October 21, 2014

Congressman Fortenberry not real optimistic we can avoid fiscal cliff (AUDIO)

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry has been back in Nebraska as the House left Washington for the Christmas break.

That is ending.

“Well, I just got my plane ticket to go back,” Fortenberry tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “The House is reconvening this weekend, on Sunday. I’ll be heading back soon.”

The House returns as the Senate attempts to find a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff. Fortenberry suggests the Senate could take up a couple of bills approved earlier by the House.

“We passed several bills that would avert this fiscal cliff, that would take care of the tax problem, take care of what’s called the sequestration, the heavy-handed spending cuts that substantially hit the military. We’ve done that with several pieces of legislation. They’re sitting in the Senate. You can act on them if you want,” Fortenberry says.

The House left Washington for the Christmas break after negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner broke down. At the time, it seemed very unlikely anything might happened to extend the Bush-era tax cuts or avoid the deep, automatic spending cuts that go into effect January 1st. Many economists warn the combination could well send the country over a fiscal cliff and back into recession.

Fortenberry would like to see Congress reach a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, rather than leaving the issue for the next Congress to address.

“On January First, everyone’s taxes, everyone who pays income tax, they’re scheduled to go up. And that is the real problem,” according to Fortenberry. “We could retroactively fix that in January and maybe that’s what we end up doing for a lot of people, but to me its poor governance, poor public policy and it leaves citizens very cynical toward the institution when you cannot get this done in a regular, organized process.”

Fortenberry isn’t sure deadline pressure will help.

“Hopefully, there is some breakthrough. I don’t want to give you too much reason for optimism, because the situation is really, really stuck and paralyzed at the moment.”

And Fortenberry says he’s not sure if the compromises being discussed will really solve the issue.

“The better approach to all of this in my view is a grand deal in which you are looking at substantial spending reductions, the right type of government reform and changes to the tax code that actually make it fairer. You provide reasonable revenues for reasonable services that are good for the economy,” Fortenberry says.

Fortenberry says the mounting federal debt demonstrates that the federal government is spending too much and that the tax code is broken.

Kevin Thomas, KLIN, contributed to this report.

AUDIO: Kevin Thomas interviews Congressman Jeff Fortenberry on Drive Time Lincoln. [10:30]