Senators Urge Obama to Lead on Deficit Reduction

Posted March 18, 2011 at 12:02pm

The Senate’s “Gang of Six” now looks more like the Gang of 64.

Nearly two-thirds of the Senate is calling on President Barack Obama to lead an effort to reach a comprehensive deficit reduction deal along the general outlines of last year’s fiscal commission proposal.

The group of 64 Senators — half Democrats and half Republicans — urged talks on a comprehensive deal that would include cuts to discretionary and mandatory spending as well as tax reform.

The letter gives a big boost to the effort by the Gang of Six Senators who have been working to turn the commission’s recommendations into action.

“As you know, a bipartisan group of Senators has been working to craft a comprehensive deficit reduction package based upon the recommendations of the Fiscal Commission,” states the letter, which was organized by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). “While we may not agree with every aspect of the Commission’s recommendations, we believe that its work represents an important foundation to achieve meaningful progress on our debt.”

Senators in both parties have said in recent weeks that nothing will happen unless Obama makes the issue a priority, and he so far has proposed little other than lip service.

The Gang of Six are Democrats Dick Durbin (Ill.), Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Mark Warner (Va.) and Republicans Tom Coburn (Okla.), Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), all of whom signed the letter.

The letter does not have the signatures of the Senate’s top leaders, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Both have called for a significant deficit reduction package, but Reid has said that cuts in Social Security benefits are off the table as far as he’s concerned.