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Bill Nelson's gotta debt plan

Sen. Bill Nelson issued an 11th hour debt plan this evening -- interesting time considering this story and the fact that his office hadn't mentioned any of this to us despite ongoing talks. Here's the press statement

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson tonight joined a handful of other senators in trying to advance a new plan to resolve the nation’s debt stalemate, unveiling some of its details in a Senate floor speech.

There would be an immediate cut of more than $2 trillion in spending to lift the debt ceiling.  Then within six months an independent committee would recommend another $2 trillion, or a total of $4 trillion, in specific long-term spending cuts.  If Congress cannot agree on the cuts with a straight up or down vote, then the President would have the option of again raising the debt ceiling until sometime in 2013. 

The latter part of the idea stems from a plan put forth by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that also gives Congress the right to disapprove the President’s decision.  The new idea also combines the main provisions of two other different plans on the table with McConnell’s, one from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and one from Speaker of the House John Boehner.

 “I’m just a little country boy, but it seems to me that sometimes we get so wrapped up in all the intricate details that the obvious solution is just right there under our nose staring us in the face,” Nelson said of the idea in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday night.

 The Florida Democrat and member of the Senate Budget Committee pitched the idea to a number of other senators Thursday morning, including his Republican counterpart from Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio.

 The plan, Nelson said, gives everybody something: spending cuts, revisiting the debt ceiling in a few months, but giving the President the power to lift it if the two political parties can’t agree on cuts.

Nelson said that in combining the best of the three existing but divergent plans already on the table “we have the solution right underneath our noses. … And it seems to me like the obvious solution, since we are now at the eleventh hour and getting close to the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour.”

Following is a summary of Nelson’s plan, and a transcript of his floor speech:


Debt Ceiling Compromise

·        6-month extension of the debt ceiling

·        Immediate $2.2 trillion in 10-year deficit reduction solely from spending cuts (discretionary spending caps, overseas contingency operations, mandatory savings)

·        Joint Congressional Committee on Deficit Reduction directed to produce recommendations in six months for an additional $2 trillion in deficit reduction

o   Everything on the table

o   Fast-track Congressional consideration (up or down vote, no amendments) for Joint Committee recommendations

·        Authorization for President to increase debt ceiling in six months through December 31, 2012, subject to disapproval vote by Congress

o   Disapproval resolution could be vetoed, Congress could vote to override the veto

{ Not an official transcript of the senate proceedings.}

Mr. Nelson:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Mr. President, we are here awaiting the action of the House of Representatives. We don't know whether the House is going to pass the John Boehner proposal.  But regardless of what they do, we have the solution right underneath our noses.


There have been discussions today.  I've had a number of discussions with our colleagues.  I've had a discussion first this morning with my colleague from Florida and have had discussions with others.  And it seems like to me that the obvious solution, since we are now at the 11th hour and getting close to the 59th minute of the 11th hour, is that you take elements of both the Reid proposal, the McConnell proposal and the Boehner proposal. 


And so I would suggest that our leadership consider, regardless of what happens in the House, because the Senate's going to have to act on something to get 60 votes to meet the filibuster threshold here in this chamber and then send a package back to the house.  And I would suggest that it be this -- that we take the Reid proposal of the larger amount of spending cuts.  Senator Reid at first said that's $2.7 trillion.  Maybe it's been by CBO marked down at about $2.2 trillion.  But that whatever that larger amount, clearly larger than the Boehner proposal, even though some would argue that it's the Iraq and Afghanistan war wind down savings that you would get, but whatever it is, it is larger than the House proposal and use that as the first cut by lifting the debt ceiling.  But there would be a sequence of events that would happen after that to avoid what the Senate Democrats do not want, that the markets and the rating agencies cause the debt instruments, the U.S. Treasury bills, to be downgraded.   There needs to be certainty for those rating agencies for the United States government debt.  And it could be achieved this way. That you have a BRAC-like committee, that would be composed equally of Republicans and Democrats that would come up with a package that would then come back to each house, no amendments, up-or-down vote.  But that the fail-safe backup in case that that committee were not able to come to agreement, or in the event that it came back to both houses and one of the houses did not pass it, that you would then have the McConnell proposal which is that the President would request the increase of the debt and there would be this procedure that Senator McConnell had laid out that there would be a resolution of disapproval if there were such a disapproval, then the President, of course, could veto it.  And in order for the President's veto to be overridden, there would have to be a two-thirds vote and there would not be a two-thirds vote and, therefore, there is the assurance that you would have the raising of the debt ceiling to get us through this next year and a half. 


It seems that it's right under our nose.  And if the parties will just realize that now is the time that we have to act and we have to find the workable solution that we can get the votes. Now, if we can get, with that kind of proposal, 60 votes here in the Senate, then it goes down to the House.  Whether they've passed the Boehner proposal or not, at the 11th hour and the 59th minute, recognizing what's at stake for the country, then the House of Representatives is going to do the right thing and they're going to pass it.


Mr. President, I'm just a little country boy, but it seems to me that sometimes we get so wrapped up in the all the intricate details that the obvious solution is just right there under our nose staring us in the face.  And I would respectfully request that the Senate consider this.


Mr. President, I yield the floor and I would suggest the absence of a quorum.