The “gang of six” is back together, and they have a deal.
In fact, momentum surged Tuesday for the deficit reduction plan proposed by the gang of six Senators, with Sen. Tom Coburn throwing his support behind the plan and a broad group of Senators expected to announce their backing in the next 24 hours.
“I’m not on sabbatical,” the Oklahoma Republican said after a meeting with more than 50 Senators to discuss the plan. “I’m on board.”
Coburn previously walked away from the gang of six, citing differences over cuts to Medicare. But Tuesday, Coburn said it looks like about 60 Senators are likely to back the plan, which trims entitlements and other spending programs alongside more than $1 trillion in new revenue from shrinking tax breaks. Coburn’s comments came after the group briefed nearly 50 Senators on the plan Tuesday morning.
Coburn said he considers the deficit cuts in the plan a good start and significant enough to make a dent in the growing tide of debt.
The gang of six deal comes two weeks before the Treasury Department has said the U.S. will breach its debt limit. Lawmakers have been scrambling to come up with a deficit reduction deal to couple with any increase in the debt ceiling because some Republicans in the House and Senate have vowed to oppose upping the debt in the absence of such a plan.
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said Monday that the group’s plan includes $4.65 trillion in deficit cuts if lawmakers use the same baseline employed by the president’s fiscal commission. He said it cuts $3.6 trillion to $3.7 trillion relative to the latest Congressional Budget Office baseline.
Besides Conrad and Coburn, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) are original members of the gang of six.
Chambliss said the group has basically agreed to the package, with the exception of a few small details. He said he hopes to brief House lawmakers as well in hopes of enlisting their support. Chambliss is a close friend of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
Chambliss said the package includes more than $1 trillion in new revenue, but he said that revenue would be scored by the CBO as a tax cut. It would shrink deductions, lower tax rates and permanently fix the alternative minimum tax so it does not affect the middle class.
Several Senators from both parties spoke positively of the plan to reporters after the meeting. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) called the plan and the positive reaction from Senators “encouraging.”
And Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) strongly backed the outline.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.