Warner calls for vote on Gang of Six plan

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) led members of the bipartisan Gang of Six group of senators Sunday in recommending their deficit-reduction plan as a “way out” of the deadlocked debt-ceiling negotiations.

Warner recommended a bipartisan push to vote on his group’s “relatively meager” deficit-reduction package, which drew broad bipartisan support upon its release July 18. “Let's have a vote on our plan,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

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“We're still the only bipartisan effort in this town,” Warner said of the Gang of Six, which recently reunited to release the plan. The group’s plan would slash defense spending and raise nearly $1 trillion in revenues by ending a variety of tax breaks, adding up to $9 trillion in savings over the next decade.

House Republican and Senate Democratic leaders have been working around the clock to negotiate a debt-ceiling deal both sides could agree to since House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called off talks with the White House on Friday.

“The Speaker made a good move, in my opinion,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said of Boehner’s move to walk away from the White House negotiations. “It’s time for the real leadership, in a bipartisan way, in the House and Senate, to get together and come up with some sort of proposal that can pass the House and the Senate and then go to the president and say, ‘Mr. President, this is it.’ ”

Boehner has said he would “prefer to have a bipartisan approach” to a deficit solution, but threatened on Sunday to move with Republican support alone if necessary.

Boehner’s office has indicated a two-step process is the only way to reach an agreement and raise the debt ceiling before the Aug. 2 deadline identified by the Treasury Department.

The idea of a short-term debt-ceiling raise has not been popular with leaders in either party, and the president is pushing to raise the debt limit at least past the 2012 elections.

White House Chief of Staff William Daley said Sunday that the president would veto a debt-ceiling plan if it did not extend into 2013.

“I agree with the president: We ought to move this out as far as we can,” Warner said. “We all don't want to see a repeat of this kind of political posturing back and forth.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” called the president’s stance a “ridiculous position, because that's what he's going to get presented with. That's the way through that's going to build the compromise.”

Coburn said he would be willing to vote for a compromise as long as it included a path to “significant changes to the real problem” including government spending and entitlement reform.

The idea of a deficit commission that would tackle entitlement and spending reforms was floated over the weekend as part of the second step of a process that would allow Congress to raise the debt ceiling while pushing off specific entitlement and tax code reforms until later.

Warner expressed skepticism that a new deficit commission could come up with a solution.

“Lord knows we’ve had plenty of commissions,” Warner said. “My fear is any new commission, they’ll try to wall off the kind of choices we’ve already made.”

The senators pushed their own plan as a deficit solution that could gather enough bipartisan support to push through the House and Senate and become a reality relatively quickly. “You gotta get something done,” Warner said.

The other members of the Gang of Six are Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

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