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Issue Tracker: Budget Deal

Issue Tracker: Budget Deal

Senate Republican hawks are vowing to push something legislatively this year that will lessen sequestration’s blow — or get rid of it for a year or more. But to get the 60 required votes to defeat a potential filibuster, they likely will have to persuade some fiscal hawks from their own party to vote with them.

CongressWatch spoke to Jeff Sessions, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Budget committees, who is emerging as the chamber’s leading fiscal conservative.

Q. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and other defense hawks want to raise Pentagon spending caps. Could you go along with legislation to do that?

A. I believe if people want to raise the defense cap, then they’re going to have to justify it. We’re going to have to talk about it, and we’re going to have to go to more than just general rhetoric but specific justifications because it doesn’t do any good to have … the Budget Control Act if we’re not going to adhere to it but [for] a year or two. I think erosion of that limit requires careful thought.

Q. If the pro-defense caucus loses Republicans more concerned about cutting spending, and Democrats who likely would want concessions on domestic sequestration cuts, could they get 60 votes in the Senate?

A. I don’t know. We can’t continue this idea that if we have a national security threat we have to match that [amount] in domestic spending. In truth, if your national security threat increases your need to spend more on defense, you should really spend less on non-defense.

But somehow, the president has this idea that “you Republicans only care about defense and I care about non-defense, so I’m not going to support any increase in defense unless you give me more money in non-defense.” He’s the commander in chief. He should first and foremost be worried about the security of America.

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