Why it matters that Jeff Sessions will be Senate Budget Committee chairman
Republicans have been assailing the Senate Democrats for largely avoiding the federal budgetary process for political reasons. With control over the House and the Senate, Republicans will finally set a federal budget agreement between the two legislative chambers.
The federal budget is actually what is known as a “concurrent” resolution. As such, it requires a simple majority to be passed in the House and the Senate. More importantly, it may not be filibustered in the Senate and does not require the president’s signature.
The budget resolution sets the spending limits and revenue requirements for the approximately 20 major functional categories of federal government spending. It does not actually spend any money or set revenue policy. Rather, the budget resolution serves as the boundary for the House and Senate Appropriations Committees as they craft each of the spending bills that Congress will ultimately pass and send to the president for his signature.
If the appropriation bills before the House and Senate exceed their budget allocation or tax bills reduce revenue beyond budget requirements, legislators may raise a budget point of order against the legislation in question. The House is able to side-step those objections relatively easily, but the Senate requires 60 votes to waive such points of order and proceed with consideration of the legislation. In other words, the budget sets some important spending and revenue hurdles.
Republicans will undoubtedly see the midterm elections as a clear repudiation of the president’s policies. The president’s immediate reaction to the elections suggests that he is content to use executive action and orders to push his priorities.
As a lame duck president facing a Republican-controlled Congress, the president’s budget proposal to kick off the 2016 budgetary process will likely serve as more of a political messaging tool than anything else. The president may well put forth any number of different programs, spending and even tax cuts, daring Republicans to ignore his future priorities or defund his current policies.
In all likelihood, Sessions and Price will manage the important process of crafting the Republican spending and tax blueprint in the next Congress. That task is easier said than done. Sessions will be forced to manage a laundry list of conservative priorities to defund liberal programs and executive regulations. While the ultimate spending cuts and restrictions would be contained in legislation from the appropriations committees, Sessions will have a significant say in setting the tone and tenor for those showdowns between Republicans and President Obama. Most importantly, he will have a prime opportunity to craft a new fiscal trajectory for the nation and give Americans a real alternative to the president’s agenda.