The Senate’s “gang of six” appears to be headed toward a budget compromise that would boost tax revenues and rein in popular entitlement programs, according to a Democrat and a Republican from the bipartisan group who appeared Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“If we don’t have an agreement soon, we won’t be relevant to this discussion,” Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said. “We intend to be relevant. We have made enormous progress in this group. It is the only bipartisan effort that is under way, and at the end of the day it has to be bipartisan or nothing is going to happen.”
The group’s recognition that compromise is required perhaps explains why Conrad is embracing plans to overhaul Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Reforming entitlement programs has largely been a priority for Republicans.
It may also explain the willingness of Sen. Tom Coburn to raise additional tax revenues, partially by closing perceived loopholes, despite a pledge he signed with the conservative interest group Americans for Tax Reform.
“Which pledge is most important — the pledge to hold your oath to the Constitution of the United States? Or a pledge from a special interest group who claims to speak for all of America’s conservatives, when in fact they really don’t?” the Oklahoma Republican asked on “Meet the Press.” “We’re not talking about raising tax rates at all. If there’s a net effect of tax revenue, that would be fine with me. I experienced that during Reagan’s period in 1986.”
Coburn added that a compromise that can earn 60 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House is critical.
“The president doesn’t have a plan that’ll get 60 votes,” he said. “The House doesn’t have a plan that’ll get 60 votes. And what Sen. Conrad and myself and other colleagues are trying to do is — where is the compromise that’ll save our country?”
Both men suggested they would not support a long-term plan to raise the nation’s debt limit unless it includes major plans for debt reduction.
“Our country is headed for a fiscal cliff,” Conrad said. “This is a defining moment. We’ve got to decide as a nation, are we going to do some things that all of us would prefer not to have to do, or do we wait for the roof to cave in?”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who appeared Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said he believes “unequivocally” that Congress will vote to raise the debt ceiling. The spending reductions are the undecided issue, the Connecticut Democrat added.
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.