WASHINGTON D.C. - U.S. Rep. Tim Walz was cautiously optimistic Saturday that a temporary solution will be found in time to prevent the combination of "fiscal cliff" tax hikes and impacts before the Monday night deadline. However, he said he doubted the hoped-for long-term bills would materialize before next year.
Walz himself will be back in Washington D.C. today with fellow Democrats for briefing on the situation. He said his understanding is the U.S. House of Representatives Rules Committee is meeting to work on a broad framework to be prepared for any "fiscal cliff" to come from the U.S. Senate. However, he said he is growing concerned the limited amount of time left to go through the mechanics of passing a law.
"This is a totally preventable deadline. The public deserves better," said Walz. "Sequestration is simply an extremely lazy way to go about it."
The biggest hurdle facing any "fiscal cliff" deal is ranging together enough votes from the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, particularly after the failure of Republican House Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" proposal.
Walz said his primary efforts on this front have been working with many like-minded Democrats to loudly and publicly express their willingness to take painful spending cuts in exchange for making it easier for Republicans to compromise on tax-rate increases. Most notably, Walz said he was fully willing to let the proposed tax increases for those earning more than $250,000 a year rise to those earning more than $400,000 per year. He said he thought the $250,000 per year threshold was fair, but he would consider a deal to prevent middle-class tax increase more important.
"If Speaker Boehner needs me to compromising on my vote, I'm willing. I want see if Speaker be successful, if it's for the American public," said Walz.
From the other end of the spectrum, there is the risk of some Democrat lawmakers voting against any measure if it contains significant cuts to entitlement programs. This factor becomes increasingly important with the Republican side facing an increasingly thinner number of votes it can muster with many freshman Republicans taking a hardline on taxes. Fellow Minnesota legislator Rep. Keith Ellison, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, pressed hard last Tuesday following the failure of the "Plan B" proposals by vowing to not vote for any cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Walz said he understands why Ellison holds his position and said he expects there to be several Democrats unwilling to cast a supportive ballot in any potential vote. However, Walz said he is confident there are far more than enough Democrat votes to hold up their portion needed for a deal.
Walz did mention some areas he is unwilling to make compromises on. Most notably, he said he would fight heavily against $15 billion in proposed cuts to the military's health care plan Tricare.
The U.S. Congress has until the end of the year Monday night to pass legislations to prevent tax increases resulting from the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and severe automatic spending cuts across the board.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.