HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) has been in Washington for 17 years. He's now the ranking Republican on the budget committee, and he doesn't hesitate with his criticism on America's current spending path.
"We're on an unsustainable path," Sen. Sessions said. He was our guest April 25 on Leadership Perspectives, WHNT News 19's weekly in-depth interview segment.
Sen. Sessions said last year, interest on the debt was $230 billion. Ten years from today, estimates from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office show that number shooting up to $880 billion in interest a year -- a staggering figure.
"Adding $600 billion in an annual interest payment cannot be. We must not allow that to happen," Sen. Sessions said. "We've just gotta tighten our belts, do the right things, and we'll surprise ourselves with how much progress we can make, and the government's not gonna just sink into the ocean. We'll still be here."
Sessions said those cuts would have to be made across the board over the next 10 years in order to make the necessary changes.
When it comes to Marshall Space Flight Center, he said NASA's budget may be about the same next year as it is this year, but the process isn't finished yet.
"We need to keep the Space Launch System, which is a core of what Marshall does, on track -- but it's going to be a battle," Sen. Sessions said. "Fundamentally, if we get through this period where we're trying to readjust our spending and get this country on a sound path, if we can keep Marshall healthy, the Space Launch System, which is our future, on track, we'll have dodged a bullet and we'll have done something worthwhile."
What about Social Security?
"We've got to save Social Security. We've got to keep it out there," Sessions replied. "People have depended on it and they've paid into it all their working years, all their working lives."
The Senator was quick to point out all the money paid in to Social Security is not enough, though, because people are living longer -- thus, collecting on that money longer than expected and depleting the funds.
He said Social Security and other entitlement programs such as Medicare, food stamps and certain Pell grants are growing at a pace that's unsustainable -- making up nearly 60 percent of the budget.
"We need to make some adjustments now - smaller series of adjustments to put those programs on a sound basis, and everyone who's going home at night, working hard, can sleep well knowing that they're going to have these benefits in the future," said Sen. Sessions.
Congress is currently hammering it out on immigration reform, but there's no deal yet, Sessions said.
He is also focused on fair trade. Sessions said America buys plenty from other countries - but he wants to see the favor returned. He took this approach:
"Look partner, we're buying lots from you... you've got to buy more of our products," said Sen. Sessions. "We've got to fight for every single job in this country. I believe in trade, but we are at a point today -- we're becoming more competitive -- but we have to insist our trade partners open up to us, too."