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 CoburnTom Coburn's annual gift to taxpayers Joe Biden still doesn't have a campaign theme The Hill's 12:30 Report: Drug companies inch closer to COVID-19 vaccine 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 UdallThe 10 Senate seats most likely to flip Democratic presidential race comes into sharp focus Democrats will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump 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 AlexanderSenate GOP chairman criticizes Trump withdrawal from WHO Trump: US 'terminating' relationship with WHO Soured on Fox, Trump may be seeking new propaganda outlet 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 BoehnerBottom line Pelosi, Trump slide further into the muck The partisan divide on crisis aid 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 CrapoOn The Money: US tops 100,000 coronavirus deaths with no end in sight | How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response | Tenants fear mass evictions GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas How lawmaker ties helped shape Fed chairman's COVID-19 response MORE (R-Idaho), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (D-Ill.), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissGOP lobbyist tapped for White House legislative affairs The Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post MORE (R-Ga.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Trump signs order targeting social media firms' legal protections 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 BoehnerBottom line Pelosi, Trump slide further into the muck The partisan divide on crisis aid MORE (R-Ohio) has not yet been briefed on the Gang’s plan.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSoured on Fox, Trump may be seeking new propaganda outlet On The Money: McConnell: Talking about fifth coronavirus bill 'in next month or so' | Boosted unemployment benefits on the chopping block | Women suffering steeper job losses from COVID-19 Kudlow: 0-per-week boost to unemployment benefits won't 'survive the next round of talks' 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 JohannsMeet the Democratic sleeper candidate gunning for Senate in Nebraska Farmers, tax incentives can ease the pain of a smaller farm bill Lobbying World 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 AyotteBottom line Bottom Line Lobbying World MORE (N.H.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoIRS proposes guidance for expanded carbon capture tax credit No better time to modernize America's energy infrastructure EPA's Wheeler grilled by Democrats over environmental rollbacks amid COVID-19 MORE (Wyo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrFISA 'reform': Groundhog Day edition Rubio: Coronavirus conspiracy theories could be used in foreign election misinformation campaigns Justice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein MORE (N.C.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRomney is only GOP senator not on new White House coronavirus task force McConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Castro, Warren, Harris to speak at Texas Democratic virtual convention Democratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight MORE (Texas), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziHouse GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought The Hill's Morning Report - Can Sanders be stopped? Lawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts MORE (Wyo.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits | House Republicans introduce bill to speed mining projects for critical minerals | Watchdog faults EPA communications in contamination of NC river Trump administration gives renewables more time to take advantage of tax credits GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas MORE (Alaska), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsOvernight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in Government watchdog: 'No evidence' Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE (Kan.) and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US death toll nears 100,000 as country grapples with reopening GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE (S.D.) also attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Democratic Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetWarren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Congress headed toward unemployment showdown 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 ReidCortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP Nevada congressman admits to affair after relationship divulged on podcast Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil MORE (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFor city parks: Pass the Great American Outdoors Act now US ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis Schumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe 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 KerryThe continuous whipsawing of climate change policy Budowsky: United Democrats and Biden's New Deal Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil 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.