FLORENCE — U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions said the biggest obstacle to finding compromise on the nation’s debt issues is the president’s refusal to tell Americans the country cannot continue on its current spending path.
“He is the one person who has the ability to talk to the American people,” Sessions said of President Barack Obama. “We want him to tell the people we are on an unsustainable path.”
Sessions said Republican leaders have met with the president several times to try to reach a compromise that includes spending on entitlements, but have come away empty handed.
If the sequester takes effect March 1, making deep spending cuts across the board, it will take disproportionate funding from the Department of Defense, he said. This would affect north Alabama.
Obama and Congress agreed to the sequester in 2011 after a budget impasse. It would automatically cut $1.2 trillion from federal budgets over a 10-year period. Sessions said he voted against the Budget Control Act in 2011 because of its untargeted cuts.
“The president needs to help us spread out the cuts in a way that he can support,” Sessions said. “Our Democratic friends in Congress are not going to support anything he does not support.”
Sessions said the difficulty of achieving bipartisanship in the Senate is not personal animosity, but a deep divide in political philosophy.
“I am not for the socialization of America,” he said to applause from the 130 people in attendance. “I’m not sure of the direction the country is going, but I’m pretty sure which side I’m on.”
The biggest contention between Democrats and Republicans, he said, is the president’s reluctance to trim entitlement programs, which account for a significant percentage of the budget, and the failure to reach agreement on entitlement reforms.
Sessions does not support tax increases, but said if taxes are to rise, they should be earmarked exclusively for reducing debt.
He said studies show that increasing revenue without cutting expenditures won’t solve the problem. There must be a balanced approach, he said.
Chamber Chairman Steve Holt said inviting Sessions and other ranking elected officials to chamber functions benefits everyone.
“We get a good response from them when they are here,” he said. “They get to see the Shoals and meet some of their constituents.”
Holt said Sessions was in town on a good day. He pointed to the lead story in Wednesday’s TimesDaily, announcing a partnership between Navistar and FreightCar America to make rail cars at a massive Colbert County plant.
Robert Palmer can be reached at 256-740-5720 or robert.palmer@TimesDaily.com.