Sessions talks debt at courthouse meeting
by Will Heath
Aug 31, 2011 | 1524 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions answers questions from the audience last week during a meeting with citizens in Ashville.
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions answers questions from the audience last week during a meeting with citizens in Ashville.
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ASHVILLE — Jeff Sessions said last week that his fellow senators have complained about him hogging the spotlight.

“Harry Reid (the Senate majority leader, a Democrat from Nevada) was just saying the other day, ‘Sessions is on the floor all the time!’” he said. “I think it’s important, though. I don’t think you send us up there (to Washington) to be a potted plant.”

A U.S. senator since 1997, Sessions was the featured speaker at a “coffee” with constituents at the newly renovated St. Clair County Courthouse in Ashville.

“I’m very proud of the people I represent,” he said. “I don’t know all the answers. My view is not always right, but it’s my view. I think it’s representative of the view of the average person in Alabama.”

The major focus of last week’s discussion, naturally, was on the state of the nation’s economy. Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said his greatest concern remains government spending.

“We’re running massive amounts of debt,” he said. “It’s not going to go away when the economy comes back. It will help for the economy to come back, but it’s still not going to put us back to a balanced budget.”

The crowd gathered in the courtroom shared the senator’s concern. County property manager Harold Hoyle wondered why citizens are being asked to pay more to an inefficient government.

“I’ve thought about all the money we’re sending overseas to places that are not doing a lot to help us,” Hoyle said. “Why is it always me who has to bite the bullet?”

Maggie Farrar, of Athens, added that Americans should do more to help themselves.

“I’d like to see us help ourselves,” she said. “It’s time for us to look after us. That’s my idea.”

Sessions said the debt crisis in the country is “deeper than we realize.” According to him, 60 percent of the money spent by government is in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. While he conceded that might need to come down, he said he doesn’t believe it has to disappear entirely.

“We can bring our spending under control if we’re smart about it and not savage Medicare and Medicaid,” he said. “I do believe people with higher income are going to have to pay more for their health care. That’s the bottom line.”

County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon agreed with Sessions’ assessment, saying citizens demand many of the costs of government.

“We’ve got new schools wherever there’s a school, and new courthouses wherever there’s a courthouse,” he said. “Who demands that? Not the governments; the governments don’t say, ‘Please let us borrow $10 million to build a new courthouse.’ It’s the citizens who demand those things.

“We’ve got to back our whole attitude up to a more conservative attitude, so we can afford what we’re buying.”

Sessions brought up the state of Alabama and the courts system as examples.

“Gov. Bentley is talking about cutting back in the next year,” he said. “I see where your court system is having to cut back as well.

“But there’s still going to be a state of Alabama, and there’s still going to be a court system, and those will keep going because your state requires the budget to be balanced. That doesn’t exist with us (at the federal level).”

Sessions spoke in Ashville Wednesday and was in Talladega Thursday to speak to a joint meeting of the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs.

“(St. Clair) has been a great county for us,” he said. “We have a lot of friends here, and we appreciate it.”

Contact Will Heath at wheath@thestclairtimes.com.

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