Sessions yields to Enzi as U.S. Senate
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[December 18, 2014]
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Senator
Mike Enzi said on Wednesday he will take over as chairman of the Senate
Budget Committee next year after the panel's current top Republican,
Jeff Sessions, agreed to step aside.
The two senators had contested the chairmanship of the committee
that will provide a key blueprint for Republican policy priorities
as the party takes control of the Senate in January.
Enzi, who had previously served as the top Republican on the Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, had decided to exert his
seniority to become the Budget Committee chairman instead.
That seniority literally came from the luck of a draw. When
Sessions, an outspoken conservative from Louisiana, and Enzi, a more
moderate senator who shuns the media limelight, both joined the
Senate in 1997, they drew straws to determine who had greater
seniority. Enzi, who is from Wyoming, won.
But Enzi said that their agreement calls for Sessions to play a
significant role on the panel in reforming welfare spending and
identifying and eliminating government waste.
"He is our first line of defense on many issues," Enzi said of
Sessions. "The team needs him and Jeff will be right there with his
expertise taking the lead on welfare reform."
Some Republicans and outside conservative groups had said Enzi's
challenge was a sign that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell
had wanted a more moderate senator in charge of the Budget
Committee, whose work will help set federal spending levels for
Enzi has denied this. A spokesman for McConnell said the new Senate
majority leader has "made clear that he has no role" in the decision
on who chaired the committee.
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Sessions said the two senators remain close friends and said he
looks forward to assisting Enzi.
"Mike is an accountant and a small businessman who understands the
need to balance budgets and tell the truth about the numbers," said
Sessions, who also will serve on the Armed Services, Judiciary and
Environment and Public Works committees.
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders will be the Budget Committee's
ranking opposition member. The panel's exiting chairwoman, Senator
Patty Murray, will move to become the top Democrat on the Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Bernard Orr and Lisa
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