Impatient with supercommittee, lawmakers mull Plan B to cut deficit

Democratic and Republican members of the Senate’s Gang of Six say they could put together a large deficit-reduction package quickly if the supercommittee misses its Nov. 23 deadline.

Even if the supercommittee reaches its mandate to find at least $1.2 trillion in savings, lawmakers say more needs to be done.

Gang of Six members say they have almost completed drafting legislation that would implement the deal the group reached this summer. They say they are holding back for now to avoid treading on toes.

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“The Gang of Six has a deal, and it’s a deal that is of sufficient clarity and detail that it can be put into legislative language,” said Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoRepublican lobbying firms riding high despite uncertainty of 2020 race Lobbying World Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices MORE (R-Idaho), a member of the group. “I would say we’re close enough that I think in short order, I don’t know whether that would be a couple days or couple of weeks, it could actually [be] put in fine-tuned language.”

Crapo said he would vote for it on the Senate floor.

Rank-and-file lawmakers have grown frustrated with the supercommittee and say they should take matters into their own hands if the panel doesn’t have a breakthrough.

“Why couldn’t we just take what the Gang of Six did?” said Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic MORE (R-Alaska). “Pieces of it have been put into language. So that may be Plan B.

“We’re running out of daylight,” she added.

Murkowski joined 19 Senate colleagues, including five members of the Gang of Six, at a news conference Wednesday morning to urge the supercommittee to “go big.” A group of Republican and Democratic House lawmakers joined the event.

They want the supercommittee to produce an agreement that would shave at least $3 trillion from the federal deficit. Budget experts estimate it would take a package of $3 trillion to $4 trillion to put the ratio of debt to GDP at a manageable level.

Sen. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissThe Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post Republicans say Democrats holding up disaster relief as 'Sandy payback' MORE (R-Ga.), another member of the Gang of Six, said the bill “could be ready in short order,” though he said no action would be taken until after the supercommittee’s Nov. 23 deadline.

A bipartisan group of senators, including Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Michael BennetMichael Farrand Bennet Biden proposes 0B housing plan Nevada caucuses open with a few hiccups Overnight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan MORE (D-Colo.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderLawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response Bill Barr is trying his best to be Trump's Roy Cohn The Trump administration's harmful and immoral attack on children MORE (R-Tenn.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders takes incoming during intense SC debate Republicans root for Sanders nomination in battle for House Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills MORE (D-W.Va.), praised the deal reached by the Gang of Six in July. Their support could give the Gang of Six’s bill political momentum if the supercommittee deadlocks.

“We have a bill,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a member of the Gang of Six, told The Hill on Tuesday.

Conrad said the legislation would raise about $1.2 trillion in new tax revenue, depending on the baseline used as a measure. He said the ratio of spending cuts to tax increases would be more than 2 to 1.

Conrad said the legislation would have to be revised to account for spending cuts included in the Budget Control Act, which Congress passed in August to raise the debt ceiling.

Sen. Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump Poll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy MORE (D-Colo.) told The Hill in July he would support the Gang of Six proposal.

“Count me in,” Udall 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.”

Some lawmakers, however, have dismissed the Gang of Six’s plan as overhyped.

“The authors of the summary claim that their approach would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion. But my staff on the Budget Committee can only find $1.2 trillion in reduced spending, along with a tax increase of $1 trillion,” Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDo people think ill of Jeff Sessions merely based on the sound of his voice? Appeals court rules Trump administration can withhold grants from 'sanctuary cities' GOP casts Sanders as 2020 boogeyman MORE (Ala.), the senior Republican on the Budget Committee, said in July. “Where does the other $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction come from?”

A GOP aide said lawmakers rushed to praise the proposal before learning its details.

“The last time the Gang of Six came forward with a well-meaning proposal, people were very enthusiastic until they saw the details, and it didn’t come close to living up to its billing,” said the aide.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's Campaign Report: Gloves off in South Carolina Democratic insiders stay on the sidelines in 2020 race Harry Reid calls for end to all caucuses MORE (D-Nev.) in July declined to endorse the framework but said he was open to including elements of it in legislation to raise the national debt limit.

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The plan unveiled in July called for a $500 billion down payment toward deficit reduction and a second measure to save an additional $3.2 trillion in savings. The second round of savings was left to the discretion of the committees of jurisdiction, which would receive savings targets.

It would seek to hold the growth of spending on healthcare entitlement programs to GDP plus 1 percent per beneficiary. Again, the committees of jurisdiction would be tasked with working out the details.

Members of the Gang of Six also agreed to a provision that would delay the enactment of the plan pending Social Security reform. 

That reform must ensure 75 years of solvency for Social Security and would be determined by the committees of jurisdiction.

An aide to another member of the Gang of Six said Tuesday that the legislative draft needs revision.

“In August, we had drafted texts for the things they agreed on,” the aide said. “It wasn’t a full package. That was circulated among staff. No members signed off on it.”

Erik Wasson contributed to this report.