Bipartisan support builds for Gang of Six $3.7 trillion deficit-reduction package

Bipartisan support builds for Gang of Six $3.7 trillion deficit-reduction package

President Obama joined Democratic and Republican senators Tuesday in offering support for a $3.7 trillion deficit-reduction plan announced that morning by the five remaining members of the Gang of Six.

Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnRepublicans in Congress shouldn't try to bring back earmarks Republicans should know reviving earmarks is a political nightmare Former GOP senator: Trump has a personality disorder MORE (R-Okla.), who had pulled out of the Gang of Six in May, also rejoined the group and praised the plan as something that could win the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.

“The plan has moved significantly, and it’s where we need to be — and it’s a start,” Coburn said. “This doesn’t solve our problems, but it creates the way forward where we can solve our problems.”

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Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D-Colo.), in saying he would support the Gang’s plan, added: “There’s a lot of support for turning the gang into a mob.

“Count me in,” he said. “I’ve long held this is what we need to do. The credit agencies are saying it’s not enough to take care of the debt limit. We have to take care of the long-term fiscal scenario.”

At the top of the White House press briefing, Obama described the plan as "good news," adding that it was "broadly consistent" with the approach he had endorsed for reducing the deficit. 

Another key endorsement came from Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWeek ahead: Lawmakers near deal on children's health funding Ryan suggests room for bipartisanship on ObamaCare Time to end fiscal year foolishness MORE (Tenn.), the third-ranking Republican in the Senate. 

"This is a serious, bipartisan proposal that will help stop Washington from spending money that we don't have, and I support it," Alexander said. 

Coburn said the plan would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next 10 years and increase tax revenues by $1 trillion by closing a variety of special tax breaks and havens.

He also noted, however, that the Congressional Budget Office would score the plan as a $1.5 trillion tax cut because it would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax. It would generate a significant amount of revenue out of tax reform and reduction of tax rates, which authors believe would spur economic growth.

Coburn said he expected a “significant portion of the Senate” to support the plan — “maybe 60 members.”


More from The Hill on the debt talks:

♦ Read the Gang of Six plan (PDF)
♦ Gang of Six plan punts on key details
BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism MORE-looks-to-plan-b" mce_href="http://thehill.com/homenews/house/172201-gop-touts-cut-cap-and-balance-as-boehner-looks-to-plan-b">♦ GOP touts ‘cut, cap and balance’, Boehner considers fallback
♦ Obama threatens to veto 'cut, cap and balance' bill


He endorsed the plan to colleagues during Tuesday’s meeting, according to a lawmaker who attended.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said the plan, negotiated by the remaining members of the Gang of Six — Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoTrump calls for looser rules for bank loans in Dodd-Frank overhaul Week ahead: Lawmakers eye another short-term spending bill Overnight Finance: Trump promises farmers 'better deal' on NAFTA | Clock ticks to shutdown deadline | Dems worry Trump pressuring IRS on withholdings | SEC halts trading in digital currency firm MORE (R-Idaho), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ Ex-Sheriff David Clarke: Trump only one who 'cares about black American citizens' DHS chief takes heat over Trump furor MORE (D-Ill.), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLobbying World Former GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party MORE (R-Ga.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Dem lawmaker wants briefing on major chip vulnerabilities Week ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content MORE (D-Va.) — could win a majority of votes in the Senate.

“Likely 60 [votes],” she said. “The House should like this plan because it has spending cuts, and I believe it will spur the economy.”

Hutchison said she would vote for it, and urged House Republicans to back it as well.

“I think that they have produced something that has mechanisms that are concrete, and that’s what I think the House is looking for, and [so are we],” she said.

Warner also touted the Gang’s proposal.

“The Gang of Six-plus is back,” he said after the meeting.

Conrad said the Gang has given their colleagues 24 hours to say whether they are on board, and that signs are encouraging because Republicans and Democrats in the room stood up to support the framework. 

“Obviously a group of six can’t pass anything around here — we need to get to 60,” Conrad said.

He added that he does not know if the framework could be used to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis, but that such an idea could be a “possibility” if enough senators signed on. 

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House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism MORE (R-Ohio) has not yet been briefed on the Gang’s plan.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFlake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race Overnight Tech: Regulators to look at trading in bitcoin futures | Computer chip flaws present new security problem | Zuckerberg vows to improve Facebook in 2018 MORE (R-Ohio) said he has met with the Gang a total of six times. He added that the framework “could be helpful” in the debt-ceiling fight, but said the White House and the House have to be brought in on it next.

"That is the challenge," he said.

According to an executive summary, the Gang of Six plan would stabilize the debt by 2014 and reduce publicly held debt to 70 percent of gross domestic product by 2021.

It would involve two separate bills — one implementing $500 billion in immediate deficit cuts and another implementing larger reforms. Conrad said he has held off marking up a budget in committee to use the normal budget process to move the Gang of Six plan.

On entitlements, the plan would fully pay for the Medicare “doc fix” over 10 years, allowing doctors to avoid a drastic cut in Medicare payments under the law, which is regularly avoided but never paid for.

The plan also contains strong enforcement procedures. One of these would require a 67-vote supermajority in the Senate to circumvent spending caps.

Conrad said Coburn was enticed to rejoin the group because the Gang had agreed to add $116 billion in heathcare-entitlement savings to the framework. He said the way the extra reductions are achieved is up to Senate committees, but the framework specifies that if target savings are not achieved, 10 senators can propose a way to do so on the Senate floor and have the plan receive expedited treatment.

Conrad said 74 percent of the plan’s deficit-reduction goal would come from spending cuts and 26 percent from higher revenues, adding that the framework addresses Social Security but does not use savings for deficit reduction.

More than 50 senators, including an even mix of Democrats and Republicans, attended a briefing by the architects of the plan.

Sen. Mike JohannsMichael (Mike) Owen JohannsFarmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World To buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington MORE (R-Neb.), who co-authored a letter in March urging Obama to support a comprehensive deficit-reduction package that received 64 signatures, said the remaining members of the Gang of Six have produced a politically viable plan.

“This is a very thoughtful, serious plan,” Johanns said. “I have now seen the presentation half a dozen times, and each time I have seen it I have become more and more convinced that this is the vehicle that gives us the best opportunity to deal with a whole range of issues. I’m excited about the possibilities here.”

Republican Sens. Alexander, Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteLessons from Alabama: GOP, throw out the old playbook The Hill's 12:30 Report Explaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid MORE (N.H.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoTrump’s infrastructure plan may slip to next month Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism Trump's infrastructure team to huddle with senators MORE (Wyo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Senate Intel chairman: No need for committee to interview Bannon McConnell: Russia probe must stay bipartisan to be credible MORE (N.C.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate campaign fundraising reports roll in Congress should take the lead on reworking a successful Iran deal North Korea tensions ease ahead of Winter Olympics MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Hoyer suggests Dems won't support spending bill without DACA fix MORE (Texas), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziGOP is addressing tax cuts and a pension bill that could help coal miners Overnight Finance: Congress sends Trump funding bill to avert shutdown | WH sees 'tentative' deal on defense spending | GOP discovers corporate tax snag | Consumer bureau fight heats up | Apple could see B windfall from tax bill Overnight Finance: Congress sends Trump bill to avert shutdown | GOP discovers corporate tax snag | CFPB leadership battle rages MORE (Wyo.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSessions torched by lawmakers for marijuana move Calif. Republican attacks Sessions over marijuana policy Trump's executive order on minerals will boost national defense MORE (Alaska), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsGOP senators eager for Romney to join them Canada tamps down worries about US NAFTA withdrawal Canada worried Trump will withdraw from NAFTA: report MORE (Kan.) and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneWeek ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content Overnight Tech: GOP senator presses Apple over phone slowdowns | YouTube cancels projects with Logan Paul after suicide video | CEOs push for DACA fix | Bill would punish credit agencies for breaches GOP senator presses Apple on phone slowdowns MORE (S.D.) also attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Democratic Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDurbin: Senators to release immigration bill Wednesday Trump's 's---hole' controversy shows no sign of easing Dem senator: 'No question' Trump's 's---hole countries' comment is racist MORE (Colo.), who led the March letter-writing effort with Johanns, said the Gang’s proposal received a warm reception from Republicans and Democrats in Tuesday’s meeting.

“We need to make sure that the capital markets are reassured the paper they own is worth what they paid for it,” he said. “No one is going to agree with every single thing in this plan. There is no plan that everybody is going to agree with in its entirety, but this plan meets those broad tests.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he and many of his colleagues would support the framework because they believe Congress needs to take significant steps to reduce the deficit. He also said many see a contingency plan under negotiation by Senate leaders as insufficient.

The fallback plan being discussed by Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems search for winning playbook Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response The Memo: Immigration battle tests activists’ muscle MORE (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Overnight Finance: Lawmakers see shutdown odds rising | Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans | Consumer bureau moves to revise payday lending rule | Trump warns China on trade deficit MORE (R-Ky.) would include $1.5 trillion in spending cuts and set up a special committee that would put together a larger deficit-reduction package that would come straight to the Senate floor. But some lawmakers see such a committee as a waste of time that would merely replicate the work already done by the president’s fiscal commission and the Gang of Six.

“I think what happened this morning is that the Gang of Six began to turn into a bipartisan majority of senators who want to solve a national problem rather than play partisan politics,” Lieberman said. “I am ready to sign up. ... I appeal to people, don’t start to pick away at this.

“I was actually worried they had taken so long to come together as a Gang of Six that their moment had passed, but I think this really is the moment because everybody sees the process drifting toward a kick-the-can-down-the-road response, which is embarrassing.”

Sen. John KerryJohn Forbes KerryFeehery: Oprah Dem presidential bid unlikely Dem hopefuls flock to Iowa Change in Iran will only come from its people — not the United States MORE (D-Mass.) said the framework could be part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling, because it is a balanced approach.

He called the percentage of deficit reduction achieved through higher tax revenues “small” and questioned whether the plan does enough to stimulate growth, but acknowledged that every senator would probably want to tweak the framework.

—This story was posted at 10:38 a.m. and last updated at 2:05 p.m.