Two Republican senators are facing off in a bitter battle for the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee, which could turn into a “proxy war” on immigration, Talking Points Memo reported
In the wake of the GOP taking control of the Senate, Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, a longtime committee member, is seeking to reclaim his seniority over Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the committee's ranking member.
"Senator Enzi is seeking the Budget chairmanship," Enzi spokesman Daniel Head told TPM. "Under the Republican Conference rules, he has seniority for the post and it is Senator Sessions that is challenging him, not the other way around."
The Senate GOP rules state that committee members must elect their leader and have the choice approved by the conference. In this case, however, the result could have more far-reaching implications than who controls the coveted committee chairmanship post come January.
The new leader, in fact, will likely decide whether to confront President Barack Obama’s unilateral actions on immigration head-on or to support a more cautious piecemeal reform, TPM reported.
Sessions, a strict conservative, has battled against reform for years, and even ignored GOP leaders by calling for controversial measures that could result in a government shutdown if President Barack Obama doesn't pull the plug on his immigration action.
On the other hand, Enzi has a good working relationship with incoming Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who has vowed that there will be no government shutdown while he's in charge.
Enzi's spokesman maintains that the senator "has long been an opponent of executive amnesty." But Enzi, a low-key conservative, has not spelled out how he plans to fight Obama’s actions.
The Budget Committee chairman helps to establish federal legislation on a vast range of policies, including food stamps, military funding, health care and education spending, as well as helping to determine tax and spending laws. With Sessions in charge, the committee could essentially pull the plug on the federal government, TPM noted.
McConnell has promised to stay out of the fight between Enzi and Sessions, explaining that “under our Conference rules, only the members of the committee vote for their chairman — no one outside the committee has a say."
But Senate Democrats are hoping that Enzi is the next chairman, and they hope he would then help “rein in” tea party members and the extreme right on budgetary measures.
“It would be about as surprising as the sun coming up if they had cold feet about Senator Sessions, who votes to the right of Paul Ryan and apparently can't say no to the chance to risk a shutdown or a default," one Democrat aide told TPM.
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