Senate Budget Committee ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) will not chair the U.S. Senate Budget Committee next year when the newly elected GOP majority takes over in Congress’ upper chamber. Instead of Sessions, Wyoming’s Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) will chair the powerful committee.
Sessions has been the ranking member of the prized panel for the last four years, during which Democrats had the majority. Before that, and for the first two years of President Barack Obama’s administration, Sessions served as the ranking member of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. Most in politics considered Sessions a lock for the budget spot after Republicans took the majority in the Senate in November’s midterm elections, but Enzi surprised everyone by announcing he was going to use his seniority in the Senate to challenge Sessions for the spot. The only reason why Enzi has more seniority, since he and Sessions were elected on the same day in the 1990s, is because a coin toss gave him the higher ranking.
Nonetheless, in a show of courtesy to Enzi, Sessions has agreed to let the Wyoming senator chair the panel. Sessions said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon:
My good friend Mike and I have been close since we both entered the Senate together 18 years ago. We will long remain good and close friends. We have talked and I am deferring to his seniority so that he can lead the Budget Committee as its Chairman beginning in 2015. Mike graciously deferred to me two years ago after he timed out on HELP as Ranking Member, and it has been my enormous privilege to serve as the panel’s Ranking Member these last four years, as well as to serve as the Judiciary Ranking Member for the two years before that. The Budget Committee has an exceptional staff and I am proud of what we have accomplished.
Sessions, who will now have a free hand to further his economic populism and anti-amnesty, pro-American worker immigration policies, as the U.S. Senate’s senior conservative statesman, went on to praise Enzi’s background.
“Mike is an accountant and a small businessman who understands the need to balance budgets and tell the truth about the numbers,” Sessions said. “He is a man of integrity and principle, respected by all of his Senate colleagues. I am eager to assist him next year, and I hope to tackle the important issue of welfare reform.”
Sessions will remain a senior member of the Senate Budget Committee, and will also serve on four other committees in senior slots.
“I look forward to being active as a senior member on four committees of enormous importance: Armed Services, Budget, Environment and Public Works, and Judiciary,” he said. “I also look forward to serving as Chairman of critical Senate subcommittees. My roles in the Senate will give me the opportunity to focus on important issues such as defense, national security, federal debt, EPA reform, crime, and immigration.”
Sessions will now likely also play, as senior conservative statesman, a leading role in the 2016 presidential process–able to focus much of his time now on influencing the political debate from a position of extraordinary respect among his Senate colleagues. He’ll also be able to focus on helping the Republican Party rebrand itself in a more populist way, as Democrats promote Massachusetts liberal populist Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to the forefront of their party’s political presence.
“Overall, I remain deeply concerned about falling wages and the lack of good jobs for Americans,” Sessions said. “Too many of our citizens are either stuck in place or falling behind, and too often their needs are forgotten. Our new GOP Congress must put the needs of Americans first.”
Sessions is the only member of the U.S. Senate who was re-elected or elected in 2014 without any primary or general election candidate. Sessions, an Alabamian, was re-elected completely unopposed.