Gang of Eight hopes to ride to ‘deficit rescue’
October 07, 2012 12:19 AM | 2034 views | 4 4 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While most lawmakers are preoccupied with the election campaign, some members of the Senate, dubbed the Gang of Eight, have not been totally idle.

They have been quietly, sometimes secretly, searching for a solution, what The Hill newspaper called “the elusive grand deficit bargain,” to that day when all the Bush tax cuts expire and $109 billion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts are to take effect, the much discussed fiscal cliff.

Their idea, a sensible one, is to draw up a plan to deal with that crisis so that when Congress returns for its lame-duck session following the election the members are not proceeding from a totally blank piece of paper.

Much depends on the outcome of that election. Even if President Barack Obama is reelected, the Senate remains Democratic and the House Republican, the voters may have made it clear during the campaign that they are tired of the partisan gridlock in Washington.

However, the Gang of Eight — it was six but they picked up two more members — is up against the same impasse that stymied three previous attempts to address the deficit. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has said he is opposed to cuts in Social Security as part of any deal, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is equally adamant about no tax increases.

The six, who began meeting in the summer of 2011, include Democratic whip Dick Durbin, Ill.; retiring Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.); Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.);and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). They’ve since been joined by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).

Reports from Capitol Hill say the leadership of the two parties are keeping their distance from the Gang of Eight. A reasonable surmise is that the leaders don’t want to commit to any deal until all the members are back.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who’s supportive of the efforts by the “Gang,” sounded optimistic in a speech Thursday to The Atlanta Press Club in Atlanta.

“We’ll probably pass a pathway to the future in the lame-duck session, meaning we’ll probably forestall the tax increases from taking place,” he said. “We’ll probably forestall the sequestration from taking place. But we’ll take some initial corrective steps in spending and regulation to send a signal to the rest of the world that the Americans are finally going to address their problem.”

Once the election is over, Congress has only 55 days to come up with a solution. The House is ready with a bill that would postpone the tax hike and the automatic budget cuts for one year.

But this would be another dreary example of Congress not solving problems, only postponing them or, as the like to say on the Hill, kick the can down the road.

What we, and we suspect many others, would like to see is the “Gang of Eight” grow by year’s end to a “Gang of 100.”
Comments
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Citizen Sane
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October 08, 2012
Well, you got me there, fella. I guess I should not try to write after 10pm. The sentence should have read that in a number of years, Republicans have not supported middle class initiatives. So the GOP voted social security in 1935?? That was 77 years ago and I don't think they are anywhere near the level of moderation and consideration now that they were 77 years ago. Lastly, I have no interest in reading your recitation of "other government programs Republicans have at times supported.." My statement regarded middle class benefits and Republicans have not been friends of the middle class for some time.

To Samuel Adams: Apparently you haven't heard the following--

"(PAUL RYAN)Vowed to “protect” Social Security: Years before Ryan advocated a form of Social Security privatization so extreme that even former President George W. Bush called it “irresponsible,” Ryan pledged to his constituents that, if elected, he would “preserve Social Security,” calling it a “moral duty.” He also called for re-separating Social Security funds from general funds, an idea made famous with Al Gore’s “lockbox.” Scott Keyes, ThinkProgress.com,August 13, 2012
What? You're INsane.
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October 08, 2012
What is Citizen Sane talking about? Republicans have as long a history of helping the middle class as Democrats. In reality, the Republican approach is more about stimulating the economy and providing jobs, but even social security was passed in a bipartisan fashion. I could go through other government programs Republicans have at times supported, but since social security is your big issue, check the vote tallies in 1935. Apparently you don't know the definition of NEVER.
Citizen Sane
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October 07, 2012
Social security does not contribute to the deficit.

Sen. Reid is correct not to agree to any Republican plans to cut social security benefits. Republicans never met the middle class retirement--health--education--housing--or any other benefit to the middle class that they liked. NEVER!!
Samuel Adams
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October 08, 2012
Apparently you haven't heard that Al Gore's Social Security "lockbox" was a fraud and a sham, and that the entitlement fund will go broke no matter who is in power, unless something is done to reform it today. You are like an ostrich with your head in the sand, Citizen Sane.

And any Gang or committee with Dick Durbin ("our military is just like the Nazis") is doomed to failure. He is one of the most partisan hacks in the senate. Saxby...I'm not too sure about him either.
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