A battle between two rival gangs in Washington has broken out -- a new fiscal commission to control the federal deficit is competing with a separate group of lawmakers.
It's not quite Bloods vs. Crips. Or even Jets vs. Sharks.
But the stakes are high: formulate a bipartisan plan to bring down the nation's soaring deficits ? and it must be a plan that can gain traction in Congress.
The newcomer in the fight is the "Gang of Seven" -- a group comprised of Vice President Biden and representatives from all four Congressional caucuses and conferences. On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner rounded out the group by appointing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to participate in the talks, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appointed his deputy, Sen. Jon Kyl. The new bipartisan, bicameral commission is the brainchild of President Obama.
The group -- Biden, Reps. Chris Van Hollen, James Clyburn, Cantor, Sens. Max Baucus and Daniel Inouye and Kyl -- will now undertake the same mission that the so-called Gang of Six in the Senate has been working on for months: trying to reach a deficit reduction deal that can gain traction on Capitol Hill from both parties in both chambers of Congress.
Gang of Six vs. Gang of Seven
The President's decision to form a new group has caused some unrest on Capitol Hill with lawmakers who felt the decision undermines the work of the Gang of Six. The president announced the new group in his fiscal policy speech last Wednesday, stating that he wanted the panel to start working on a legislative framework for comprehensive deficit reduction. The White House invited the House and Senate leadership to each appoint up to four members to the panel.
Initially, Boehner balked at the idea of another deficit commission.
"We've heard a pitch again yesterday about the need for another commission, even though the president utterly ignored the last one," Boehner, R-Ohio, said last Friday. "I don't think anybody around the table reacted very well to setting up a 16-member commission to have this conversation. And they seem to have taken that into account. I hope they take that off the table. It's time to get serious."
But after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced their representatives to the panel, the Republican leaders were essentially compelled to go along with the new commission or face being left out of the talks altogether.
Cantor said Tuesday that he was "skeptical that the Administration will take this effort seriously, especially after it all but ignored its previous debt commission and President Obama had to be dragged kicking and screaming to consider minimal spending cuts for the rest of this fiscal year."
"A serious effort to get our fiscal house in order is sorely needed, however, which is why I believe this commission should commence with a clearly defined target and purpose, under a time frame to produce that result -- so that it doesn't end up in the graveyard of previous commissions that failed to improve our nation's finances," said Cantor, a Virginia Republican.
The first meeting for the Gang of Seven is scheduled May 5 at Blair House.
Meanwhile the Gang of Six has been meeting for months now and is close to releasing its own plan.