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House Members Still Trying to ‘Go Big’

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Mike Simpson is a key Republican on the Go Big Coalition, which hopes to craft language in the next few months to reduce the deficit.

“The biggest advantage that the super committee had was that they were guaranteed to get something on the floor. Somehow we want to maintain that,” he said. “The question is, even if we come up with a codified Simpson-Bowles, can we get it on the floor?”

Adding to the complications is that the group likely has a three- or four-month timeline in which to do so before electioneering begins to suck all of the legislative air out of the room, Simpson said.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who is playing an influential role behind the scenes, said Tuesday that he is “hopeful that the Bowles-Simpson proposal will be given new life,” and he gave a hat tip to “those who are working on substantive legislative proposals to offer to the Congress.”

The Maryland Democrat took to the floor Wednesday to talk up that agenda and the campaign to “go big” on deficit reduction.

Stakeholders in the group underscore that it’s a diverse cross section of the House and includes Members of all political stripes, from the Congressional Black Caucus to the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition to the conservative Republican Study Committee to the moderate GOP Tuesday Group and beyond.

Buy-in from leadership in both chambers will be crucial to bringing a deal to the floor, however. Rep. Michael Grimm, a member of the GOP whip team, said “there is some talk” with Republican leaders on how to move forward but that right now the coalition is focused on hashing out a $4 trillion deal.

“There is some leadership involved, but overall we really want to make this an effort of the Members and really, truly keep as much politics out of it as we can,” the New Yorker said.

Like other Members interviewed, Grimm conceded that electoral politics are another hurdle to the group’s mission. He pointed to broad bipartisan efforts to reform immigration during President George W. Bush’s administration and the Senate’s failed attempts at an energy overhaul as examples. He also acknowledged that the coalition could fold in a similarly dramatic fashion.

“We’re in Washington; there’s always going to be politics,” he said.

And that goes for both sides. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), chairman of the CBC, noted that while Congressional Republicans may want to prevent any bipartisan wins for President Barack Obama to tout, “I admit, if things were reversed, we would not want to give the Republican president any victories either at this point in the game.”

On the Senate side, members of the gang of six held formal meetings right up until the end of 2011, and the group is aiming to introduce legislation this year. Just like House Members, a Senate GOP aide said the group is “looking at taking Bowles-Simpson and seeing what tweaks can be made to impact the score.”

The gang of six, which has now expanded to eight Senators, was criticized by Members of both parties last year for introducing its $3.7 trillion package too late to influence the debt limit debate. Staffers griped at the private nature of the talks, and neither Reid nor Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fully embraced its efforts. This time around, an aide to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said, things will be different.

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