The Gang of Six Is Back, Presents Bipartisan Deficit-Reduction Plan

Jul 19, 2011 1:46pm

ap gang six nt 110719 wb The Gang of Six Is Back, Presents Bipartisan Deficit Reduction Plan

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller (@sunlenmiller) reports:

The gang is officially back.

The recently rekindled Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of senators that has been meeting since the start of the year in an effort to hatch a deficit-reduction deal, this morning presented their $3.7 trillion deficit-reduction plan to their colleagues.

The presentation was significant for its attendance alone: 50 senators — both Republican and Democrats attended and were briefed by six senators — Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mike Crapo of Idaho, and Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois, North Dakota’s Kent Conrad and Virginia’s Mark Warner.

The meeting was also significant in its response: Senators from both parties came out of the meeting abnormally encouraged.

“We went from a Gang of Six to a Mob of 50,” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.,  said, leaving the meeting. “Great promise.”

“The gang of six plus is back,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., exclaimed as he left the meeting.

At the White House, President Obama called the reemergence of the “gang” “good news.

“I think it is a very significant step,” Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room. “The framework they put forward is broadly consistent with what we’ve been working on at the White House.”

Read more about President Obama’s reaction.

Republicans in the Senate were supportive, too.

“In the next 24 hours, you are going to see a significant portion of the Senate come behind this, bipartisan,” Coburn said.  “I think 60 people will support this.”

“I’m encouraged,” Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., said. “I think it has a lot of possibilities. I think it can get a lot of support.”

And the Senate’s No. 3 Republican, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, has also signed on to the group’s plan.

“This is a serious, bipartisan proposal that will help stop Washington from spending money we don’t have, and I support it,” Alexander said in a statement.

The plan is what Warner described as “big, bipartisan and balanced,” with the goal of $3.7 trillion of reduction in the next 10 years.

The proposal calls for what the senators call a $500 billion down payment on cutting the deficit and moves toward the $3.7 trillion goal. There would be an increase in tax revenues by $1 trillion by closing a variety of special tax breaks and havens, which would amount to a net tax decrease of $1.5 trillion because the Alternative Minimum Tax would be repealed.

Seventy-four percent of the deficit reduction would come from spending cuts and 26 percent would come from higher revenues.  There would be cuts to Medicare and outlines a congressional committees to overhaul Social Security.

The big question is whether the plan will be considered in conjunction with the debt ceiling plan. Senators said that was not their original goal but there was a renewal of support for this plan to influence the White House negotiations with congressional leadership.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., leaving  the meeting today, said that elements of the plan will be in the debt ceiling deal but it will not be the plan.

 The Gang will give senators 24 hours to review the plan and get back to them whether they support it or not.  They will then figure out the way forward for this plan.

“We told our colleagues this morning that we want to hear from them in the next 24 hours,” Conrad said. “Are they with us or not?”

In May, Coburn dropped out of the Gang of Six – in what aides described then as a “break from the talks” — noting that the group had not been able to bridge gaps that existed between them then, mainly on entitlements.

After flirting with rejoining the group formally last week, Coburn today exclaimed, “it’s back” in reference to the Gang of Six.

Conrad said that changes to entitlements — adding $116 billion in health care savings in 10 years — is what lured him back to the negotiating table.

The Gang of Six will meet at 2:45 p.m. today, after the weekly policy luncheons, where this plan will no doubt be one of the topics of discussions.

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