Sen. Sessions visits Andalusia

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2012


Financial, military and environmental matters were on the minds of the approximately 30 people who attended the town hall meeting hosted by Sen. Jeff Sessions in Andalusia Wednesday afternoon.

Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said the U.S. per capita debt is $44,000, higher than any European nation, including Greece.

“Our debt is on an unsustainable course,” he said. “Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives agree on that. We have got to manage better.”

Sessions’ criticism of Democratic President Barack Obama was much milder than that of most of his Republican counterparts, but the senator said Obama needs to spend less time traveling and more time in the office trying to get a grasp on the country’s finances.

Pushed to say how he would personally cut spending, Sessions said he proposed that Congress cut its own budget by 15 percent.

“We did 5 percent,” he said. “We’re going to cut 15 percent anyway. If everybody cut 15 percent, it would make a big difference.”

Cuts that have been made, he said, fell disproportionately on the military.

The senator said he personally came under fire for proposals to cut food stamps, an expenditure that has grown from $20 billion in 2002 to more than $70 billion this year.

“There is language that says that if you qualify for any government program, you automatically qualify for food stamps,” he said. “We could save $10 million just by required proof of qualification, but that was voted down.

“It’s too easy to demagogue and say ‘Sessions doesn’t like poor people,’ ” he said.

Dave Finlin challenged the senator, saying that Congress had a chance to get spending under control in the last decade, when Republicans controlled both houses and the White House.

Sessions conceded that too much was spent during the Bush administration.

“I’m not sure Congress has the will to address this,” he said.

He said Congress passed limits on spending when it raised the debt ceiling last year, but has already exceeded those limits.

Wiley Ward asked Sessions about his support of green energy. Others asked why America has not recouped what it has spent in Iraq with Iraq’s oil, and whether the military would go into Iran.

Sessions said it is still possible that the U.S. might get money from Iraq. He said he doesn’t believe the United States will get put troops on the ground in Iran, but that it could strike from the air to make sure the Iranians don’t get nuclear weapons.

He also was asked if the U.S. would stand with Israel, and how Congress could compel the president to do so.

“We will stand with Israel,” Sessions said. “The president has not said explicitly we would not stand with Israel, but he has said some things that caused concern.”