Skipping a markup of the Gang of Six proposal would be risky

Skipping a Budget Committee markup and moving the bipartisan Gang of Six's deficit-cutting proposal directly to the Senate floor would be a risky strategy, budget experts say.

Doing so would prevent liberal and conservative critics from getting a crack at the plan in committee, but could poison the well and eliminate the spirit of bipartisanship that is crucial if the bipartisan group is to release a plan with any hope of becoming law.


David Kendall of Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, said the notion of Democrats going around the Budget panel would raise a host of other questions as well – including how that squares with Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Biden hits one-year mark in dire straits 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act MORE’s (D-Nev.) vow to force a vote on the Ryan budget and the upcoming debate over the debt ceiling.

Congress has a little more than two months at most, according to Treasury Department estimates, to raise the debt ceiling, a vote many Republicans have vowed not to make unless it’s paired with significant deficit-reduction measures.

“I think it would be a rocky start for something that requires so much compromise from both sides,” said Kendall, who called the Gang of Six the best current effort to try to reach a bipartisan solution for budget deficits. “But no matter what, there are going to be senators who look for any excuse to oppose what they come up with.”

The possibility that Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) will bypass his committee was broached this week by Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Those predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold MORE (Ala.), the panel’s top Republican.

A spokesman for Conrad said he had heard nothing to suggest the chairman was considering the move, but that has not soothed Sessions’s nerves.

“The inescapable fact is this: There hasn’t been a mark-up in the Senate Budget Committee” said Stephen Miller, a spokesman for Sessions. “There hasn’t been an announcement scheduling a date for a mark-up. There hasn’t been a statement that there will be a mark-up in the future. And when the issue of whether there will ever be a mark-up is raised, no clear response is given.”

Conrad is a member of the bipartisan Gang of Six working to reach a long-term deal to reduce the deficit. If that group reaches a deal, he may use it as his budget resolution.

Conrad spokesman Stu Nagurka reiterated this week that Conrad wanted to give the Gang of Six, which is trying to build on recommendations from President Obama’s fiscal commission, time to come to craft a plan that could serve as the framework for a Senate budget plan.

Sessions’s worries came after the GOP members of Senate Budget wrote a letter to Conrad, calling for the chairman’s budget proposal to be placed on the Internet three days before its scheduled mark-up and to allow ample time for amendments. Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Alabama GOP gears up for fierce Senate primary clash Senate Republicans call on Biden to lift vaccine mandate for truckers crossing Canadian border MORE (R-Idaho), a member of both the Gang of Six and the Budget panel, was among the 11 Republicans who signed the letter. 

He and the other two Republicans in the Gang of Six – Sens. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissFormer Georgia Sen. Max Cleland dies at 79 Effective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Live coverage: Georgia Senate runoffs MORE of Georgia and Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnBiden and AOC's reckless spending plans are a threat to the planet NSF funding choice: Move forward or fall behind DHS establishes domestic terror unit within its intelligence office MORE of Oklahoma – either had no response to Sessions’s recent statements or did not respond to requests for comment.

Bringing a Gang of Six plan directly to the Senate floor would presumably mean that some of the Budget Committee’s more progressive (Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSunday shows - Russia standoff over Ukraine dominates Sanders says Biden can't count on him to support 'almost any' spending package compromise Sanders says Republicans are 'laughing all the way to Election Day' MORE of Vermont) and conservative members (Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania) would not have a crack at altering the proposal in a mark-up. 

Unlike many measures, a budget resolution does not need 60 votes to proceed once it hits the Senate floor, though it could still be amended.

There has also been some question of late over whether the House GOP’s 2012 budget, largely crafted by Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow Kevin McCarthy sold his soul to Donald Trump On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood Stopping the next insurrection MORE (R-Wis.), and Obama’s recent deficit-reduction speech have shunted the Gang of Six to the margins of the debate. 

Conrad said on "Fox News Sunday" that the group needed to release a plan soon to remain relevant in the deficit reduction discussion. 

"I hope that we are able to announce an agreement soon," he said. "If we don't, we're simply not going to be relevant because this debate marches on."

Still, analysts have also called the Gang of Six’s bipartisan composition one of its major strengths, so bypassing the Budget panel could be seen as a partisan ploy that undercuts that image.