We can no longer use the excuse of an upcoming election to kick the can down the road on the immediate economic and fiscal challenges facing the country. President Barack Obama and the outgoing Congress must work immediately — this year — to prevent the fiscal cliff and lay the groundwork for a Big Deal to restore our nation’s long-term fiscal balance and boost American energy production.
The closer we get to the end of the year with no deal, the more uncertainty we will see on the part of job creators and consumers. The potential for upheaval in the stock and financial markets will grow. And if Congress fails to act, our fragile recovery will be derailed and America could cede its mantle as the world’s largest and most dynamic economy.
The stakes could not be higher or the need for action more urgent.
A lame-duck session of Congress convenes this week with a total of 16 legislative working days for the remainder of the year. Lawmakers must act to prevent the nation from going off the fiscal cliff on Jan. 1, when the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and other important tax provisions expire and $1.2 trillion in indiscriminate spending cuts take effect. Congress must extend the tax provisions and identify reasonable spending cuts that will not adversely impact national defense or cost jobs. Otherwise, the economy will dip back into recession, and unemployment will spike to 9 percent.
Then, the really hard work begins. Lawmakers and the administration must strive for an agreement on a framework for a Big Deal that reforms the tax code, tackles deficit spending, restructures entitlements and embraces revenue-raising opportunities, such as increased domestic energy development.
When Congress closed up shop before the election, lawmakers also left dangling a host of important measures that could help boost our recovery. During the lame duck, they must work to bring some of them over the finish line, including passage of Russia PNTR, approval of the Law of the Sea Treaty, regulatory reform, cybersecurity legislation and a high-skilled immigration bill.
Political gridlock is a luxury this nation can no longer afford. We face tremendous challenges. The longer we delay, the more painful the solutions will be.
The business community stands ready to work with the president and Congress to bolster economic growth, create jobs and achieve a Big Deal to restore our nation’s fiscal balance. It’s time to get down to business.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.