Can the 'Gang of 6' end the debt fight?

A bipartisan group of senators wins President Obama's endorsement with a plan to cut $3.7 trillion from future deficits. Will it save us from default?

A demonstrator in front of the Capitol on Monday: A new deficit-reduction proposal from the Senate's bipartisan "Gang of 6" has the potential to end the debt-ceiling standoff with a rare Gran
(Image credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

When Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) pulled out of the Senate's "Gang of 6" in May, the group's goal of creating a bipartisan plan to shrink the federal deficit was given up for dead. But when the staunch fiscal conservative rejoined the gang on Tuesday, and the six senators (three Republicans and three Democrats) lobbed into the debt-celing fight a viable proposal to cut at least $3.7 trillion over 10 years, President Obama gave the plan his nod of support. The plan would raise $1 trillion in revenue by closing tax loopholes, reduce future Social Security benefits, and slash hundreds of billions of dollars from a variety of federal departments. The proposal's warm reception on Tuesday made for "one of the more exhilarating days of legislative politics we've had in quite some time," says Joe Klein at TIME. Can the enthusiastically greeted proposal get Congress to raise the debt ceiling before the U.S. defaults?

This is Congress' best "escape hatch": The Gang of 6 deal just "may be the deus ex machina that magically resolves the debt-ceiling impasse," says Jon Healey in the Los Angeles Times. It requires partisans on both sides to "stick a fork in their favorite campaign issues," but there are wins for each side, too. "The lateness of the hour (in debt-ceiling terms) could also lead more sober-minded legislators" to embrace this Grand Bargain before the clock runs out.

"The Gang of Six provides a debt-ceiling escape hatch?"

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House Republicans will never go for it: Capitol Hill certainly "freaked out" about the Gang of 6's vague, late-entry solution to the debt-ceiling impasse, says Joshua Green at The Atlantic. But it won't solve anything. House Republicans have already emphatically rejected any plan that increases revenue, and the gang's proposal does just that. Plus, there's not enough time left to pass the plan before the Aug. 2 default date — and remember, "that's the huge problem for the time being."

"How to think about the Gang of 6 hype"

But the gang's plan has long-term traction: It's true that the Gang of 6 plan probably won't "be fast-tracked through Congress as part of a bipartisan deal to raise the debt limit," says Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo. "But its future beyond that is much rosier." If Congress is really serious about reducing the deficit, the plan that both Obama and an "influential conservative" like Coburn can sign onto is "only viable, publicly available framework" to do it.

"Back from the dead? Obama hugs Gang of Six..."

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