Washington (CNN) – Days before the president unveils a plan to tackle the national deficit, a senatorial odd couple said their bipartisan proposal could present the best chance for managing the nation's money problems.
Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia said the pitch from their so-called Gang of Six bipartisan group would come soon, and warned their colleagues and constituents to expect proposed changes to two hotly contested issues - taxes and entitlement programs.
"Neither side's got all the answers in this debate," Warner said. "The idea that we can do this on simply one side of the balance sheet - well, it's just a spending problem, no, it's just a taxing problem - isn't the case. If we're not looking at both sides of balance sheet we should not even start this discussion."
At a town hall meeting at the Rotary Club of Atlanta, Chambliss and Warner laid out in broad strokes some ideas being discussed by the group. The other members are Republicans Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Mike Crapo of Idaho and Democrats Richard Durbin of Illinois and Kent Conrad of North Dakota. They have been meeting on average twice a week since January to hammer out a plan, which takes into account recommendations of the president's debt commission, which released its findings late last year.
Their goal is to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, which is what the president's commission recommended
The senators said their plan would continue to reduce discretionary spending and reform the entitlement programs Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, though changes to Social Security would not affect Americans currently over the age of 32. Warner said one idea would gradually raise the retirement age.
Chambliss took the lead on the issue of income taxes.
"Our tax code has gotten way out of kilter," he said.
Chambliss said the group was discussing lowering personal and corporate income tax rates to between 8 and 29 percent, but eliminating most tax deductions.
"Some of you are scratching your heads, saying gosh, that means mortgage interest deduction, charitable deductions, all corporate deductions and that's right," Chambliss said, explaining the plan would allow a taxpayer to apply for a deduction in exchange for paying a slightly higher tax rate.
"Every time you add one of those tax expenditures back, you gotta pay for it," he said.
Chambliss also called for reducing the corporate tax rate to increase competition for companies with international operations and encourage their expansion in the U.S.
The two senators called a budget proposal by Republican House Budget Chair Paul Ryan of Wisconsin "a serious plan" but faulted it for not addressing taxation and for not solving the deficit problem quickly enough.
"What he seeks to do is to, number one, balance the budget over about a 10-year period simply by reducing spending," Chambliss said. "And you can't do that. It's not going to work."
The senators painted a dire picture, both of the country's economic status and of the bitter partisan divide in Washington.
Warner said the Gang of Six would release details of their plan as soon as possible.
"I think our window is closing," he told Rotary Club members. "I think we're literally talking within 30 days or even sooner. Because you know, if not, people are going to default back. There'll be the Democratic plan, the Republican plan."
Both men said they had been in touch with the White House and would take into account the president's proposals, to be announced Wednesday. Though the group does not intend to reveal their plan this week, they hope once they reach an accord on the issues it will have a good chance of swaying other members of the Senate.
"The details are very difficult to agree to among the six of us, and trying to get 60 folks on board with it is not going to be easy," Chambliss said. "But at the end of the day, if the six of us are able to agree, when you look at the philosophical divide that exists between some members of our group, we hope that we can bring liberals, conservatives and moderates together and generate 60 votes."
Both senators acknowledged it is not going to be easy – that whatever they come up with will anger both parties.
"If we end up with the plan that satisfies everyone on the left or everyone on the right, one, we'll end up with a plan that won't get through and two we're probably not going to have a reasonable plan that will get the job done," said Warner.
Warner also said he believes that just the fact that a group of senators from opposite sides of the political spectrum with very different philosophies will introduce a bipartisan plan, will "energize this economy like nothing we've ever seen."
– CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash contributed to this report
I sure hope they can come up with something that will energize the sides to work together for the greater good of all and not one side or the other.... That would be unbelievable to see in my life time...
Social Security is not an entitlement it is paid by employees and employers. The government just need to put back the money it has been stealing from it. If they really wanted to go at entitlements they would go after the Pentagon, get out of Afghanistan, Iraq, shut down all the bases all over the world. Without any talk about the military cut backs, anything else is just a sad joke.
Why don't all the politicians take all of the their campaign contributions and put it all towards the national deficit? Seems simple to get this economy out the hole. Add taking away political pay for six months and the entire problem is solved...
The quickest way from point A to point B is straight down the middle!
Good luck; hope it works. If it's sensible, the President will be behind it.
Just from the makeup of this group, I cannot believe that anything they propose will have a chance in Hades of getting passed in Congress.
I for one, am still confused as to why, President Obama is not supporting at least in part, the special commission report he ordered.
I have read it and it seems too fit the bill and it does attack the issue from both the revenue and spending aspects.
It seems to be a very fair platform from which to begin talks and has been out since December.
Talk, talk, talk. That's what they've doing for decades. The time for action is now, before the country completely goes over the precipiece.
I will believe it when I see it,... both sides have talked about cuts forever,... none have actually done anything of substance.
This is the kind of co-operation that has the potential to heal America, both economically & culturally. As a Canadian, this makes me proud to be a North American.
I think MOST Americans will sacrifice on CUTS, including entitlements, if it is FAIR!!!!!!! If any proposal comes out that EXCLUDES tax cuts for the RICH – it will NOT be tolerated!!!
Senator Warner, when governor of VA – got it STRAIGHT!!!!!!! I am sorry we lost him. But when learned he was going to Washington – that's the reason why he WON!!!!
President Obama is AHEAD of the curve and about time those out there start to "criticize" – he's already on another page!!!
About time we had folks with actual Ideas, and not just a bunch of political posturing.
Can;t wait to see the plan.
I hope that there are members of the House that understand what these Senators are trying to do - act in the best interest of the country and not ideology. Just because you have prinicples, doesn't mean that you can't think for the good of the country and be a little flexible. A little of your goal is better than no progress toward your goal.
GOP will not raise the debt ceiling ceiling is hogwash. Since 2001 debt ceiling raised ten times with GOP providing majority of passage votes. They know US default on borrowing / debt will result in bond market crash, stock market crash and global market financial crisis. They will not harm large political donors – Big banks, Wall Street, Corporations. Corporations will not American economy be destroyed to the point of no profits. GOP will stop Tea Party from harming donors.
End the wars, the Bush tax cuts, and the tax breaks for big oil and big corporations.
Exactly when do we hear the full truth from the Gang of six. All were in the Senate when the deficit just kept rising because we were fighting a war and never paying for it. It is amazing how fast they backtrack and change directions.
I seriously have doubts that democratics nor republicans can still reform our deformed political landscape in the immediate or long term future. There are underlining reasons why America is breaking a sunder and I blame everyone and myself included. We are heading towards disasters without thinking of the american spirit and intuition of the nation of our forefathers. Smart, special and inventive should be the way of doing it.
1. reform entitlementts
a. raise retirement age to an optional bases with choices for children topay optionally to retire earlier
2. close all tax loop holes
c. cut the military in half to 1990's
e. pay politic ians less by a quarter
e. reduce state teachers health care and retirement pay
f. investigate fraud and corruption
g. competitn across state and country lines for health care costs (e.g. inport cheaper chparmecedicals, reduce administration costs, and to compete on a national level not local or state monopology like here in Alabama
Worth giving them a listen. Doctrinaire Democrats (including the President) refuse to put everything on the table and are therefore not credible.
Maybe there can be an adult conversation wihtout the drama and recriminations. I think citizens want something serious done and quickly.
Gee, nobody mentioned the DoD, hellooooo, what about the LARGEST SLICE OF THE PIE? What about the THREE wars? Hellooooooooo..........?
Time to cut Defense. Quit pretending America has mandate to spend all-time record amount of $ on Defense when we do not have even 1 credible threat to challenge our supremacy. We have no need to spend more than what we did during the peak of the Cold War to chase down thugs in caves. We spend more than the rest of the world combined on defense = out of control.
Two thumbs up here. As a centrist, I have been saying for a while that the only way to truly reduce the deficit is to tackle both taxation and spending problems. The gang of six have nailed it.
I think most people do not understand at the federal level the diference betwen debt levels, budget deficits.
1) Debt levels will exist and are a viable part of any major countries needs, for all sorts of reasons.
2) Now following the budget agreement avoiding a shurtdown. The 2011 DEBT LEVEL is fixed it may be higher than current ly stated thats life. My compromise ( bi partisanship is simple ) 2011 debt level is now fixed so what we do is look at Ryans plan re 2012 and Obama plan 2012 re 2012 Budget deficit and we agree to split the difference on the budget deficit and increase the debt ceiling by that amount i.e the unbalanced budget cost in half.
3 ) That gives our gang of 6 nd House and republicans and democrats time to reconcile/negotuairte The Ryan plan and the democratic budget plan ( and debt commission of Obama ideas) without defaulting on national debt.The national debt ceiling is a red herring and again worse still worse than in its effects a government shutdown would have been.Republicans you have the house majority but not the country as a whole ( checks and balances) much as you keep pounding away you do but do not!!
Saxby has been and continues to be, an embarrassment to the great State of Georgia.
Thank goodness someone is using their head. Now if the rest of those bone-heads in Washington would put th country before themselves, then maybe we can get out of this mess before it's too late!