Gang of Six gains some steam, but agreement far off

The Gang of Six spent most of Wednesday making the case for their deficit reducation plan to members of both parties and the media, but it seems that they’ve hit a snag as liberals in both chambers expressed opposition, not to mention that conservatives are less than thrilled over the revenue increases that the proposal would bring.

Others are expressing concern with the lack of details in the proposal. Chris Edwards, an economist with the Cato Institute, highlights this compared to the detail oriented plan separately put forward by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK):

The “Gang of Six” senators has released an outline of budget reforms that would supposedly reduce deficits by $3.7 trillion over 10 years. Revenues would rise by at least $1 trillion, while spending would be theoretically trimmed by various procedural mechanisms. The plan promises to “strengthen the safety net,” “maintain investments,” and “maintain the basic structure” of Medicare and Medicaid, which doesn’t sound very reform-minded to me.

The Gang of Six plan is a grander version of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s recent debt-limit proposal, which was aimed at putting off any spending cuts. The Gang outline has a few specific cuts, but the document mainly consists of promises to restrain spending and raise taxes in the future.

I’m surprised that Sen. Tom Coburn supports the Gang plan because his office has just released a massive study chock-full of specific spending-cut ideas. The Gang plan is all about avoiding specifics, while Coburn’s plan has 621 pages of details.

Coburn’s “Back in Black” plan would reduce deficits by $9 trillion over the next decade. The plan includes some tax increases, but the core of the document is a line-by-line analysis of every department’s budget, with lists of programs to cut and terminate. The plan includes a wealth of useful information that will aid policymakers interested in cutting spending for years to come.

As I noted yesterday, the proposal doesn’t really do anything at all in regards to dealing with entitlements, but neither does “Cut, Cap and Balance.” Without serious reforms on those programs, Congress isn’t really taking the problem head on.

While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that he was opposed to any short-term increase in the debt ceiling, President Barack Obama seemed to be open to the idea provided that budget agreement was in the works:

White House press secretary Jay Carney stressed that Obama is opposed to temporary increases to the U.S. borrowing limit, but he opened the door a crack, saying that Obama could agree to something short-term in order to give lawmakers time to finalize a deficit-reduction plan like the one unveiled by the bipartisan Senate Gang of Six.

“The president does not support a short-term extension of the debt limit, period,” Carney said. “The only exception to that is in the event that both sides reach a deal on a long-term extension of the debt limit plus significant deficit reduction, and we needed a very short-term extension, like a few days, to allow a bit of extra time for a bill to work its way through the legislative process.”

As noted by Hot Air, some Senate Democrats say that the plan offered Gang of Six wouldn’t be ready by the August 2nd deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Whether or not House Republicans would agree to a short-term extension is a big question mark, but with reports that GOP leadership is growing weary of the tea party movement’s influence they may arm twist members into backing the increase.

It’s also worth noting that “Cut, Cap and Balance,” the deficit reduction plan put forward by the House GOP, will soon receive a vote in the Senate; however, it isn’t expected to pass.


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