Sessions accuses Senate Dems of hiding spending increase in 'minibus' bill

Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said Monday afternoon that Senate Democrats are looking to hide a spending increase in the "minibus" bill they are considering this week.

The legislation to fund the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Science, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development for 2012 is being billed by Democrats as one that would cut total spending in the current fiscal year to $128 billion, down $1 billion from last year's levels. But Sessions said on the Senate floor that this ignores the $3.2 billion in disaster aid the Senate included in the bill earlier in the month.

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"Only in Washington can it be asserted that the government can spend $3.2 billion and it not count," Sessions said.

When the extra disaster funding is counted, the bill increases spending by about $2 billion, which Sessions said is a far cry from trying to reduce the federal deficit.

Sessions criticized the Budget Control Act for allowing additional disaster spending to be approved above the $1.043 trillion spending cap set for 2012, but said that at least the Congressional Budget Office was treating the extra $3.2 billion as real spending.

He also said Democrats are using the discretionary spending bill to add in new mandatory spending, in the form of more money for food stamps. Sessions said Democrats argue that this addition should not be counted, but that this leads to an even greater spending increase.

"When discretionary and mandatory spending are scored in this bill, the overall spending compared to last year went up by $10 billion, or a 4 percent increase, not a cut," he said. "Relative to amounts senators approved for these three bills last year, we're being asked to increase spending, not decrease spending."

Sessions said that even the purported $1 billion cut to spending is not enough of a cut, and that far more needs to be cut out.

"To take a $1 billion reduction is basically to hold in place this surge in spending at a time when this nation has never, ever faced such a severe debt threat to its future," he said.

He added that it has already been shown that maintaining spending at this level in order to create "some sort of a sugar high to create jobs" has not worked. Instead, he said, Democrats need to take the energy they're now using to maintain spending and use it to find ways to cut spending.

"I remain amazed at the creativity used by spenders to defeat spending limits," he said. "Would that they would use such creativity to control spending … would we be so much better off?"

Senate Democrats will resume work on the minibus bill, H.R. 2112, on Tuesday, and are expected to continue consideration of various amendments.