Opposition Grows to ‘Gang of Six Plan’

Wednesday, 20 Jul 2011 12:46 PM

By Martin Gould

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The compromise “Gang of Six” plan to get out of the debt ceiling crisis was blasted Wednesday by conservatives angered that any Republicans would be considering a plan that calls for $1 trillion in taxes -- under the guise of balancing the budget. 

Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, said the gang’s numbers don't add up. He described the plan as “a backroom bill."

And Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, complained that the gang plan was not written down. “Nothing [to] praise or criticize,” he tweeted before sending another message slapping down the National Journal for saying his organization had backed the plan.

“Absolutely not,” he wrote. “Obama did . . . makes you wonder how big the tax hike is.”

House Majority leader Eric Cantor said "the plan fails to significantly address the largest drivers of America's debt, and it is unclear how the goals of tax and entitlement reforms would be enforced."

The proposal to cut the debt by $3.7 trillion was greeted warmly by a few lawmakers inside both parties and President Barack Obama called it “broadly consistent” with his approach to solving the long-running impasse.

But, like all other plans to find a way out of the stalemate, it is still a long way from a done deal with just two weeks left before the Treasury’s Aug. 2 deadline for default.

Grover Norquist
Norquist, the low-tax advocate who has become a powerful voice among Republicans, signaled that opposition among House Republicans is likely to grow in the days to come.

When the plan was announced on Tuesday Norquist took a wait-and-see stance, but he seemed to be distancing himself further and further in a series of Twitter messages on Wednesday.

The Gang of Six — Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Mike Crapo of Idaho, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and Democrats Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Dick Durbin of Illinois — had seemed dead after Coburn walked out in May, saying he did not see a way the group could reach agreement.

But he suddenly announced on Tuesday that he had returned after the group’s deliberations took a rightward shift.

“We were never as dead as the press thought we were,” Warner told the New York Times, adding that he had become “obsessed” with working out a deal. “There have been some long nights where I wanted to pull out my hair.”

The plan was gaining more support in the Senate than in the House, where freshmen Republicans are reluctant to be seen to endorse anything that smells of tax increases. Wyoming Republican Sen. Mike Enzi called it “a positive effort at a passable solution,” adding, “This plan could be the way out of all the angry rhetoric coming from both sides.

“I’m sure there is not 100 percent agreement on all the decisions, but they realize that something has to be done.”

Norquist’s complaint that there is nothing written down and therefore no bill to consider is one of the major drawbacks for the plan. There are severe doubts that it can be incorporated into legislation before Aug. 2. Even Durbin admitted, “It’s not ready for prime time.”

The Gang of Six proposes that government spending should be cut by $500 billion immediately as a start on the deficit reduction plan. It calls for marginal income tax rates to be lowered and an eventual abolition of the alternative minimum tax.

Three new tax brackets — 8-12 percent, 14-22 percent, and 23-29 percent — would be introduced in a bid to raise $1 trillion in revenue, the part of the plan that is bound to anger many Republicans in the House.

Coburn said he had returned to the gang because it had a proposal to cut  entitlement programs, including slashing $116 billion from healthcare. He called that move “significant.”

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