Neither of Nebraska’s United States Senators is optimistic about what Congress might accomplish when it returns after the August recess.
In fact, both are pessimistic about the outlook for anything getting done in Washington prior to the November elections.
Sen. Mike Johanns says Congress is in the tight grip of politics. Johanns, a Republican, places the blame on Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate leader.
“Sen. Reid has made it pretty clear he just doesn’t want to deal with any issues,” Johanns tells Nebraska Radio Network prior to the 2012 Legislative Summit held at the Strategic Air and Space Museum. “He’s protective of the president. He’s protective of his majority.”
Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat, agrees politics controls Washington at present, but is more general in his assessment of the politics, blaming both Republicans and Democrats of engaging in gridlock at the detriment of productivity.
“There is no effort in Washington to work for the common good today, because of partisanship, special interest groups, Super PACs and no attention to what’s best for the people of this country,” Nelson tells Nebraska Radio Network prior to the summit.
Both Nelson and Johanns say the top priority of Congress needs to be extending the Bush-era tax cuts and heading off the automatic budget cuts set to kick in…both at the beginning of the new year. Some analysts have described the combination as a “fiscal cliff” that will have severe detrimental effects on a fragile economy.
Johanns says whether the Senate moves any legislation prior to November is up to Sen. Reid.
“Here’s my prediction: I think he’ll come back, he’ll put a bill on the floor, a bill he knows will fail. He’ll fill the amendment-tree so no one can offer amendments. He’ll sit on the bill for about a week or two weeks, three weeks, he’ll recess the Senate and all of this will be left until mid-November,” Johanns says.
President Obama has offered to extend the Bush-era tax cuts to those making under $250,000 a year. Republicans have resisted the offer, insisting that all the tax cuts need to be extended to ensure the economic recovery continues.
Nelson says the attitude in Congress needs to change before it can be expected to get any real work done. Nelson says the members of Congress know what to do.
“To stop the deadlock and the gridlock and the partisan bickering back and forth and look for solutions,” Nelson says. “The word ‘bipartisan’ is over-used. We need to do things in a non-partisan way. There are just too many things that need to get accomplished.”
The entire Nebraska delegation has spoken at the 2012 Legislative Summit, hosted by the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and the Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
AUDIO: Sen. Johanns on Congress [1 min.]
AUDIO: Sen. Nelson on Congress [1 min.]