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Senators Urge Super Committee to Think Big

A bipartisan group of more than 30 Senators today urged the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to go beyond its mandate and identify more than $1.5 trillion in deficit savings over 10 years.

“Let’s set expectations much higher than where they are,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said. “Please, we will be with you; show some courage.”

The group, led by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), is calling for a deficit reduction package that would cut at least $4 trillion from the deficit over 10 years. The group also wants the super committee to draw from other plans that have been put forward, including from the “gang of six,” of which Warner and Chambliss were members.

The gang of six proposal, released in July, would have cut about $3.7 trillion over 10 years by targeting entitlements and taxes. Other existing plans include a proposal from former Senate Budget Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin and a plan offered by the president’s deficit commission led by retired Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), also an original member of the gang, said the super committee should “look at the work that has already been done.”

“These things should all be looked at [because], frankly, they don’t have time to reinvent the wheel,” Conrad continued.

Conrad added that the gang of six spent “hundreds and hundreds of hours” developing their plan.

The group also wants the super committee to start the process of tax reform, which they argue would boost the economy by lowering the rates and clawing back tax expenditures.

Conrad suggested that the panel — like the gang of six proposal — could give committees of jurisdiction an assignment and a deadline to take on tax reform.

Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.), who has a reform proposal with Sen. Den Coats (R-Ind.), said that it’s just a matter of doing the work and that it could be completed by early next year.

“This is an issue now where if there is a will, there is a way,” Wyden said. He added that the 1986 reform tax package created 6.3 million jobs in two years after enactment.

The super committee is charged with approving its own package by Nov. 23, and House and Senate votes must occur on that plan by Dec. 23. If it fails to produce a plan, mandatory cuts in discretionary spending will take place beginning in 2013.

But it’s not clear if any of the gang of six efforts will have any effect. Senate leaders have not embraced any of the existing plans. And none of those involved with the group were appointed to the super committee.

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