Rounds says he would have voted for fiscal cliff deal

U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds would have voted for the bill letting certain taxes rise that prevented part of the “fiscal cliff” from occurring, he said Wednesday.

Rounds, a former two-term governor of South Dakota who is running for Sen. Tim Johnson’s seat, said the bill approved at the last minute this week wasn’t perfect but was the best option remaining.

"They were backed into a corner of their own making. Because of that, this was probably the best thing for the country they could do for a short-term basis," Rounds said.

He praised the measure for what it did on taxes.

"I’m glad to see that most of those tax cuts have been extended on a permanent basis," Rounds said. "That’s going to help the economy long term."

The deal let the temporary payroll tax cut expire, and let income taxes rise on people earning more than $400,000 per year.

Instead of the tax deal, Rounds cast his focus forward, on the impending battle over spending.

The fiscal cliff deal approved this week contained no spending cuts. It delayed sequester cuts for a few months and included new stimulus spending requested by President Barack Obama.

But in February, the country is expected to run out of maneuver room to spend money under the debt limit. The federal government already passed the limit and is operating based on “extraordinary measures.”

Rounds said any bill involving the sequester and raising the debt limit needs to involve “reductions in expenditures on an ongoing basis.”

He highlighted entitlement programs, which occupy an enormous percentage of the federal budget, as an opportunity for savings.

"Part of it will be efficiencies in the Medicaid system itself," Rounds said. 

He said Congress should “take a long look at where the benefits begin and benefits end for entitlement programs.”

Rounds also deplored the process that led to Congress passing a bill to resolve part of the fiscal cliff at the last minute, and urged “quiet communication” between members of Congress.

"It appears there’s very little communication between the House and the Senate," Rounds said. "If there was… that would go a long ways toward streamlining the process. There will be areas on which the two parties will not agree… but they might be closer in some areas than they think."