Two gang of six members talk deficit reduction
April 11th, 2011
08:46 PM ET
12 years ago

Two gang of six members talk deficit reduction

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

Filed under: Deficit • Mark Warner • Saxby Chambliss • Senate
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. a in austin

    I'm all for listening to a plan for shared sacrifice. The budget can not be balanced by cuts alone. Looking to forward to hearing more about this and hope that these guys are serious.

    April 12, 2011 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  2. lgny

    Bravo. Much of this country will eagerly await the release of your plan. We need a bipartisan approach that focuses on resolving the deficit instead of partisan plans designed to perpetuate one party and cast the other as fiscally negligent.

    The deficit is too important for partisan politics.

    April 12, 2011 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  3. Name king

    This chatter of deficit reduction is threatening to hurl our country back into a great recession, every single private job that's created that means a tax revenue toward the budget deficit. We cannot afford to dismantle the public sector, because every public sector job lost, its a prelude to a small business private sector job lost. Small business doesn't have the luxury are money to go over seas for their demand as big corporation do. The only dependable customers they have is them, teachers, police officers, food stamp recipians, local public service folks, etc. Without these customers small businesses are doom. Small businesses hires 2/3 of the labor force in America. We cannot keep dismantling small businesses demand resources and expect them to keep hiring folks and stay in business. Obama need to know that if the country stop creating
    Jobs, this will benefit the repugs, he can't keep following their lead to stop creating jobs.

    April 12, 2011 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  4. Clwyd

    I doubt that republicans and Democrats can reach any different kind of conclusions than they do in Congress. The republicans are still saying No to social programs as an example is the Mayor of DC. having to get arrested because of the gutting of social programs in his city. No needle exchange will result in the spread of HIV and deaths that could be avoid except for human error. Too many republicans saying NO, NO, NO! What we need is to say NO to military spending and the wars!

    April 12, 2011 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  5. Anonymous

    Thanks for working together to get things done for the country.

    April 12, 2011 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  6. Angie

    2002 Paul O'Neill, then secretary of Treasury, warned Cheney that the Bush Tax Cuts would reach an alarming amount after the first year, Cheney cut him off with "..., Deficits don't matter!" Cheney fired Paul O'Neill one month later.
    In 2004 News media spoke to Cheney about Paul O'Neill. Cheney's reply was "Deficits don't Matter!"
    When speaking with the media, O'Neill mentioned the Bush Tax Cuts could reach into trillions by the end of ten years.
    O'Neill was right. But instead of learning from the past, Republicans demanded the extension of Bush Tax Cuts, while the New republican congress wants to add even more Tax Cuts. How I dread facing the future with the Republicans refusing to LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES IN THE PAST!

    April 12, 2011 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  7. Steve Jackson

    Let's start with Congress put it so they can only make 15%more a year then the average working person US company making jobs overseas to send parts back to the US PAY 500% tax on each part they send back.other countries 800%

    April 12, 2011 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  8. Dolce21

    They are realizing the trauma that this administration has caused and that in the end the people of the USA will triumph, they can see through this man dishonest, blatant coerce of the people who work for him and around him, and little fishes caught in his net.

    April 12, 2011 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  9. Josh

    Good. It's about time both sides attempt to tackle the issue together. I eagerly look forward to their plan.

    April 12, 2011 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  10. th

    One way to help with the taxes is close the loop holes that the wealthy and large companies use to avoid paying their fair share. Some of the deductions that they want to take away helps the poor pay their bills for a while longer.

    April 12, 2011 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  11. king

    i would increase income tax by 1 cent for every one. thats about 3 packs of sigarets i have to give up a month, i would increse income tax on folks who makes 100 grand a year by 2 cent, they have taken 17 trillion dollars out of our economy to other countries because they dont want to pay their fare share. i will deduct 1 cent for corporations and small businesses if they keep hiring folks depend on their increase on their profits. i will put a 1 cent tax on social security checks thats about 2 six pack of beer a month, i will also raise the age 69 to maintain the program to the next 50 years, i will also raise the medicare and medicade taxes 1 cent. i will raise public sector retirement fund 1 cent and allow them to pay in more in their health care, i would raise all these retirements for congress twice as much. i will start opening up the oil reserves, and tell APOC $$$$ you. i will start drilling for oil in a reasonable manner. and tax the hell out of those oil companies if we use them. i personally will use private american oil companies, and hell with the global oil producers, who keep driving up the oil prices. they must love the repugs because every time they do crazy stuff the repugs deflect criticizm off them by blaming obama. what the hell obama have to do with global prices, that why they do what they do because they dont have to answer to no one and the repugs wont allow any one to criticise them. i dont like trump but atleast he is the only one i see standing up to these big oil companies without trying to defend them by blaming obama.

    April 12, 2011 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
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