‘Gang of Six’ plan picks up support in Senate

WASHINGTON — Defying a veto threat, the Republican-controlled House voted Tuesday night to slice federal spending by $6 trillion and require a constitutional balanced budget amendment to be sent to the states in exchange for averting a threatened Aug. 2 government default.

WASHINGTON — Defying a veto threat, the Republican-controlled House voted Tuesday night to slice federal spending by $6 trillion and require a constitutional balanced budget amendment to be sent to the states in exchange for averting a threatened Aug. 2 government default.

The 234-190 vote marked the power of deeply conservative first-term Republicans, and it stood in contrast to rising support at the White House and in the Senate for a late stab at bipartisanship to solve the nation’s looming debt crisis.

President Barack Obama and a startling number of Republican senators lauded a deficit-reduction plan put forward earlier in the day that would include $1 trillion in what sponsors delicately called “additional revenue” and some critics swiftly labeled as higher taxes.

The president said he hoped congressional leaders would “start talking turkey” on a deal to reduce deficits and raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit as soon as Wednesday, using the plan by the so-called Senate Gang of Six as a roadmap.

Wall Street cheered the news of possible compromise as well. The Dow Jones industrials average soared 202 points, the biggest one-day leap this year.

Treasury officials say that without an increase in U.S. borrowing authority by Aug. 2, the government will not be able to pay all its bills, and default could result with severe consequences for the economy.

But a few hours after Obama spoke at the White House, supporters of the newly passed House measure breathed defiance.

“Let me be clear. This is the compromise. This is the best plan out there,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, head of a conservative group inside the House known as the Republican Study Committee.

The legislation, dubbed “Cut, Cap and Balance” by supporters, would make an estimated $111 billion in immediate reductions and ensure that overall spending declined in the future in relation to the overall size of the economy.

It also would require both houses of Congress to approve a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and send it to the states for ratification.

With a dwindling amount of time remaining, the day’s events did little to suggest a harmonious end was in sight to a clash between the parties.

Senate Democrats have announced they will oppose the House passed-measure, although it could take two or three days to complete debate.

Debate in the House was along predictable lines, and only nine Republicans opposed the bill and five Democrats supported it on final passage.

“Our bloated and obese federal budget needs a healthy and balanced diet, one that trims the fat of overspending and grows the muscle of our nation’s economy,” said Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin during debate on the measure.

Ribble is one of 87 first-term House Republicans determined to reduce the size of government.

Democrats said the measure, with its combination of cuts and spending limits, would inflict damage on millions who rely on Social Security, Medicare and other programs. “The Republicans are trying to repeal the second half of the 20th century,” said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Michigan.

House Speaker John Boehner played a muted role in public during the day. He did not speak on the House floor on the legislation.

In recognition of the political realities, he told reporters that it also was “responsible to look at what Plan B would look like.”

He did not discuss what alternatives he had in mind, although the Senate’s top two leaders have been at work on one that would let the president raise the debt limit without prior approval by Congress.

The “Gang of Six” briefed other senators on the group’s plan after a seemingly quixotic quest that took months, drew disdain at times from the leaders of both parties and appeared near failure more than once.

It calls for deficit cuts of slightly less than $4 trillion over a decade and includes steps to slow the growth of Social Security payments, cut at least $500 billion from Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs and wring billions in savings from programs across the face of government.

It envisions tax changes that would reduce existing breaks for a number of popular items while reducing the top income bracket from the current 35 per cent to 29 per cent or less.

The tax overhaul “must be estimated to provide $1 trillion in additional revenue to meet plan targets,” according to a summary that circulated in the Capitol.

Some Republicans noted a claim contained in the summary that congressional bookkeeping rules could consider the plan a tax cut of $1.5 trillion — a yardstick that credits sponsors for retaining income tax cuts enacted when George W. Bush was president.

The group of six includes three Democrats, Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Mark Warner of Virginia and Dick Durbin of Illinois, a member of the leadership.

The three Republicans, all conservatives, are Sens. Mike Crapo of Idaho, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who has a particularly close relationship with Boehner dating to their days together in the House.

In recommending higher government revenues, Republicans in the group challenged party orthodoxy that has held sway for two decades, ever since President George H.W. Bush memorably broke his “no new taxes” pledge to make a deficit reduction deal with congressional Democrats.

In the years since, refusal to raise taxes has become a virtually inviolable article of faith among Republicans, and used by them and their allies in countless political campaigns against Democrats.

Recently, Republicans who voted to repeal a tax subsidy for ethanol production drew criticism from Grover Norquist, a prominent anti-tax activist, for not applying the savings to deficit reduction.

Even so, in the hours after the Gang of Six briefed other lawmakers on their plan, at least one member of the Republican Senate leadership, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, signed on as a supporter. So, too, did Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.

“We have an opportunity to act like statesmen and avoid a debacle on Aug. 2, and it seems to me that all of our efforts should be focused on that,” added Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. He and others said the plan was well-received at a weekly closed-door meeting of GOP senators.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., asked about possible objections from tea party activists, said the measure “checks every box” for advocates of smaller government, including cuts in government spending and an overhaul of the tax code to eliminate special breaks.

Obama stopped well short of endorsing the plan, saying administration officials were analyzing it and not all details were known.

But he said it included “a revenue component” along with savings in Medicare and Social Security, making it the sort of balanced approach he has long advocated.

He also noted that the Senate’s two top leaders have been co-operating on a measure that would allow him to raise the debt limit without a prior vote of Congress while also setting up a special committee to recommend cuts from federal programs, including Social Security and Medicare.

“That continues to be a necessary approach to put forward. In the event that we don’t get an agreement, at minimum, we’ve got to raise the debt ceiling,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine that was administered to seniors, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. A second COVID-19 vaccine is being investigated for possible links to blood clots, though the syndrome appears to be extremely rare. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rogelio V. Solis
Canada receives report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca

OTTAWA — A Quebec woman is the first in Canada to develop… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney struck back at unruly protesters who chanted ‘lock her up’ in relation to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Monday. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Alberta Premier calls for ‘unhinged conspiracy theorists’ to stop threatening the chief medical officer

Spreading misinformation, making threats is ‘beyond the pale,’ said Kenney

An internal investigation by AHS revealed 3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly by two clerical employees in the diagnostic imaging department at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Employees access 3K patients’ records in privacy breach at Red Deer hospital

3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly

The Red Deer Boxing Club will be moving to a larger space, in North Red Deer. The programs need more room to grow, says founder Robert Carswell. (Photo by LANA MICHELIn/Advocate staff).
Red Deer Boxing Club is moving to north industrial site

The property was rezoned to accommodate recreational uses

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Air Canada agrees to $5.9-billion aid package, giving Ottawa equity stake in airline

$1.4 billion earmarked to help reimburse thousands of customers

An emergency response worker carries an air monitoring device at the site of a crude oil spill at a Trans Mountain Pipeline pump station in Abbotsford, on Sunday, June 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Failed fitting caused 190,000-litre spill at Trans Mountain site in B.C.: TSB

VANCOUVER — A Transportation Safety Board report says the failure of a… Continue reading

Ottawa
Indigenous leaders, experts urge Ottawa to quickly pass UNDRIP bill before election

OTTAWA — Indigenous leaders and legal experts are pushing federal lawmakers to… Continue reading

Visitors to a roadside memorial pay their respects in Portapique, N.S., on Friday, April 24, 2020. The Canadian Red Cross confirmed today it has collected $6.2 million in donations to help the families in rural Nova Scotia affected by the mass shooting last spring that claimed 22 lives. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Red Cross collects $6.2 million for families affected by Nova Scotia mass shooting

HALIFAX — Canadians and people from around the world donated $6.2 million… Continue reading

Hindu devotees wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers inside a temple dedicated to goddess Kali in Jammu, India, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. New infections have surged in the past month and India has now reported over 13.6 million cases — pushing its toll past Brazil, and making it second only to the United States. In the past 24 hours, over 160,000 new infections have been detected and experts fear that the worst is yet to come. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Johnson & Johnson delays shot rollout in Europe

BERLIN — Johnson & Johnson says it is delaying the rollout of… Continue reading

Restaurant workers and restaurant delivery workers wait in line to sign up for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine site, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in the Sunset Park neighborhood of New York. The mobile vaccination effort includes two buses equipped with four to six vaccinators each, delivering the COVID-19 vaccine directly to communities most in need. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose… Continue reading

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Canadian actor/producer/director Jay Baruchel is photographed at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont., ahead of the premier of Baruchel’s movie Random Acts of Violence, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Jay Baruchel to host Amazon Prime Video’s ‘LOL: Last One Laughing Canada’

Final comedian left standing wins a grand prize for a charity of their choice

Most Read