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Entries in Gang of Six (15)

Wednesday
Oct192011

Gang of Six Briefs Super Committee, Proceedings Remain Secret

Sen. Kent Conrad (ABC News)(WASHINGTON) -- The Gang of Six briefed members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction on Wednesday, but the content of the closed-door deliberations remain secret as the deadline to come up with a proposal for $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction approaches next month.

Members of the Gang of Six, including Sen. Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget committee, and Sens. Tom Coburn, Saxby Chambliss, Mike Crapo, Dick Durbin, and Mark Warner, were invited to brief the committee on their bipartisan proposal, which recommended $3.7 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years. Their briefing lasted nearly two and a half hours.

“As a nation, we need a balanced, comprehensive plan to get this debt under control, and it’s absolutely essential we do,” Conrad, D-N.D., reported. “We very much appreciated the chance to go into significant detail the conclusions we came to.”

Once the briefing was over, the six Democrats and six Republicans on the JSC split up to meet separately for about an hour to discuss the Gang of Six’s recommendations.

Leaving the meeting, members of the Table of Twelve were tight-lipped on the detail of Wednesday’s private meeting, which lasted a total of about three and a half hours.

Reps. Fred Upton, the chairman of the House committee on Energy and Commerce, and Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, left without making substantive comments, as did Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Kyl described the briefing as a “good” meeting, but would not reveal its details to a strong contingency of the Capitol Hill press corps staking out members in the Capitol Visitors Center.

The committee has not met publicly since Sept. 22, nearly a month ago, and has no upcoming public hearings scheduled. One of the committee’s co-chairs, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, told reporters off-camera that he does expect to hold more public hearings in the future, although he declined to elaborate.

Last week chairmen and ranking members of many of the House and Senate committees along with various caucuses in Congress submitted letters to the so-called Super Committee with recommendations for savings.

The committee has until Nov. 23 to pass a proposal with at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction for the full Congress to consider. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to score the proposal prior to the committee vote, so the JSC plan is likely to be released a few days ahead of the deadline.

Congress has until Dec. 23 to enact $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. If they fail to meet the deadline, sequestration cuts totaling $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction would kick in, slashing defense spending and Medicare benefits.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul222011

Sen. Warner Will Support 'Any Deal' to Raise Debt Ceiling

United States Senate(WASHINGTON) -- As one more sign of what the debt ceiling negotiations have come to, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said on Thursday that he would support “any plan” as long as it raised the debt ceiling, at this point.

“I’m going to support any deal that actually gets us to the debt ceiling, that’s the most important thing,” Warner said on a conference call Thursday evening.  “I’m going to vote for virtually anything that extends the debt ceiling.  I’d even vote for a clean debt ceiling extension.  Because I don’t think we should be playing, you know, Russian roulette with our country and, indirectly, the world’s economy.”

The senator, a member of the "Gang of Six," was briefing citizens on a conference call hosted by the group “No Labels” to update the public on the Gang's progress and the work they might do even after a debt deal is reached.

Warner said that everything with the debt talks is changing in “real time” and that the viability of the Mitch McConnell-Harry Reid plan to give President Obama power to raise the debt ceiling was on tap to be discussed at the White House discussion Thursday night.

The Gang of Six continues to work on its plan to reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over 10 years, even as other aspects of the debt ceiling negotiations rage on.

Warner expressed regret that the group was not able to get its proposal out months ago so that the group's members could have earlier answered all the questions and challenges the group is facing after its proposal was unveiled Tuesday, rather than trying to answer them at the 11th hour of the debt talks.

He echoed the sentiment on the Hill that the Gang of Six’s plan could influence the debt talks, but that the proposal is best left for consideration after the debt ceiling is raised.

“We never thought of our deal as a debt ceiling-related issue,” Warner said.  “We always thought of it as a longer-term process of action.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul212011

Gang of Six Senators: Who Are They, Can Their Debt Plan Pass?

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A bipartisan posse of senators is attempting a bold end-run around conventional wisdom in Washington. The so-called Gang of Six -- three conservative Republicans, three liberal Democrats -- hopes to prove that members of both parties can defy intransigence, reaching common ground on tax hikes and spending cuts to knock trillions off the national debt.

So who are these men, and do they think their plan has legs?

REPUBLICANS
Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma:
Coburn ditched the Gang in May after months of negotiations turned sour. Now he's back, and pushing its plan. The 63-year-old obstetrician, known on Capitol Hill as "Dr. No" for blocking bills he finds unconstitutional, isn't running for re-election, and he says he's not afraid to take an unpopular stance.

Coburn's prescription is for changes to entitlement programs, that would likely include raising the retirement age for Medicare and Social Security and means-testing benefits, while also changing the tax code to eliminate loopholes and deductions while lowering rates overall.

Coburn said the plan, which changed the dynamic of the debt debate upon release Tuesday," has "real potential right now." But he stopped short of expressing confidence that it would be passed.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia: Chambliss, one of the most conservative members of Congress, is no fan of higher taxes. But the 67-year-old says closing tax loopholes and eliminating deductions, which could result in higher taxes for some people, is acceptable as part of the Gang of Six deal.

Their plan calls for changes to the tax code that he says would lower personal and corporate income taxes overall.

Will House Republicans buy it? "I'm at least cautiously optimistic that we've got another idea on the table," he told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

And of those who might oppose it, he says, they simply "don't want to solve the problem."

Sen. Mike Crapo, Idaho: Crapo, 60, won a perfect rating from the American Conservative Union last year. Like Chambliss, he opposes the tax increases that had been proposed by President Obama and some Democrats to help close the budget gap. The three-term senator says he backs the Gang of Six plan because it would pump more revenue into government coffers without raising tax rates.

"This is going to stimulate our economy, reduce rates and generate a much larger economic pie from which we can apply revenues to debt retirement," he said in an interview Tuesday with Bloomberg News.

DEMOCRATS
Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota: Conrad chairs the Senate Budget Committee, and without a re-election campaign on the horizon for the first time in 20 years, he's putting it all on the line. The 63-year-old Democrat is unabashed in his support for changes to federal entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, so that their solvency can be maintained.

"These ideas that we don't have to make any changes, don't change any entitlement, don't change any revenue program, don't change any spending program, are just wrong," he told CNN Tuesday. "And they are leading our country toward the fiscal cliff and a collapse that would damage everyone."

Earlier this year, Conrad told ABC's Jonathan Karl that he is personally invested in the Gang of Six deal. "I certainly hope this leads to a result because otherwise I'm going to have wasted five years of my life," he said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois: Durbin, the Senate Minority Whip, is responsible for rounding up Democratic votes for key pieces of legislation. But when it comes to the Gang of Six deficit-reduction plan, Durbin seems to think it's not headed to the floor fast.

"The Gang of Six plan has not been drafted nor has it been scored by the Congressional Budget Office; it's not ready for prime time," he said Tuesday. "But as a concept, I think we have the starting concepts together, and that's what we presented today."

Durbin, 66, suggested that while the gang's framework might not be part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2, it might still be in play as part of a larger legislative package in the weeks and months ahead.

Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia: Warner, a former governor, admits the timing of the Gang of Six plan's release stinks, coming days before a hard deadline after months and months of work. Little time for input on the bill, and even less to draft precise language.

But, he says, it demonstrates that at least some members of Congress are willing to come together and take risks for the greater good.

"I've taken the arrows from folks in my party -- I'm a Democrat -- but I've taken the arrows. We've got to reform Medicare. We've got to reform Social Security. We've got to make sure that those programs still exist," Warner told ABC's Jonathan Karl.

"If we don't get this fixed, all of us -- all of us -- ought to get fired," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul202011

'Gang of Six' Circulates Support Letter

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- So-called Gang of Six worked overnight into Wednesday trying to get senators’ signatures on a letter of support for the “basic direction” of their plan released Tuesday, per Senate Majority Leader Reid’s request for the group to give senators 24 hours to review the plan and then get back to him with an indication of support.

It is not clear how many senators have signed on yet -- and the Gang of Six is quickly working to add to its number, in an attempt to make a strong showing to the Senate leadership.

A letter being circulated among the senators and obtained by ABC News says, “It is our strong belief that this plan can not only serve as a template for addressing this crisis, but would allow the Congress to work, and reignite our troubled economy by providing the leadership and certainty the American people expect and deserve from us. The plan strikes the necessary balance between spending cuts, tax and entitlement reform, and enforcement to constrain future spending.”

The letter has not yet been sent to Reid or Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and it’s not clear how much support this letter, and plan, actually has in the Senate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul202011

Don't Count on 'Gang of 6' Breakthrough for Debt Ceiling

Stephen Chernin/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Could the bipartisan “Gang of Six” plan embraced by President Obama on Tuesday be a real breakthrough on the debt ceiling issue?

Don’t count on it.

On the bright side, the bi-partisan “Gang” presented their ambitious $3.7 trillion deficit reduction plan to a bi-partisan group of some 50 senators and got a positive reception from both parties.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, even declared, “We went from a Gang of Six to a Mob of 50.”

But the plan has already drawn fire from the right and the left.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, says he has “serious concerns,” and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-AL, says the plan hikes taxes “by at least $1 trillion.”

In a paper statement, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, said, “This is an approach that should be rejected by the American people.  At a time when the rich are becoming richer and corporate profits are soaring, at least half of any deficit-reduction package must come from upper income people and profitable corporations.”

Sanders says the plan would cause “devastating cuts to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid.”

But the coldest splash came from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“I don't want to do anything to jeopardize the enthusiasm people have for the Gang of Six,” Reid told reporters after the Gang presented its plan, “but I am the person that runs the Senate and I understand what the rules of the Senate are.”

The opposition to the plan revolves around the same problem that's been stalling progress on the debt ceiling front: Democrats don’t want to sign on to deep spending cuts and Republicans fear that the plan will lead to big tax increases.

But there’s another problem.  The Gang of Six proposal leaves the specifics up to Congressional committees to hammer out in the future.  The principles are outlined, the targets are set, but the details are to be determined at a later date and other than a “down payment” of $500 billion in spending cuts, there’s no guarantee Congress will actually act on the bigger spending cuts and revenue increases the plan promises.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul192011

Gang of Six Meets to Discuss the Next Steps

Senator Kent Conrad. US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- The Gang of Six, plus two self-professed “cheerleaders,” huddled late Tuesday afternoon behind closed doors after their plan had some time to breathe on Capitol Hill, in an attempt to figure what the next step is as the clock ticks closer to Aug. 2.

The next step: members of the Senate will be asked to sign a letter supporting the “basic direction” of the Gang of Six’s plan.  There will be another meeting Wednesday with the group to discuss how the plan may be advanced.

Members of the Gang of Six did not immediately shoot down the idea that their plan could be attached in some way to the plan being worked on by McConnell and Reid.

“It is possible,” Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said after leaving the meeting. “One possibility that is being discussed is that this special congressional committee would have this as a fallback or maybe the basis of their discussions.”

At the same time, they are trying to draft the plan legislatively so it can be considered.

Conrad admitted that they know the time frame is working against them. “That’s a problem. As you know scoring of these things can take an extended period. I know CBO told the Democratic Leader that just the mandatory spending piece from the White House talks could take as long as two weeks to score. So all of these issues are being discussed and considered.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul192011

Obama: Bipartisan Senators' Plan 'Good News' for Debt Talks

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama says a deficit-reduction proposal unveiled Tuesday by a bipartisan group of seven senators is "good news" in the ongoing showdown over the debt limit, and may signal a path to compromise.

"I think is a very significant step," Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room. "The framework they put forward is broadly consistent with what we've been working on at the White House."

The proposal calls for both cuts to entitlement programs and tax increases, a two-pronged approach the president has advocated as part of a "grand bargain."

The senators' plan calls for a $500 billion down payment on reducing the deficit and moves toward a $3.7 trillion goal. It would increase tax revenues by $1 trillion through closure of a variety of special tax breaks and havens, but would amount to a net tax decrease of $1. 5 trillion because the Alternative Minimum Tax would be repealed.

Seventy-four percent of the deficit reduction would come from spending cuts and 26 percent would come from higher revenues. There would be cuts to Medicare under the plan, which also creates a Congressional committee to overhaul Social Security.

"We've got to have some additional revenue so that we have an approach in which there is shared sacrifice and everybody is giving up something," Obama said.

The president stopped short of a complete endorsement of the plan since, he said, "we just received it." But, he said it offers "the potential for bipartisan consensus."

"We're in the 11th hour and we don't have a lot of time left," Obama said, adding that his team would study the plan and that he would urge congressional leaders to start negotiating based on its framework.

Obama said the McConnell-Reid proposal would continue to be a "fail safe" option to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 in the event that no broader deal can be reached.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May202011

Leading GOP Budget Hawk at Odds with Republican Leaders

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) told ABC News that the federal debt is now so out of control that the credit rating of the United States is in jeopardy -- and the only way to deal with it is a bipartisan agreement that increases tax revenues.

"The fact is we're at the lowest tax rate this country's been in a hundred years," Coburn said. "And nobody believes that we're going to get a bipartisan agreement without some way to increase revenue for the federal government.  We're also at the lowest level in a long time in terms of revenues coming in."

Increasing tax revenues, Coburn said, does not mean increasing tax rates.  Higher revenues could be accomplished by closing tax loopholes for individuals and/or corporations.

"Do I want tax rates to rise?  Absolutely not. Will I fight that? Yeah," Coburn said. "Would I agree to a plan that would create great economy that would markedly increase revenues to the federal government?  You bet.  And that's what I want to do."

Earlier this week, Coburn dropped out of the so-called Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of Senators that has been working for months to find an agreement to curtail entitlement spending and reduce the deficit.

Coburn says he left the Gang of Six because he reached an impasse with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) about the need for specific cuts to Medicare and other popular entitled programs and needed "a good cooling off period."

"We had a conversation, very frank and where I needed him to go, he couldn't and where I wanted to go, he couldn't so what you need to do is back off and see if you can do something different," Coburn said.

He still hopes the Gang of Six can eventually reconvene and come to an agreement.  In the meantime, Coburn is going to put together his own list of spending cuts totaling a whopping $9 trillion over 10 years -- a level of spending cuts that would go far beyond even the $6 trillion in cuts proposed by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May182011

Sen. Sessions: Can Focus on Budget with ‘Gang of Six’ Collapse

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The apparent collapse of the bipartisan "Gang of Six" senators engaged in deficit talks has actually brought relief to some senators on the outside of those talks.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., told ABC News on Wednesday that he wasn't surprised that those negotiations have come to an impasse, with the declaration by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that he's no longer participating. The group is now meeting as a "Gang of Five," but it has lost its bipartisan balance.

Sessions said he hopes Coburn's decision will force the Senate to turn to the business of actually passing a budget before Memorial Day.

"It may not be a final end of it, but I always felt that it was unlikely that they could hold together with a firm agreement that others would accept," said Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.

"There are some fundamental disagreements about the size and scope of government. Some people here believe we ought to raise taxes and keep government [spending] high, and others believe we can reduce spending and keep government smaller. So it's a fundamental difference, and itss hard to bridge that gap at times."

"We're the members of the Budget Committee," Sessions continued. "So the budget committee is supposed to have produced a budget by April 15th -- we’ve not yet had a hearing. We've not even begun to mark up a budget in the senate. It's 749 days since the Congress has passed a budget, at a time when this country has never faced a more serious financial crisis...We should absolutely move before the Memorial Day recess and get this thing moving."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May172011

'Gang of Six' Becomes 'Gang of Five' as Tom Coburn 'Takes a Break'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- If a month ago the Gang of Six was running the risk of irrelevance, today they're falling apart.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has decided to "take a break from the talks," according to a spokesman.

"He is disappointed the group has not been able to bridge the gap between what needs to happen and what senators will support," Coburn spokesman John Hart said. "He has decided to take a break from the talks."

"He still hopes the Senate will, on a bipartisan basis, pass a long-term deficit reduction package this year," Hart noted. "He looks forward to working with anyone who is interested in putting forward a plan that is specific, balanced and comprehensive."

Coburn's departure could spell doom for the Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of senators that has been meeting for months in an effort to hatch a deficit reduction deal.

The group, which also included Democratic senators Dick Durbin, Kent Conrad and Mark Warner and Republican senators Saxby Chambliss and Mike Crapo, began working in January to reach a deal that could gain traction on Capitol Hill. For a while it sounded like the group was making progress. Just before Congress’ Easter recess, Durbin told ABC News that the group was “very very close,” noting that if they waited too long to release a report, “we may not be players.”

But after recess, talks stalled. Coburn went home to Oklahoma to deal with a family emergency, Conrad voiced plans to plow ahead with his own proposal as Senate Budget Committee chairman, and suddenly everything was up in the air. The Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, even said the only deficit reduction talks he cared about were the ones led by Vice President Biden.

Now with Coburn's departure, the Gang of Six isn't even the Gang of Six anymore.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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