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Senate staff is currently drafting language that could be the basis for a proposal this year, although the timing on its release is unclear. Some hope for action by this spring before legislating is overtaken by the summer campaign season, although Hill aides acknowledge that timeline is optimistic. A more realistic scenario, some say, is for something to be unveiled in time for the potential lame-duck session when Congress will have to consider whether to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and payroll tax holiday.
One thing Hoyer’s politicking demonstrated Monday was a fear that the efforts of the coalition could become a political nonentity, much like the Senate’s “gang of six” last year in the lead-up to the debt limit debate. That bipartisan group never had backing from its leadership, and nothing ever came of its plan to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a member of the gang of six, touted the group’s message at a Harvard University event last week and hopes to do more public addresses about the issue.
For the most part, though, the gang of six is in a holding pattern. Senate staffers, meanwhile, are working on a plan that updates the Simpson-Bowles proposal that would, among other things, raise the retirement age and cap the growth of Medicare and Medicaid.
“The plan needs to be updated, and for a group of Senators to come out and say they support the plan, the agreement needs to be among them,” one Senate aide said. “So I think it’s not an issue of competition as much as if either group is going to launch a plan, they have to feel comfortable owning it.”
Just like last year, Members are also trying to find the sweet spot between talking up their efforts in public to keep the focus shining bright while avoiding a multifront sales pitch that could lead to colossal disappointment if House and Senate negotiators fail to come to an agreement.
“You don’t want to do this and just get crushed because then you’ve wasted your shot,” the aide said.