Aug. 22, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Hopes for ‘Gang of Six’ Wane

Tom Williams/Roll Call

“Any plan that doesn’t have 60 votes is irrelevant,” he said. “Dr. Coburn doesn’t care who gets us there or who the process helps or hurts politically. If we don’t tackle our debt crisis we’re all toast.” Sixty votes are needed to avoid a filibuster.

But one senior Democratic aide said Tuesday that there is a sense of urgency for the gang of six to reach a deal but that the Members also believe that they still have time because of new estimates showing the government may not breach the debt limit until as late as Aug. 2.

“We’re not getting left behind at all, but we’re conscious of our place and are trying to get the timing right,” the aide said.

Conrad’s budget would simply be an opening salvo for negotiations with the House.

“Conrad is facing intense pressure to do something on the budget,” the aide said. “He’s got to produce something.”

The aide argued that Conrad’s budget could end up providing a bridge to a broader deal rather than undercutting it. Conrad said his budget blueprint does not touch Social Security but in general follows the plan proposed by the co-chairmen of the president’s fiscal commission last year. He added that it would raise revenue but could do so while still cutting tax rates overall and getting rid of tax loopholes. That idea has been largely embraced by Democrats but has split Republicans, some of whom simply call it a different kind of tax increase.

Conrad’s plan also includes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, he said, although the cuts are far smaller than those proposed by the House.

Reid ripped the House budget blueprint, as well as a proposal from Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) that would mandate deep cuts in spending. That proposal has already gotten the backing of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, a member of the Budget Committee, said there is a desire to do a budget soon. And although he would prefer a bipartisan agreement, he said, they cannot wait if one doesn’t materialize quickly.

“The pressure’s on us to move,” the Maryland Democrat said. “I think we need to give direction to our committees.”

Cardin also said that Democrats are concerned that a successful negotiation with Senate Republicans will not be enough for House GOP Members, who have rallied around an austere budget.

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