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‘Gang of Six’ Tries to Stay Relevant

The Senate “gang of six” is trying to remain part of the debate over the debt and deficit, but Members of the bipartisan group said they are mindful that they need to allow the work of the new Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to proceed undisturbed.

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), a member of the gang of six, said Thursday evening that the group still wants to play a role, but it doesn’t want to outshine the super committee, which is the official center of the deficit reduction debate.

“I think that is evolving,” Crapo said of the role the group will play.

Still, he said that he expects the gang of six will present its plan to the committee but that nothing has been set up and talks among the gang and its supporters are ongoing. The gang of six released a deficit reduction plan in July that would have reduced the deficit by about $3.7 trillion over 10 years.

“I would think that we would present our proposal to the committee, the proposal that has been developed to this point,” Crapo said. “I would think there may be some refinements to that with the larger group coming together.”

He also said he wouldn’t rule out other proposals being presented to the committee. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who rejoined the gang after taking a break because of a disagreement over entitlement cuts with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), has his own proposal that would cut $9 trillion over 10 years.

Crapo also said he wants to try to pursue other avenues outside the committee to encourage lawmakers to embrace a deal bigger than the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction that the committee is tasked with forging, but that is not likely until the committee runs its course. The committee is scheduled to vote on a package by around Thanksgiving.

“I don’t think this [committee] is the only avenue for us to pursue,” Crapo said. However, he added, “Right now I don’t think we should do anything that would interfere with the operations of this committee, so the primary focus in the near months would be to try to get the current special committee the support it needs, the encouragement it needs to go much larger than the $1.2 trillion.”

Durbin also said this week that the gang of six would like to see the super committee — created by the August bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling — go beyond its mandate of finding at least $1.2 trillion on deficit reduction over 10 years.

“We still have a shared goal beyond what was being considered, and we are talking about how we pursue that,” Durbin said upon leaving a Wednesday meeting, which included more than a dozen Republican and Democratic Senators supportive of the gang of six.

“I would like to see us do that, [but] I don’t know if the super committee can or will,” Durbin said. “I think the message most of us delivered [at the meeting] is we want to be supportive of the super committee process, and we want it to succeed and we hope we can set the stage for even more deficit reduction.”

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