Obama Warm to ‘Gang of Six’ Budget Plan

Posted July 19, 2011 at 1:11pm

President Barack Obama stopped short of endorsing the deficit reduction plan outlined by the Senate’s “gang of six,” but he expressed hope that it could provide the framework for a larger deal to increase the debt limit.

He said he would be calling House and Senate leaders Tuesday afternoon or evening to set up another negotiating session at the White House for sometime this week.

Obama praised the gang’s proposal because it shows that Republicans and Democrats can agree on tough spending cuts and increased revenues. He said it would not “match perfectly” with the direction he has been heading but that he and the group are “on the same playing field.”

Obama has been pushing Congressional lawmakers to agree to a sweeping deficit reduction deal as part of his push to raise the debt ceiling before the country bumps up against the Treasury Department’s Aug. 2 deadline to lift the debt ceiling.

“We don’t have any more time for symbolic gestures,” Obama said after warning that the public and the stock market could begin “reacting adversely pretty quickly” if Congress does not settle on a plan. He reiterated his veto threat of conservatives’ Cut, Cap and Balance plan, which requires passage of a balanced budget constitutional amendment before the debt limit could be raised. The House is expected to vote Tuesday afternoon on the Cut, Cap and Balance measure.

Obama said he still supports the efforts of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to craft a Plan B that would, at a minimum, allow him to raise the debt limit but ensure that Congress could vote on resolutions of disapproval.

“We have to have that fail-safe,” Obama said, even as he said he hopes “everybody seizes the opportunity” that the gang of six is providing for a large, bipartisan debt and deficit deal.

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.

The gang’s plan, which its members outlined Tuesday to a bipartisan group of nearly 50 Senators, would trim entitlements and other spending programs but would raise more than $1 trillion in new revenue from shrinking tax breaks.

Besides Conrad, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) are original group members.

Coburn said Tuesday he believes a filibuster-proof majority of Senators will end up supporting the plan.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.