The alacrity with which Democratic and Republican senators have thrown themselves behind the Gang of Six’s framework for deficit reduction — including cuts to entitlement spending and major tax reform — illustrates how desperate the Senate is to put the debt ceiling brinksmanship behind them.
But the leaders of both parties are well aware there’s no time to ram this through the House and Senate before the United States defaults on its payment obligations early next month — and increasing the country’s borrowing limit has to be Congress’ top priority.
Here’s Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), addressing reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday.
“I think it’s something we have to look at closely,” he said, before cautioning:
There’s no legislative language and understand before we start passing a bill out of the senate it has to start in the House because of the heavy revenue in the bill. So the house would have to start this, but as I indicated in the caucus this morning, if there’s a way in the next few days we can impove upon some of the legislation we’re talking about doing, I’m happy to take elements of the gang of 6 and work with them to get that done….
Again I repeat, I’m happy to work and use anything in the gang of six that we can, but remember we only have 13 days, 13 days, and there’s a number of senators who said they’ll do anything they can to stop the debt ceiling from being increased …..so procedurally I have to move through all the different hoops to there…. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the enthusiasm people have for the gang of six.
His GOP counterpart, Mitch McConnell was less effusive. “I don’t have an opinion yet,” he said. “We’re pleased to hear their recommendation, but I haven’t had a chance to decide how I feel about it.”
But wide swaths of both parties seem prepared to get the plan passed as quickly as possible. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Senate’s number three Republican threw his weight behind it. And opinions varied across both caucuses about how to take most swiftly take action on it. Gang of Six member Dick Durbin (D-IL) acknowledged that the Senate is too short on time to pass it before the country defaults. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) said Obama should agree to a short term extension of the borrowing limit to give Congress enough time to pass the plan in both chambers.
But even if 60-plus members of the Senate ultimately get behind this plan, it has an uncertain future in the House, where the Republican party is currently gripped by a hyper-rigid anti-tax orthodoxy.
That’s a lot of clamor — which means we’ll probably have to wait a few days to see what role the Gang of Six framework will have in either the debt limit fight, or the ongoing debate about deficit reduction on Capitol Hill in the months ahead.
Additional reporting by Igor Bobic.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.