Politics & Policy

Jeff Sessions and Mike Lee: Broken Senate ‘May Never Be Fixed’

(Marc Johnson/Dreamstime)

Two Republican senators offered a bleak criticism of the pending debt-limit deal and, implicitly, of Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell’s leadership since Republicans took the majority.

“The Senate is broken,” Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) wrote in a Wednesday letter to GOP colleagues. “It’s been that way for a long time. And it looks like it may never be fixed, at least as long as we remain on our current trajectory.”

Criticisms of McConnell from presidential hopefuls such as Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) are nothing new, though the letter highlights the extent to which the debt-limit deal is causing such frustration to spread among the rank-and-file. But it’s unlikely to thwart the agreement, given that some Republicans and practically every Democrat can be counted on to vote for it.

After allowing that Republicans “have done much to reverse the dysfunction that characterized the institution for the last seven years,” the lawmakers turned their attention to the budget deal that outgoing House speaker John Boehner has been negotiating with Democrats. They argued that the deal should be scrapped and suggested that Republicans had been more effective opponents of government spending increases when they were in the minority.

#share#“Just four years ago we forced the president and Senate Democrats to agree to the Budget Control Act of 2011 in exchange for raising the debt ceiling,” they wrote. “We were able to win this concession from the other side despite having only 45 members in the Senate and a much smaller majority in the House. Today, we have a 54-seat majority in the Senate and the largest House majority since 1930, but somehow we have no choice but to roll back these spending cuts and to increase the debt ceiling without any offsets.”

#related#The same argument was made by a Budget Committee freshman, Senator David Perdue, in a Wednesday statement. “Earlier this year, Republicans passed a budget that cut President Obama’s proposed spending by $7 trillion over the next decade and finally balanced, but this deal completely abandons that effort,” the Georgia Republican said. “Our long-term plan was traded for short-term gimmicks, trust fund raids, and even more spending. This deal isn’t compromise; it’s surrender.”

Sessions and Lee framed the debt-limit deal as a defining moment for the Republican conference. “We cannot expect things to be any different in the future unless we make a conscious decision to change the way we do business here in the Senate,” they wrote. “To that end, we ask that our colleagues join us in opposing this deal and the non-transparent process used to produce it, and calling on our leadership to run the Senate as we promised the American people we would by allowing a fulsome debate and open amendment process.”

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