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 CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access 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 UdallDenver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' Gardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator Setting the record straight about No Labels 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 Alexander Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Five things to know about the measles outbreak 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 Boehner20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring Trump appears alongside Ocasio-Cortez on Time 100 list 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 CrapoGraham says he's 'not interested' in Mueller testifying Senate needs to stand up to Trump's Nixonian view of the Fed Senate bill seeks to bring freedom back to banking MORE (R-Idaho), Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks McConnell: 'Past time' for immigration-border security deal MORE (D-Ill.), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissRepublicans say Democrats holding up disaster relief as 'Sandy payback' Ex-House Intel chair: Intel panel is wrong forum to investigate Trump's finances The Hill's Morning Report - Trump budget reignites border security fight MORE (R-Ga.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems reject Barr's offer to view Mueller report with fewer redactions GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Hillicon Valley: Trump unveils initiatives to boost 5G | What to know about the Assange case | Pelosi warns tech of 'new era' in regulation | Dem eyes online hate speech bill 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 Boehner20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Dem says marijuana banking bill will get House vote this spring Trump appears alongside Ocasio-Cortez on Time 100 list MORE (R-Ohio) has not yet been briefed on the Gang’s plan.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller GOP senator wears shirt honoring Otto Warmbier at Korean DMZ On The Money: Conservatives rally behind Moore for Fed | White House interviewing other candidates | Trump, Dems spar on Tax Day | Budget watchdogs bemoan 'debt denialism' 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 AyotteSchultz recruiting GOP insiders ahead of possible 2020 bid Bottom Line US, allies must stand in united opposition to Iran’s bad behavior MORE (N.H.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use GOP senator issues stark warning to Republicans on health care Judd Gregg: In praise of Mike Enzi MORE (Wyo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGOP senator: 'No problem' with Mueller testifying Collins backs having Mueller testify Graham says he's 'not interested' in Mueller testifying MORE (N.C.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge GOP gets used to saying 'no' to Trump Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump on tariffs MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks MORE (Texas), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley Enzi Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Trump cleaning house on border security Judd Gregg: In praise of Mike Enzi MORE (Wyo.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiCain says he 'won't run away from criticism' in push for Fed seat Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed License to discriminate: Religious exemption laws are trampling rights in rural America MORE (Alaska), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick Roberts Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Republicans writing off hard-line DHS candidate The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seeks tougher rules on asylum seekers MORE (Kan.) and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTelehealth is calling — will Congress pick up? GOP grows tired of being blindsided by Trump Hillicon Valley: Assange faces US charges after arrest | Trump says WikiLeaks 'not my thing' | Uber officially files to go public | Bezos challenges retail rivals on wages | Kremlin tightens its control over internet MORE (S.D.) also attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Democratic Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetMichael Bennet declared cancer-free, paving way for possible 2020 run License to discriminate: Religious exemption laws are trampling rights in rural America Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates 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 ReidSanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan Glamorization of the filibuster must end Schumer won't rule out killing filibuster MORE (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Former Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' 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 KerryButtigieg to fundraise in DC with major Obama, Clinton bundlers next month: report The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report Democrats need a 'celebrity' candidate — and it's not Biden or Sanders 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.