Alabama senator Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday that he will not contest Wyoming senator Mike Enzi’s claim to the Budget Committee chairmanship, which will make him the most senior Republican senator in the 114th Congress without a committee chairmanship.
“We have talked and I am deferring to his seniority so that he can lead the Budget Committee as its Chairman beginning in 2015,” Sessions said of Enzi.
Sessions has for the past four years served as ranking member of Budget Committee, and he served as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee for the two years before that. But Enzi, who has served as the ranking member of the Committee on Health, Education, and Labor, technically holds seniority over him (the two were elected to the Senate the same year, in 1996, and the matter of seniority was decided literally at random, by the drawing of lots); now, Enzi has unexpectedly laid claim to the Budget Committee chairmanship. In the Senate, where seniority is all important, committee chairman are elected by committee members of the majority party and ratified by the wider conference, and GOP members of the Budget Committee had signaled that they were unlikely to cross Enzi.
The move will leave Sessions, who was widely expected to take over the Budget Committee — and who is now the next in line to chair the Judiciary Committee — free rein to pursue his own ideological interests and to thwart the agenda of the new Republican leadership.
The senator has for years now been an ideological maverick, leading the charge against both the 2007 immigration bill, which was supported by the Bush administration, and the bipartisan Gang of Eight bill in 2013. Without a committee chairmanship, he likely to take up more — and similar — fights.