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Budget GOP Wonders About Sessions' Priority

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Although he is chairman of the Budget Committee, Sessions has been focused on immigration, to the chagrin of some of his colleagues.

Sen. Jeff Sessions is running a one-man war against a comprehensive immigration overhaul, and it’s irking some of his Budget Committee colleagues.

Some close to the committee have complained that Sessions, a Republican from Alabama and the ranking member on the Budget panel, has been spending most of his time — and his media platform — attacking the immigration bill proposed by a bipartisan group of eight senators, including fellow Budget member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

During the recess week alone, Sessions’ office sent more than 30 press emails against the bipartisan framework. He held a conference call with reporters Friday to talk about immigration.

Some members are frustrated that he speaks about the issue in his capacity as ranking member on Budget, yet he hasn’t made significant moves to debate the issue in committee, according to multiple sources. He has mostly stopped sending press releases from Senate Budget email accounts after complaints from other members. But the Senate Budget Committee has not scheduled a hearing on immigration, even though the Senate Judiciary Committee, Commerce Committee and the Joint Economic Committee have.

“We tried to look at the budget ramifications of it, but Chairman [Patty] Murray has not called a hearing on it,” Sessions said on the call, after lamenting the lack of debate on the legislation.

“Political consultants have planned this whole thing out and are trying to push it through without full discussion of the details,” Sessions said.

In January, Sessions sent a wish list of 28 hearings for 2013 to Murray — including one on immigration — but a Democratic aide says the majority Budget staff hasn’t heard from Sessions about scheduling any hearings since then. The aide added that Sessions has not specifically requested or discussed a hearing on immigration.

Sessions said the hearings that have been held by other committees weren’t sufficient because they only served to “go through the motions of discussing the bill.”

One hearing in particular, a Judiciary session that featured more than 20 witnesses, was held on a Monday, “so many members were not in town,” Sessions said.

Sessions spokesman Stephen Miller said the allegations against Sessions are “grossly inaccurate”: “First, Ranking Member Sessions has been tirelessly active on budget issues. Second, we’ve conducted dutiful oversight on all aspects of welfare policy and have sent a request to CBO on the impacts of the current immigration proposal. Third, Sessions is a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, which is considering and voting on the immigration bill.” (Because of an email server problem, CQ Roll Call was unable to include Miller’s statement in the print edition.)

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