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April 23, 2014

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Dean Heller takes hard line on debt ceiling, wants balanced budget amendment

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Dean Heller

President Barack Obama has given a deadline to lawmakers in advance of the ultimate default deadline on the debt — figure out what you can sell to your parties by this weekend, and let’s finish this.

It’s clear that everyone’s patience is wearing thin. Wall Street’s discomfort snapped into sharp focus when Moody’s credit rating service put the U.S. on the block for a downgrade Wednesday, and the S&P followed suit Thursday.

The negotiators, too, are fraying. The majority leaders of their respective houses, Harry Reid and Eric Cantor, spent more time Thursday trading personal barbs than policy solutions.

But convincing the wariest troops isn’t going to be easy.

Nevada’s Republican senator, Dean Heller, counts in that number. Since taking over John Ensign’s Senate seat, he’s had one of the most fiscally conservative voting records in the body, some would say, to a fault. Even before that, he didn’t shy away of voting against government budgets on principle, even where there was a bipartisan compromise on the table and the alternative was government shutdown.

Heller is well aware of the stakes, he says. But he is wary of agreeing to anything that doesn’t drill to what he considers the heart of the problem — a pattern of behavior that’s screaming for a long-term solution.

“I think they’re aggressively looking at $4 trillion, and that’s OK, because that’s a good short-term start,” Heller said. A reduction of $4 trillion is the largest-size plan on the table right now, and Republican House leaders have said it’s likely an impossible deal, because they, like Heller, don’t want to raise taxes, although some tax hikes are likely necessary, most economists agree, to achieve the sort of deficit reduction lawmakers have in mind without making draconian cuts to social spending.

“Even if we accept [the most aggressive] plan and come to a deal on that, by the end of this decade, we’ve still increased the debt by six trillion dollars,” Heller said.

A persistent problem with these potential debt deals is that when the Republican leaders demand to match raises to the debt ceiling with cuts, they’re not talking about the same stretches of time.

Even Cantor admitted Monday that it will be “a challenge” to convince his caucus to approve $4 trillion worth of wiggle room in the debt ceiling that buys the country another three or four years of borrowing authority, when it takes a decade for the parallel cuts to all take effect.

“We need to figure out how we’re going to do this long term,” he said.

For Heller, “long term” equates to a balanced budget amendment. Republicans in the Senate and House have been loudly stumping for a balanced budget amendment vote as part of the debt deal, even though they acknowledge it will do little to solve spending problems in the short term. Even the Paul Ryan budget outspent the confines of a balanced budget amendment.

“It took took us 50 years to get where we are today. We know we’re not going to fix it in five years, we’re not going to fix it in ten years,” Heller said. “But at some point, let’s get this balanced budget amendment out there so this cost curve will start decreasing at some point.”

The House has already scheduled a balanced budget amendment vote for next week. Reid does not seem to be in any hurry to do the same, though a group of Democratic senators have been working to write a “more modest” alternative amendment. Even if a balanced budget amendment passes Congress, it would take referendums in 38 states for it to become law, a pretty high bar to clear.

But at this point, some carrot of a political promise to tackle long-term debt (such as that amendment) may have to be traded to bring Republicans like Heller along to help raise the debt limit, if they can be brought along at all.

Members like Heller don’t like anything that bears the whiff of being a politically expedient deal, even one coming from the ranks of their own party.

Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered up a last-ditch proposal that would change the Republicans’ bottom-line equation.

In every other deal they’ve laid out, Republicans have insisted that a rise in the debt limit by matched by an equal package of cuts. In McConnell’s proposal, Republicans would demand only political immunity in exchange to allow the debt limit to be raised by putting that authority in Obama’s hands through a three-step process. The upshot would be Republicans would never have to take a vote to raise the limit, a message they could take to the campaign trail.

Democrats have partially embraced the idea, because they say even if it’s a play not to get Republicans’ hands dirty, it’s also an acknowledgement from a top Republican that the country should be raising the debt ceiling. Even House Speaker John Boehner has said he thinks the idea “might be worthy at some point” if negotiators can’t deal on other terms.

But Heller doesn’t want to be anywhere near that sort of compromise, even if showcasing a strong stance against a sub-optimal debt limit package is part of his 2012 strategy.

“It’s very unsettling for me to think that we’re going to put together a back-up plan that does nothing but raise the debt ceiling and doesn’t make any structural changes in the way we do business here,” Heller said.

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  1. Hey, Deano!!!

    You know what would be very unsettling to ME?
    If a CLOWN like YOU ever got ELECTED to the office to which you now reside by virtue of the CLOWN in the Governor's mansion!
    So, what say we ACT LIKE ADULTS HERE and make a COMPROMISE befitting the AMERICAN PEOPLE, and you can stand on your GLORIOUS PRINCIPLES at the APPROPRIATE TIME!?!?

    That a boy'o, Deano!
    I don't suppose you've seen much of a HOBO CLASS up there in the Senate, eh, Deano?

  2. Given that the largest causes for our deficits were caused by Bush era policies as convincingly shown here:
    http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=vie...
    Only the irrational follow Heller, who receives his economic knowledge from a cereal box top.

  3. Heller is a typical run-of-the-mill Republican Party shill who only follows party politics. If he is required to make a decision for Nevada constituents that relies mostly on common sense and doing what's right for us, he'll still not do it, religiously follow party politics on any and all decisions.

    He's more than an adequate replacement for the disgraced slime bucket Ensign (who I say still should be prosecuted..for something...anything...charge him with being feloniously stupid or something). And Heller thinks and votes EXACTLY like Ensign. The only thing that differentiates the two is he hasn't shtooped and boffed an aide's wife. Actually, I take that back, Heller is WORSE than Ensign. Because Heller believes southern Nevada should be turned into a nuclear waste toilet by putting the nation's nuclear residue 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

    Nevada deserves better than this constant line of useless brain dead Republicans who are so committed to making every soul on the planet believe that if you keep the Bush tax cuts in place, it will promote job growth. Don't matter if you call it voodoo economics, trickle down economics, supply side economics, or whatever else gobbledeegoog language you use, the means don't end up with the results that they contend are supposed to happen. It's like these brain dead politicians feel if they keep saying it constantly, repeatedly, LOUDLY and non-stop, then the result may possible happen. Just reveals total stupidity, you ask me.

    As far as I'm concerned, Heller is temporary.

    I'm voting him out as soon as I can.

    The Republican Party has simply blown it. Not one single voter, whether they are Republican, Democrat or Independent, can afford to take a chance with the mystical cure-all snake oil they try to sell all the time. We're not getting anything done here in Nevada with these idiots. We simply deserve better than having our politicians on the national stage for all the wrong reasons like scandals, incompetence, flat earth society beliefs and self-serving pure unadulterated selfish greed.

    We're in an economic downturn. It's already proven Republicans are doing everything they can to mire us even down further in it. We need to get rid of them. ALL of them. You vote more of them in, you deserve every single thing they do to you. They only serve themselves and their filthy rich masters who always have their mouths open for more and more corporate welfare. Their whole history shows they could care less about the middle class. And definitely not the poor. Wake up, Nevada. Get rid of these knuckleheads.

  4. You are selective in your memory of how it happened.

    Back when the Bush tax cuts were continued, President Obama had no choice. Due to the machinations of the entire Republican Party, those tax cuts would have discontinued to include the middle class and everyone else. Not the intended goal of ending the Bush tax cuts for the filthy rich. The Republicans blocked it from just effecting the filthy rich, holding the middle class hostage to get their way.

    There was no way President Obama would do that to the middle class, the people who are hurting the most during an economic downturn. Justifiably so.

    President Obama decided to let those tax cuts expire at the beginning of 2013, deciding it was the best thing for the American people to wait and then get what everyone really wants.

    And make no mistake. Those horrible Bush tax cuts will expire in 2013. And no. It's not a "tax increase." It's an adjustment for the filthy rich to pay the amount they have avoided paying for over ten years now.

    One of these days, we will get beyond those stupid time bombs the Bush/Cheney eight years of incompetence layered into law. Very hard to do, but it'll get done one way or the other.

    Another attempt at the revision of recent political history. Quit watching Fox News because the more you watch, the less you know.

  5. I am glad to see the back bone of deficit cutting at work.
    The blame game is fun but provides nothing.
    Obama has doubled the spending in his term, that has to stop.

  6. Sign the pledge Senator Heller, sign the pledge!!!

    Which one?

    The one where you pledge to specify, in detail, exactly what the financial consequences will be for the citizens, local and state governments of Nevada upon enactment of your proposals.

    Will your rancher friends go along with paying market rates for water, paying out of their own pockets for irrigation ditches, for tolls on miles and miles of good road leading to towns of 50 people, for the true cost of air service to Ely and Wendover, for the Extension Service office, for ag support,
    for paying their own way without Safe and Secure Schools and communities?

    Not likely!