GOP senator fires warning shot to Dems on stimulus measures

A senior Senate Republican is pushing to offset any stimulus measure that is included in a “fiscal cliff” deal.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the top Republican on the chamber's Budget Committee, said in a letter to congressional leaders that an extension of policies like the payroll tax cut, the so-called Medicare “doc fix” and expanded unemployment insurance would push spending levels above what was agreed to in last year’s deal to raise the debt ceiling.

“Offsets for any of these changes must also be achieved through real savings, not gimmicks like counting baseline savings from future war spending that is not expected to occur,” Sessions wrote in a letter dated Tuesday.

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Sessions also said in the letter — which he sent to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — that policymakers need to hold to the amount of spending restraint agreed to in last year’s agreement.

“Congress must reorganize and reprioritize these cuts, but we must not retreat from the overall amount Congress agreed to and that the president signed into law,” the Alabama senator wrote. 

After the reelection of President Obama and Democratic gains in Congress, top Democrats like Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) argued that any deal to avoid the looming spending cuts and tax increases should include measures to stimulate the economy. 

In recent weeks, leading Democrats have more openly discussed adding a third year of the payroll tax cut, which many around Washington had assumed would be allowed to expire at the end of the year. 

But Sessions’s letter underscores that congressional Republicans are likely to resist putting any stimulus measures into a year-end deal.

Administration and congressional staffers have been discussing the fiscal cliff this week following the meeting last week between Obama and the congressional leaders at the White House.