Sidelined in part while the 12-member Supercommittee worked, in futility, these past months toward the goal of finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years, the Gang of Six is breathing new oxygen into the power of their bipartisan group of senators on Capitol Hill following the failure of the Supercommittee.
Last night the members of the so-called Gang of Six — 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 — held a private dinner meeting in Senator Durbin’s Capitol Hill office, Max Gleischman, spokesman to Durbin confirmed today. Senator Michael Bennet, D-CO., and Senator Mike Johanns, R-Neb., also joined.
The working dinner, which aides say happens with some regularity, carries new weight and importance following the failure of the Supercommittee.
Congress is suddenly faced with a mountain the Supercommittee could not climb, a way to find deficit cuts to make sure the sequester — the trigger-starting, devastating, automatic and across-the-board cuts to the federal budget — does not kick in.
Senate aides with knowledge of the dinner meeting say the group is continuing the work they started this past January, trying to turn the Bowles-Simpson plan into a bipartisan bill. Their goal remains the same, to reach at least $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.
But today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV., splashed cold water on the idea that the Gang might be on to something, calling the group’s ideas nothing more than “happy talk.”
“If someone has a proposal about reducing the deficit, the debt, here’s my suggestion: put it in bill form in writing. Not all these happy statements about what people think can be done. I am stunned by the Gang of Six that we hear so much about,” Reid said, adding that the three Republican members of the Gang of Six — Senators Crapo, Coburn and Chambliss — have all signed letters saying they will not raise any taxes. “Put it in bill form, and have it scored, bring it to me and I’ll take a look on it. But other than that, it’s just happy talk.”
Aides to members of the Gang of Six say that they are currently meeting and evaluating whether it’s feasible that they could get something in legislation form.
In July, during the height of the debt debate in Congress, before the conception of the Supercommittee, the Gang of Six’s debt proposal on Capitol Hill had some momentum on Capitol Hill.
The plan, with a goal of $3.7 trillion of deficit reduction over the next 10 years, called for a $500 billion down payment on cutting the deficit. There would be an increase in tax revenues by $1 trillion by closing a variety of special tax break and havens, which would amount to a net tax decrease of $1.5 trillion because the Alternative Minimum Tax would be repealed.
It is not clear if the Gang of Six would build off that proposal, which was supported by a large group of senators, in their new plan when and if one is written in legislative form.