With just two weeks remaining before the clock strikes midnight on the Obama administration’s deadline for raising the debt ceiling, the once-defunct Gang of Six in the Senate resurrected itself Tuesday to propose a compromise that purports to reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next decade.
But its chances of winning approval in the House, which passed the GOP "cut, cap, and balance" plan Tuesday night by a 234-190 vote largely along party lines, initially appeared slim
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, tells Newsmax: “I’ve yet to see anything from the Senate that could get through the House, and anything from the House that could get through the Senate. And that pretty much sums it up the current dilemma — and I haven’t even mentioned the possibility of a presidential veto.”
Meredith Griffanti, press secretary for Rep. Paul C. Broun, R-Ga., indicated to Newsmax there was no way Broun would vote to raise the debt ceiling, period. “We do not support any proposal that raises the ceiling,” was her response to a Newsmax inquiry regarding Broun’s reaction to the Gang of Six concept.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., brought the Gang of Six back to life Tuesday when he announced that he would return to the group because it had made a substantial move in a more conservative direction.
“We ought to get the best possible deal and fight again,” Coburn told National Review Online. “This is considerably more than what it was when I left [the group in May]. We ought to get more, but this is the reality of where we are.”
Coburn claimed the new deal would offer $500 billion in “immediate” spending cuts. Presumably, the debt ceiling would be raised by at least that amount.
According to one preliminary outline of the deal, it would eliminate some tax breaks, but Coburn told National Review the deal would result in a net tax decrease of $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
One feature in the Gang of Six compromise that is expected to be popular with conservatives: It would eliminate the alternative minimum tax, which is structured to take a bigger and bigger bite each year out of the middle class. But elimination of the alternative minimum tax would occur perhaps six months down the road. That provoked skepticism in some quarters.
President Barack Obama immediately embraced the plan, calling it consistent with the talking points he has submitted to Congress and the media in recent weeks.
Ironically, perhaps, the new Senate plan was announced the same day the House was slated to pass a much more stringent proposal that would require a two-thirds vote of Congress to raise any additional tax revenues.
Questions immediately arose about the new plan’s viability in the lower chamber.
CNNMoney reported there was “absolutely no guarantee the no-taxes-ever conservatives in the House will go for it.”
David S. Addington, the Heritage Foundation’s vice president for domestic and economic policy, who was former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, called the Gang of Six proposal “the third Senate-originated half-baked idea this week that would lead to hiking the debt limit.”
Writing on The Foundry blog, Addington criticized the plan for relying on “procedural gimmicks that promise Congress will do in the future what it won’t do now to control spending. The time has passed for procedural gimmickry — Congress should cut spending and cut it now.”
Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, suggested that the Gang of Six proposal so far is too vague to even merit an evaluation.
“What should taxpayers think about the 'Gang of Six' announcement today?” he wrote. “The Gang of Six ‘plan’ is not written in legislative language. It is an outline. It punts many decisions to the Senate Finance Committee. It deals in ranges rather than specifics.
“When it is eventually written down in legislative language and every American can read it, taxpayers will then learn whether the ‘plan’ raises taxes or cuts taxes and seriously reduces spending or fails to mandate spending reductions,” Norquist wrote.
House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gave the Gang of Six proposal mixed reviews in a statement emailed to Newsmax Tuesday evening.
“The proposal put forward by a group of seven senators today is a useful addition to the budget debate,” he stated. “I share the frustration that these senators appear to have with the U.S. Senate’s inability to pass a budget in over 800 days.
“While the proposal lacks detail in many respects, it includes some reforms that could help put our country on a sounder fiscal footing. Most importantly, it reflects a bipartisan recognition that lower tax rates are essential to help spur economic growth.
“Unfortunately, it increases revenues while failing to seriously address exploding federal spending on healthcare, which is the primary driver of our debt. Nevertheless, this effort serves as a sign that we can work together on a bipartisan basis to make a serious down payment now to avert the debt-fueled economic crisis before us,” Ryan stated.