Congress curbs enthusiasm for 'Gang of Six' plan
July 20th, 2011
07:22 PM ET
12 years ago

Congress curbs enthusiasm for 'Gang of Six' plan

(CNN)–The burst of enthusiasm Tuesday for the "Gang of Six" debt reduction plan as a possible way out of the debt ceiling crisis appeared to fade Wednesday as Democratic and Republican lawmakers studied and found fault with the details of the proposal.

Most notably, both sides highlighted well-worn party-line divisions: conservatives complained the plan would raise taxes while liberals warned it would cut entitlement benefits.

"It would be irresponsible for us to try to rush through such a complex package without time for meaningful review," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Budget Committee who said his staff has already identified "serious flaws" with the proposal.

"This great 'Gang of Six' would save $4 trillion over 10 years," Rep. Peter DeFazio, a liberal Democrat from Oregon, said sarcastically. "Seniors will pay more. Working people will pay more. Veterans will pay more. Rich people not so much. But it would save $4 trillion over 10 years."

Despite some strong pushback from liberal groups and labor unions to the proposed changes to entitlement programs, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi seemed to leave the door open to the plan, telling reporters, "We haven't seen it but it has some good principles in it."

House GOP aides acknowledged some of the ideas for tax reform and spending cuts are similar to Republican-backed plans. But the aides privately cringed when President Barack Obama endorsed the proposal on Tuesday, because his very public embrace makes it even tougher to sell to House conservatives.

Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, leader of a large block of House conservatives, dismissed the proposal. He pointed to House passage of the "cut, cap, and balance" bill, which would make raising the debt ceiling contingent on congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

"Forget the 'Gang of Six,' let's go with the 'Gang of 234,' " Jordan said, referring to the winning number of votes for the measure. He said the "Gang of Six" plan was a nonstarter for him and for the members of the Republican Study Committee.

"In simple terms: Our guys don't like it," he said.

With growing signs that the monthslong work would not provide the key to avoiding default, Democratic and Republican leadership aides in the Senate sought to turn attention back to a last-ditch plan developed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

That plan, which is still not finalized, would allow the president to seek an increase in the $14.3 trillion debt limit without the approval of Congress, set up a special committee to recommend ways to reduce the debt and possibly include a trillion dollars or more in immediate spending cuts.

However, as the August 2 deadline approaches, even that backup proposal appeared in trouble as Republicans continued to say it would not get the votes needed to pass the GOP-controlled House.

House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor met Wednesday with the top two House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer. Congressional aides said the leaders talked about the McConnell-Reid plan, among other proposals.

While House leaders met to consider next steps in the debt impasse, Republican freshmen continued to insist they were in no mood to compromise. South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy said he and others want to pass something that's "transformative," not something that kicks the can down the road to another committee to study how to reduce the debt.

Asked about the McConnell/Reid plan's prospects in the House, Gowdy told reporters bluntly, "If there a state or condition worse than death, that's what it is. I can't think of one, so we'll just go with death for now."

Some senators said they would like to tie elements of the "Gang of Six" proposal to the McConnell/Reid measure as a way to salvage the group's work and to keep open the possibility of deeper reductions in the debt.

Conrad said one idea is to allow a vote on the gang's work if the special committee set up under the McConnell/Reid bill fails to reach agreement on ways to reduce the debt.

"What I would like to see is that this plan gets a vote," Conrad said.

Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin said it makes sense to tie the McConnell/Reid plan with elements from the "Gang of Six" proposal.

"That seems to be the most likely formula for a successful completion," Cardin said.

Rep. Steve LaTourette, a moderate Republican from Ohio, said he was encouraged by the "Gang of Six" proposal but has concerns about how parts of it would work.

Joking with reporters, he said both Senate compromises aren't exactly being embraced by House Republicans.

"The McConnell plan is less popular than the "Gang of Six" plan, but both of them come in at about the approval rating of the United States Congress," he said.

Filed under: Budget • Congress • Debt • Deficit
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Root and stem

    Barry is waiting for the sign-off from Havana.

    July 20, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  2. Jeetu

    So, do the republicnans in the House of Representatives want to listen to anyone except to their own stubborn ideas which have gotten us to this mess? This six senators have worked together, left their differences behind and produced a plan that could achieve the results needed. Why don't we give it a try and find out what happens over the next two years? If the results are not achieved, we can always update/change it. After all, each new congress assesses the situation again.

    Thus, republicans, get off your stubborn and unworkable positions and do something constructive for the American people; pass the debt reduction plan and raise the debt ceiling now by accepting the plan developed by the 'gang of six'.

    July 20, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    No doubt both sides would find the flaws and ugly warts in the Gang of Six plan. The plan won't please everyone because it is give and take...that is why they call it a "compromise". Must be a pretty good compromise plan because zealots on both sides find faults in it.

    July 20, 2011 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  4. D-Nice

    These idiots don't want to get anything done. I say get rid of every last one of them come 2012.

    July 20, 2011 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  5. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on US!

    I would hope cooler minds would take a breather and not rush anything. These are major changes that should not be voted on in a hurry. There are a lot of devils in those details. In the meantime I guess it's back to watching the GOBPbaggers' continue to attack the poor, the middle class, children and senior while refusing to demand shared sacrifices from their owner in the cult of corrupt corporatism. How very un-patriotic.

    July 20, 2011 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  6. Four and The Door

    The Gang of 6 Plan and the McConnel/ Reid Plan both sell the American taxpayer and future of the country short. The only reasonable plan put out there has already passed the House. Cut, Cap and Balance. It works.

    July 20, 2011 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  7. jean2009

    I think they mean Gang of Six Thugs...don't they?

    July 20, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |