Sen. Ben Nelson said Tuesday that he will not support tax increases in any budget proposal — a stance that could make Senate Democrats’ chances for reaching agreement on the issue even more difficult.
The Nebraska Democrat, who is up for re-election next year, told reporters, “I’m only focused on cuts, not on raising taxes. If we start getting our attention over to raising taxes, I can assure you that many of my colleagues are going to be less interested in cuts.”
Nelson’s position puts him in line with most Republicans who have said they will not entertain any tax hikes — including those on the rich or on corporations — as part of any budget deal. Republicans and Democrats have been attempting to negotiate a budget deal in order to assure passage of a controversial increase in the debt limit.
“We’ve got to do our cutting and my fear is if we start talking about raising taxes, you’ll lose track and get distracted away from cutting,” Nelson said. “We have to cut, cut, cut.”
Nelson’s comments came in response to a budget outline being crafted by Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). The yet-to-be-introduced proposal, which was the topic of Democrats’ caucus luncheon Tuesday, includes tax hikes on upper-income taxpayers, and that proposal has troubled some vulnerable incumbents who worry about being accused of raising taxes.
Still other Members maintain any proposal should include revenue hikes as well as spending reductions.
“Senator Conrad’s plan is very interesting to me because it includes all of the above,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), another moderate lawmaker.
Conrad, a member of the “gang of six,” is seeking to cut $4 trillion over 10 years. But key factions in the Democratic Caucus have yet to rally behind any singular plan, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid alluded to while speaking to reporters after Tuesday’s lunch.
“We have a number of moving targets, and [there’s] nothing wrong with that,” the Nevada Democrat said, referencing the gang of six, Conrad’s budget and a bipartisan working group being led by Vice President Joseph Biden.
“Every one of the people involved in those meetings say we’re making progress,” Reid said.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.