Sen. Ben Nelson asserts the inability of Congress and the White House to agree to a deal to avoid steep tax hikes and deep budget cuts at the beginning of next year is the culmination of everything the 112th Congress has left undone the past two years.
Nelson agrees with the dire predictions for the economy if Congress fails to head off the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and stop drastic budget cuts to both defense and domestic programs. Some economists have projected that if Congress doesn’t act, the economy will fall off a “fiscal cliff”.
Nelson says Congress needs to act in the lame-duck session.
“Unplanned and mindless across-the-board cuts to the military is the wrong direction to go,” Nelson tells reporters on a conference call. “What I worry about most, though, is getting a serious pathway to deficit reduction. With that we are going to get certainty and with that we get job creation.”
Nelson fears that the talks have bogged down over disagreements on specifics while negotiators have lost focus on addressing the federal government’s growing debt.
Nelson, a Democrat, says Congress needs to take its job seriously.
“If you go off the cliff, that’s not a plan. That’s a disaster,” Nelson says. “What we need is a plan and the lack of a plan is the disaster that you have going over the cliff.”
President Obama, a Democrat, has proposed allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to be extended for everyone making under $250,000 a year. Republican leaders in the House object to raising any taxes and have countered with a proposal to cut spending and reform the federal tax code to increase revenue. The president has rejected the counter offer.
Nelson says the stand-off could trigger real economic consequences.
“It’s real folks. This is real,” Nelson warns. “I know it’s common for the last decade to talk about Congress in disparaging ways; not getting this done and then miraculously it all happens. There’s no Caped Crusader appearing on the scene any time soon as far as I know.”
Nelson says Congress should address the problem now and not push it off to the new Congress which convenes next month.
AUDIO: Sen. Nelson discusses his fears about the “fiscal cliff”. [5 min.]