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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 CoburnCongress brings back corrupt, costly, and inequitably earmarks Conservative group escalates earmarks war by infiltrating trainings Democrats step up hardball tactics in Supreme Court fight 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 UdallKennedy apologizes for calling Haaland a 'whack job' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland courts moderates during tense confirmation hearing | GOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change | White House urges passage of House public lands package Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderSenate GOP faces retirement brain drain The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality Blunt's retirement deals blow to McConnell inner circle 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 BoehnerSunday shows preview: Russia, US exchange sanctions; tensions over policing rise; vaccination campaign continues The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden to Putin: Tough sanctions, straight talk Boehner on Afghanistan: 'It's time to pull out the troops' 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: Inflation rears its head amid spending debate | IRS chief warns of unpaid taxes hitting T | Restaurants fret labor shortage IRS chief warns of unpaid taxes hitting trillion Trump faces test of power with early endorsements MORE (R-Idaho), Dick DurbinDick DurbinBiden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' For a win on climate, let's put our best player in the game Biden angers Democrats by keeping Trump-era refugee cap MORE (D-Ill.), Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissLive coverage: Georgia Senate runoffs Trump, Biden face new head-to-head contest in Georgia Ex-GOP senator from Georgia suffers mild stroke: report MORE (R-Ga.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerNew US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations Democrats brace for new 'defund the police' attacks Intelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law 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 BoehnerSunday shows preview: Russia, US exchange sanctions; tensions over policing rise; vaccination campaign continues The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden to Putin: Tough sanctions, straight talk Boehner on Afghanistan: 'It's time to pull out the troops' MORE (R-Ohio) has not yet been briefed on the Gang’s plan.

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanKellyanne Conway joins Ohio Senate candidate's campaign OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds Senate confirms Biden's pick to lead White House environmental council 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 AyotteOvernight Defense: NATO expanding troops in Iraq Overnight Defense: New START extended for five years | Austin orders 'stand down' to tackle extremism | Panel recommends Biden delay Afghanistan withdrawal Study group recommends Biden delay Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (N.H.), John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism Sunday shows preview: Democrats eye passage of infrastructure bill; health experts warn of fourth coronavirus wave MORE (Wyo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrA proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US Former Gov. Pat McCrory enters GOP Senate race in North Carolina Lara Trump leads GOP field in North Carolina Senate race, poll shows MORE (N.C.), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerFox News inks contributor deal with former Democratic House member Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain Roy Blunt won't run for Senate seat in 2022 MORE (Tenn.), John CornynJohn CornynSunday shows preview: Russia, US exchange sanctions; tensions over policing rise; vaccination campaign continues GOP acknowledges struggle to bring down Biden Intelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law MORE (Texas), Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality Lummis adopts 'laser eyes' meme touting Bitcoin Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (Wyo.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRepublicans who backed Trump impeachment see fundraising boost Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring MORE (Alaska), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate GOP faces retirement brain drain Roy Blunt won't run for Senate seat in 2022 Lobbying world MORE (Kan.) and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP acknowledges struggle to bring down Biden Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism MORE (S.D.) also attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Democratic Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocrats get good news from IRS Senators press for answers in Space Command move decision Biden announces first slate of diverse judicial nominees 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 ReidThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Biden to tap Erika Moritsugu as new Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison White House races clock to beat GOP attacks MORE (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP acknowledges struggle to bring down Biden Pew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Pelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' 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 KerryUS, China say they are 'committed' to cooperating on climate change McCarthy hails 'whole-of-government approach' to climate Biden must compel China and Russia to act on climate 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.