“For me to say I love this bill that other people have worked on for months and months, I can’t do that,” Reid told reporters, adding, “Remember, we have only 13 days.”
The ticking clock is a major impediment to pursuing the Gang of Six strategy, which has yet to be drafted in legislative form or examined by congressional budget analysts. Opponents ripped into the sketchy details handed out at a morning briefing attended by about half the Senate, arguing that printed summaries identify nowhere near $3.7 trillion in savings.
Still, the plan was attracting interest among House Republicans eager for bold action to restrain borrowing. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio), a close Boehner ally, said, “Anything that moves toward the grand bargain that the speaker and the president have been working on is great.”
And freshman Rep. Charles F. Bass (R-N.H.) called the proposal “a move in the right direction.”
“There’s tax reform, there’s significant spending reduction, and there’s also a debt-ceiling increase,” Bass said. “This is a positive development, and I’m going to be very open-minded about it.”
In the Senate, the plan received a warm response, both during the invitation-only morning session and during separate luncheon briefings for Democrats and Republicans. Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, offered strong support. And Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a leader in the GOP on budget issues, backed the plan as well, after dropping out of the Gang of Six in mid-May.
“There was palpable relief from folks in that room this morning. Like they were saying, ‘Here’s something we can actually be for,’ ” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), a Gang of Six member who has relentlessly pressed his colleagues to reach consensus.
Now that the plan is in the open, Warner said, “it’s put-up-or-shut-up time — for all of us.”
The Gang of Six was formed in the wake of Obama’s fiscal commission, an 18-member panel whose ideas sparked broad interest. Reluctant to let that effort die, Warner and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) joined forces with four senators who served on the commission to try to draft legislation to bring its recommendations to a vote.
The newly released framework relies heavily on the fiscal commission’s work, calling for deep cuts at government agencies, including the Pentagon; significant reductions to Medicare and Medicaid; and a plan to make Social Security solvent.
It also calls for raising more than $1 trillion over the next decade by reducing a variety of popular tax breaks and deductions, including breaks for home mortgage interest and employer-provided health care. While some of those savings would be dedicated to debt reduction, the rest would go toward lowering tax rates for everyone, with top individual and corporate rates dropping to at least 29 percent, down from 35 percent.
The work on taxes and entitlements would be done largely by existing legislative committees that would be given targets for achieving savings over the next six months. If any committees failed to act, 10 senators — five from each party — could step in to offer their own proposal.
Senate Budget Committee
Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a member of the group, said Senate leaders were looking at ways to add Gang of Six goals to legislation already in development to raise the debt ceiling.
But “the first test,” Conrad said, is getting 60 senators to sign a letter saying, “This is a direction that deserves support.”
The emergence of the Gang of Six proposal overshadowed political sparring in the House on Tuesday over a GOP plan to cut spending by $111 billion next year, impose strict caps over the next decade and raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit only after Congress approves a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.
That measure, which passed 234 to 190, has virtually no chance of approval in the Senate. But lawmakers in both parties said the debate could prove useful in the quest for a final deal because it allows conservatives to go on record with their preferred plan before considering a less palatable alternative.
“I think there’s recognition that it’s not going to be signed into law,” Bass said of the measure known as “cut, cap, balance.” “But it’s an important step [that] allows people like me, who do support a balanced-budget amendment, an opportunity to vote on that.”
Staff writer Paul Kane contributed to this report.