August 21, 2014

Sen. Nelson hopeful, not optimistic “fiscal cliff” talks will bear fruit (AUDIO)

Sen. Ben Nelson says he’s hopeful, but won’t say he’s optimistic that a solution can be found to the so-called “fiscal cliff”.

Nelson says President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner continue to discuss resolving the “fiscal cliff,” but haven’t come to any agreement as the deadline fast approaches.

A wide range of tax cuts enacted during the presidency of George W. Bush will expire at the end of the year, unless Congress acts. In addition, deep cuts to the federal budget will take place automatically at the beginning of the New Year. Some economists predict that if Congress fails to act and tax rates rise as federal spending declines, the economy will be driven over a fiscal cliff and back into recession.

Nelson says the deadline seemed like a good idea when imposed a year-and-a-half ago.

“Time is sometimes an ally when you have a deadline to make people come together and they have to come together. In this case, I think time is an enemy, because of the complexity that would be required to have a deal that would attract 60 votes,” Nelson tells Nebraska Radio Network.

The 60-vote mark is important. Under current Senate rules, it takes 60 votes to end any filibuster and move legislation.

Nelson says that even if negotiations between the President and the House Speaker prove successful, there is no assurance the Speaker can sell it to the Tea Party faction of the House Republican Caucus.

“I don’t like to just constantly nag about the Tea Party, but as long as they are driving policy and pushing us to go over the cliff by not recognizing that Washington is a city that exists and this country exists because of compromise,” Nelson say. “And when things are so equally divided and it’s impossible to come together, then you go over a cliff.”

Nelson claims Congress actually went over the “fiscal cliff” a year-and-a-half ago. He says Congress set up the fiscal cliff scenario when the debt reduction committee failed to reach agreement. That failure set in motion the deep, automatic budget cuts slated to take effect December 31st as an incentive for Congress to act. It doesn’t seem to be working as planned.

“That’s why I voted against that silly idea, that Budget Control Act; putting it off into the future, kicking the can down the road,” Nelson states. “I know people are probably tired of hearing the expression ‘kick the can down the road,’ but I don’t know what other way to explain it than that’s what’s it’s been. And the problem with kicking the can down the road is that eventually you catch up with the can.”

More than anything, Congress needs to restore certainty to the country’s fiscal affairs, according to Nelson.

“Businesses are holding on the sidelines, because they don’t have certainty,” according to Nelson. “They get certainty; they can live even with bad information, bad news if it’s certain. They can adjust to it. You can’t adjust to uncertainty.”

Nelson says an agreement on the so-called fiscal cliff would be a step in the right direction toward restoring certainty.

AUDIO: Brent Martin interviews Sen. Ben Nelson about “fiscal cliff” negotiations. [8 min.]