Three Democrats and three Republicans — all leaders in their parties — have come up with a plan to cut $4 trillion out of the federal budget over the coming 10 years and raise revenues, pointing the way toward a balanced budget.
The so-called Gang of Six immediately became a Gang of Seven as President Barack Obama signed on.
The bipartisan group built on last year’s debt reduction commission report to the president, which also sought deep reductions in the entitlement programs along with more revenue through elimination of tax breaks and a rewrite of the income tax code.
The proposal includes major concessions by Democrats, including cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
In the meantime, House Republicans passed their “cut, cap and balance” bill which all agree is primarily symbolic. It puts Republicans on record as backers of extreme measures, but has no chance of passage in the Senate.
With that behind them, at least some of the House Republicans would support the bipartisan Senate bill. It presents an opportunity for massive spending cuts, to achieve tax reform and move toward long-term budget control.
The six senators who labored for more than six months on their outline are Republicans Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Sen. Michael D. Crapo of Idaho and Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia; Democrats Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Kent Conrad of N. Dakota, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
They already have the pledged support of 43 other senators, which puts them within two votes of a majority.
Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran could provide those two votes. As of Wednesday morning, neither had committed themselves to it. The Register requested the Associated Press to ask both a direct question on the issue of the day. Their responses will be provided to Register readers.
THE GANG OF SIX didn’t write bills to implement their proposals. Their ideas are compressed into a four-page outline of specifics. Perhaps there isn’t time between now and the Aug. 2 debt ceiling deadline to turn that outline into legislation. But if support for the ideas is firm, the debt ceiling could be lifted temporarily while the bill-writing took place. If radical opposition makes that common sense approach impossible, then President Obama could follow former president Bill Clinton’s advice and raise the limit by executive order.
That action would be challenged in court, of course, but by the time the issue was resolved, reform legislation could be passed.
And that may be the only way this cat can get skinned.
— Emerson Lynn, jr.