Although Sen. Jeff Sessions is the top Republican on the Budget Committee, he is content to let others take the lead on proposing budget plans.
Hatch said Sessions is also limited by what he can do in the minority and by the partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill. “It’s an especially tough time,” he said.
Other Senators and aides praised Sessions as a messaging workhorse.
“Sen. Sessions consistently speaks at the weekly policy lunch on the details of the budget debate, and he’s been a strong voice in making the GOP position clear to the American people through floor debate and in a range of national media,” a senior GOP aide said.
Other Republicans have been raising their profiles as the budget battles have gone on, including Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho), a member of the gang of six who is close to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and sits on both the Budget and Finance committees; freshman Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), the former budget director for President George W. Bush; and Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), who is pushing a spending cap plan that Sessions had sponsored in the past with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).
Sessions’ relationships across the aisle aren’t at Gregg’s level either. Democratic aides generally dismiss him.
And while Sessions said he’s enjoyed working with Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), the chairman didn’t return the compliment.
Conrad on Wednesday praised his buddy Gregg, saying that they had built up trust and respect over many years. But he icily refused to comment about his relationship with Sessions.
He was clearly irritated earlier in the week when asked about Sessions attacking him for not agreeing to provide 72 hours to examine his budget before a markup — something no Budget chairman has ever done.
Sessions said the escalation of his attacks has been intentional.
“Republicans have not been as effective as we should be on emphasizing the dangers of the debt,” Sessions said. “I felt that we’re in a crisis [and] the Democrats have gotten away without a budget for two years while the country is in the worst financial condition ever. ... Maybe if we keep the pressure up, maybe something will break in a good way.”
Sessions noted he’s pointed out how Democrats have missed deadline after deadline this year to pass a budget. “They’ve either got to produce a budget that includes substantial reductions in spending and big tax increases or do nothing. Either way, they’re not comfortable.”
Sessions said he intends to keep up the charge.
“We’ve got to challenge them. The American people need to know: Paul Ryan has produced a good budget, where is yours?”