhofe (14th) or Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (15th).

As the senior Republican on SASC’s Strategic Forces subcommittee, Sessions is also someone the administration has to deal with on either modernizing or reducing the nuclear arsenal. Sessions argued today that under-investment amounts to a backdoor attack on the nuclear triadland-based ICBMs, ballistic missile submarines, and bombers – “without ever having to say, well I’ve eliminated this leg or that leg.” He and his fellow Republicans have repeatedly criticized the administration for under-investing in modernization of the nation’s aging nuclear weapons stockpile, reneging on presidential promises made to convince skeptical Republicans to ratify New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) in 2010.

This week, Sessions said he got an official call informing him in advance of the President’s proposal to cut US and Russia nuclear arsenals by an additional one-third. But that hardly allayed the Alabaman’s anxieties. Indeed, while Republicans generally supported George W. Bush’s proposals for steep and sometimes unilateral cuts in the US nuclear arsenal, they see in Obama’s call for still further reductions a slippery slope to total disarmament, aka “global zero” – a goal Obama and Sec. Hagel (as a Senator) have indeed espoused.

The Berlin announcement, Sessions told the group, “causes me concern, and I believe it’s going to cause Congress concern, because fundamentally this is not driven, it seems to me, primarily by a goal of reaching a level that’s safe for America…. It seems to be more driven by an ideological vision of the president of a world without nuclear weapons.”

“A further one-third reduction [would have] destabilizing effects worldwide,” Sessions said, because rogue states and ambitious regional powers would see it as a reduction of US deterrent capabilities to be exploited, not as an example to be followed.

“It’s a theory of the left that we can get rid of nuclear weapons,” Sessions said, noting that Ronald Reagan once dreamed of the same goal. “I wish we could. Don’t we all?”


  • Don Bacon

    Mackenzie Eaglen has reported that the Pentagon, employee-wise, is bulging at the E-ring.

    Since coming into office, the President has set into motion a plan to cut the active-duty military by roughly 12%. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense civilian workforce has grown by about 13 percent. . .Since Obama’s first year in office, the size of the Office of the Secretary of Defense civilian workforce has grown to more than 2,000 people, or nearly 18%. With military detailees and contractors, the secretary’s office now totals nearly 5,000 people.

  • Don Bacon

    The Berlin announcement, Sessions told the group, “causes me concern,
    and I believe it’s going to cause Congress concern, because fundamentally this is not driven, it seems to me, primarily by a goal of reaching a level that’s safe for America”

    The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed by the U.S. July 1, 1968 and entered into force March 5, 1970, over forty years ago. Article VI of the treaty:

    Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

    But hey, the NPT is only useful against U.S. enemies and doesn’t actually apply to the U.S.

    • Jack

      The U.S. has never adhered to any Disarmament treaty it has signed. America is the biggest stumbling block to Disarmament.

  • Jack

    Again we see all the crazies in Washington are from the South.

  • UH34D

    Concern, I’m concerned about Sessions and the rest of Congress doing the job they’re paid to do…help govern our Nation. Ya don’t have a 10% to 12% favorability rating as Congress does and believe you’re doing your job.

    This entire mess we’re in could be solved very easily if Congress had the gumption to do so. Simply vote to return to the tax code of 1980, reinstitute Glass-Steagall and do something about the so called fair trade agreements that strangle the American economy.

    Sessions mentions the so called tax increase of $700 billion dollars in January, when in fact, all they did was end tax cuts that should have never been implemented in the first place. I mean really, two admitted wars (we say little about military committments to Somalia, Yemen, where we just dispatched 1,700 Marines, the Philippines, and numerous other countries where we have troops stationd, two tax cuts and a tax code that precludes many of our largest corporations from paying any federal taxes at all. Add the absurd cost overruns of military projects, like the F-35, well, it’s all been a recipte for financial disaster.

    People can check this out if they like. I’ll take 1956 as an example. In 1956, 24% of all federal revenue was derived from corporations, in 2010, it was 6%. How do taxpayers think and believe this constant and insipid drain of federal revenue has been made up? I’m not here to compose a treatise on the subject but, if people research the subject, they will find a rather devious and underhanded approach in resolving the problem. It’s ugly, and it’s exactly why we find ourselves in the situation that exists today in our economy. It’s taken 3+ decades but, we’ve finally arrived at the end result of ideological clap trap fed to us by politico’s and the media.

    “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

    Unless, and until, we revamp our tax code, the situation will only become more dire.

    Regarding nuclear warheads; even with say a 30% reduction tomorrow between Russia and the US, we would still have enough mega-tonnage to destroy this planet.

    • Mike

      Well said sir. Might I add that since the Republicans came to power in 1982 they have done just about the same things that they did in the 1920’s which ended with the financial panic of 1929. Few out there realize what a backbone Glass-Steagall gave the financial markets as it’s life from 1933-1999 saw the greatest increase in the Markets and the greatest increase in the Middle Class and the Greatest increase in manufacturing output in the history of our country. For those not aware three powerful Republicans brought Gramm/Leach/Blyle in 1999 and with the help of the majority Republican Congress removed G.S. That removal allowed the same kind of collusion between Banking, Insurance and Brokerage along with the same highly leveraged and highly risky trading that brought the markets down in 1929. That brought the Financial Panic of October 2007, under the watch of Bush/Cheney, the same “Tin Soldier” geniuses that took us to Iraq on falsified Intelligence!

      Your comments on the tax code are right on and those changes have allowed the Conservative Ultra Wealthy (CUWs) to be the only economic group that is better off financially since the revolution in 1982 that they financed….

      Thank God for Obama and his PIPP program in March of 2009 (along with Q.E,. from the Fed) or we would currently be at 10% of our financial and real estate values as we were after another period of Republican Domination ended in 1932 with the election of FDR….

      • UH34D

        Thank you Mike, though I’m certain there will be others who will disagree with us. Why they would disagree is beyond me, as all of the relevant evidence is readily available to anyone who wants to take the time to truly educate themselves. But, I’m not going to give the Democrats a free ride, seeing as many aided and abetted in the decisions that have brought us to this point in time socio-economically.

    • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

      As long as Congress is getting a paycheck they are convinced they are doing a good enough job. 10%, 12% or 1%. I imagine a raise is right around the corner for our great leaders with the bang-up job they are doing.

      • UH34D

        I’m fairly confident they will vote themselves a pay increase. After all, they’re the only Americans working, and the rest of us can never match members of Congress in productivity, and work product. :-)

    • ziggy1988

      Wrong. After these cuts, the US wont have nearly enough deployed warheads to detet Russia or even China. And the Bush tax cuts were right – they revived the economy in 2001.

      • UH34D

        Please, get serious! With the number of warheads admitted to, the total mega-tonnage, even if half were detonated it would be enough to end life on this planet as we know it.

        And the tax cuts, they didn’t revive anything. If anything, it’s one of the components that has led us to the place we’re now in economically. The tax cuts were replaced with just more borrowing to cover the budget shortfalls. The so called budget surplus left to us by Clinton was burned through by 2002. The economy was doing fairly well when Bush took office, so his, and his people’s ideas didn’t do anything to revive any economy. You go ahead though and keep believing eight years of profligate spending, add in two wars, two tax cuts was the intelligent thing to do economically. Take a look at the numbers for the last two years of the Bush administration in any category; budget, employment, bail outs, unfunded wars and then say the tax cuts were the right thing to do? It’s impossible to do so, the policies of the Bush administration drove this Nation, and its socio-economic system into the ground and for whatever reason, Republicans want to keep it that way.

        And before you go away half cocked, I’m a registered Republican. Many who refer to themselves as Republicans today, well, they’re not. They represent nearly everything that’s wrong with our Nation and we see evidence of it every day. Frankly, I liken many of them to anarchists.

        • PolicyWonk

          Correct. The only thing the Bush Tax Cuts did, was help set this nation on the path to economic ruin, according to the CBO.

          And if we already have enough warheads to destroy the planet many times over: from a practical perspective – how many more do we really need?

          • UH34D

            It’s a fallacy to believe tax cuts stimulate an economy. All tax cuts do is rob from the future, and sooner or later it catches up with you…like now.

            It’s an amazing fact of economic history here in the US but, from 1945 to about 1980, America was the go to nation economically. No larger growth in wealth, both for the wealthy, and the lower to upper middle class in the history of mankind. I ask people all the time when they complain about taxes, go look at the tax rates for an individual and corporations from 1946 to 1982. The answers are there as to why we have our financial woes in America. Add the so called ‘fair trade’ agreements that came into vogue, and pushed by corporate America, between the manipulation of the tax code and the trade agreements, it’s no wonder were screwed!

            Regarding nuclear war heads; just one, 1 megaton detonation pretty much kills everything within a 60 mile diameter. The US has alone has in excess of 150 bombs exceeding 5 megatons, with the most powerful being 25 megatons, the B41. Think we have about 2,300 yielding less than 5 megatons. Russia, who knows? Everybody has differing numbers on their megatonnage but, it’s a safe bet theirs are at least equivalent to ours. And China, nobody has any idea how many they have but, even if it’s half of what the US and Russia have, still a lot of destruction. And if we believe the climate guru’s, if the blast and radiation don’t get ya, you’ll probably either starve to death, freeze to death, or die from an illness. Many believe it would be the advent of another super Ice Age due to the debris in the atmosphere which would block the Sun’s rays for a lot of years, so the chances of survival are almost nil.
            Have a great day……

  • SS BdM Fuhress ‘Savannah

    Obama can always play the Racist card. I don’t think he’s doing great but I also know that the way things are economically across this planet at this day and age nobody is going to be doing great. Something has to give. More than likely the poor giving up things to be more poor if that is possible. Sure won’t be anybody in politics, media or boardrooms across corporate America.

  • PolicyWonk

    That intractable divide between the parties was on full display this morning at One Constitution Avenue, across the street from the US Capitol, where Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions expressed Republicans’ deep, wide-ranging, and sometimes outright emotional distrust of President Barrack Obama.

    Given that the GOP openly resented the fact that Obama was elected after the nation endured the worst president performance in over a century (according to all of the Presidential Ranking Studies conducted since); openly declared that the GOP’s only priority was to ensure Barak Obama would be a one-term POTUS; and before the healthcare debates even began – McConnell and Boehner went on Fox News to openly declare that no matter how many GOP ideas were used, no matter how good for the nation, or how much money it saved – the GOP was determined to torpedo health care reform – I can see why Obama wouldn’t trust THEM.

    When the GOP party leadership openly declared their political objectives outweighed the good of the nation, I was reminded by a statement made by one of our founding fathers (George Washington, I think): “The true enemies of the United States are those who put their party politics above the good of the nation…”.

    With the GOP-led HoR going down in history as the least productive congress in history, and with a 10% approval rating – its clear that the alliances the GOP made with the fringe of the right wing have prevented them from being able to lead or make reasonable policy.

    And despite huge mistakes being made in the spreadsheet used by the GOP to justify their “economic polices”, they still stick to them despite the fact that they were determined to be dead wrong. This lack of flexibility and outright destructive behavior is less than useful for the nation.

    And while this POTUS isn’t ideal – given the above and what he’s been up against, he’s done a pretty fair job overall.

    • ziggy1988

      No. It is th Dems who have allied themselves with the fringe – the fringe Left. Repubs are merely resisting the Dems worst policy ideas.

      • PolicyWonk

        Thats pretty funny. Where the left does ally itself with the democrats, they aren’t the ones making policy. On the GOP side, where they shortsightedly allied themselves with tea party, “birthers”, so-called “Christian Conservatives”, conspiracy theorists, and other political detritus – they are so hosed they can’t make policy any more.

        Look at the farm bill for the latest GOP-run congressional disaster. Rep. Boehner can’t make reasonable policy decisions anymore because the crackpot fringe forces him to waste taxpayer time and dollars on symbolic/useless votes such as repealing Obamacare (which isn’t happening) or abortion (long the law of the land).

        He is already the least effective leader in house history – and can do NOTHING. The democrats aren’t even going to try to dislodge him from the speakership – they don’t have to. Either the voters or GOP will do it for them.

        Your statement isn’t supported by the facts.

    • ziggy1988

      As for Obamacare: are you on drugs? It will be bad for the nation, far more costly than the CBO admits, has dramatically increased premiums, and us more unpopular than ever.

      • PolicyWonk

        In Massachusetts, we pay far less for better healthcare than any other state in the union, and the program has overwhelming support. And, 98% of our citizens are insured.

        Furthermore, despite the gloom and doom preached by the GOP, Californians, who already have their new rates posted, are going to be paying far less for their insurance than they do now.

        The longer term evidence does not support your contention.

  • brownie

    Without a doubt, Obama is a PATHOLOGICAL LIAR. Nothing he says or does can be believed or trusted: NSA, FBI, Fast & Furious, Benghazi, Secure Borders, Obamacare (saving money, keeping your doctor), Dept. of Justice/Wire tapping, Romney waging a “War Against Women” and “hiding money offshore”, and IRS.
    He’s incapable of truth. Part of this is moral and ethical – he’s an empty suit – and another the LACK OF A FATHER TO DISCIPLINE HIM WHEN HE WAS A YOUNG MAN. What we call the black male malady.

    • PolicyWonk

      Without a doubt, you’re misinformed – either willfully, or because you’re watching Fox News, or listening to Limbaugh. Stop it.

      1. Benghazi was handled poorly, and Sec. State Clinton admitted it. This was agreed to by everyone involved – and it was a series of problems that compounded one another.
      2. The borders weren’t secured after 9/11 – since the BUSH administration was in power. But you’re only blaming it on Obama? When do you wake up from your coma?
      3. Romneycare, in MA, has since provided higher quality healthcare for less money than in any other state in the union – and is on track to save even more. And the numbers of insurance in CA were just released: they’re going to pay LESS next year than in this year.
      4. The Patriot Act, in its current version, was enacted 7 YEARS ago, under a GOP White House, HoR, and Senate.
      5. Romney waging a war on women? Didn’t you WATCH the GOP presidential primaries last year, when the candidates were jumping over each other to so how “conservative” they were. The content was decidedly anti-female to the vast majority of females. Ask one.
      6. Hiding money offshore? That what an overwhelming number of GOP donors and companies in the private sector do!
      7. The IRS problem was created by a republican IRS manager who hated right-wingers – this went nowhere NEAR the POTUS.

      Sorry none of these major problems led directly to the POTUS. Clearly, it disappoints you.

  • sailor

    You should have past a budget the past four years and you would not have this problem