Sessions: Point Of Order Loss Would Be A Blow To Minority Rights

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued the following statement today regarding a provision in the Ryan-Murray spending package that would remove a key protection against future tax-and-spend legislation:

“As we near a Senate vote on the spending package that emerged from the House, I remain deeply concerned about a provision in the legislation that undermines the right of Senators to enforce spending limits and block tax increases by raising a key point of order. Careful review of the legislation leaves no doubt as to this fact. Under the deal, the 302(f) Budget Act point of order cannot be raised if the Senate majority produces legislation that breaks spending limits, increases spending, and offsets those increases with higher taxes or fees. This point of order has been used to enforce budgetary rules successfully on numerous occasions since the Budget Control Act was passed in 2011. Its erosion, pushed by Senate Democrats, makes it far easier to tax and spend.

It has been suggested by some that we should not be concerned by the point of order’s loss because bills can still be filibustered. This is a weak argument for several reasons. A vote to filibuster legislation is a very different vote than a vote to uphold budget rules and spending limits. Also, in a post-cloture setting, a tax hike could pass with 51 votes where previously this point of order would apply.

The Republican conference has found this point of order very valuable to stop tax-and-spend proposals in the past. Obviously, Senate Democrats have seized this opportunity to eliminate this enforcement tool. While I know Chairman Murray and Ryan faced a difficult negotiation, this outcome was totally unexpected and a genuine surprise to our experienced committee analysts when they unearthed it after the legislation became public.

The principle at issue is important, and it is this: this point of order gives teeth to spending limits Congress has promised. The big spenders don’t like that. Thus, using the ‘deficit neutral reserve fund’ process (which is very easy to abuse), statutory spending limits can be breached as long as new taxes or fees (on unpopular entities most likely) are levied to pay for the spending increase. This would be a major loss for controlling spending.

In the aftermath of the nuclear option, this further erosion of Senators’ rights should be opposed by members of both parties. This is yet one more reason why it is bad idea to rush through legislation negotiated in secret, outside the normal process, before those voting on it have time to learn what’s in it.”