As Dan notes, the “details” of the Gang of Six proposal that’s all the rage on Capitol Hill today (to the dismay of House Republicans trying to promote and pass “Cut, Cap, and Balance”) are excruciatingly vague. For example, the proposal, as outlined, urges Congress to: “Spend health care dollars more efficiently in order to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid,” and “Encourage greater economic growth.” Seriously, this is what they have been working on for six months? Of course, the devil will be in the actual details, if and when they are revealed (see here, for example).
As such, I’ve been told not to view the Gang’s plan as a solution to the debt-ceiling impasse per se. It’s possible that the $500 billion in (unspecified) immediate deficit reduction could be bundled in with the $1–1.5 trillion in cuts that Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are discussing, but all of the structural reforms will need about six months to iron out.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) told reporters earlier that there simply wasn’t enough time to implement the plan by the August 2 deadline, while Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) recently told Fox News that there is “some resistance,” even among supporters of the plan, to bringing it up for a vote before that date. Reid said that while he didn’t want to “jeopardize the enthusiasm” members had for the plan, there were a number of procedural obstacles to overcome in a short amount of time that would complicate passage, though “elements” of the plan could be included in a final debt-ceiling package. Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) suggested that perhaps a short-term solution would be palatable in order to give lawmakers time to pursue the guidance outlined in the plan.
Either way, something will still need to pass the Republican House, which is completely focused on “Cut, Cap, and Balance,” at least until a vote is called later this evening. Reid, who has previously been dismissive of the Gang’s work, offered the following subtle yet ominous caveat to his statement on the plan: “. . . 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.”
If the combination of the phrases “start in the House” and “heavy revenue” isn’t a recipe for failure then I don’t know what is.
UPDATE: House Speaker John Boehner’s (R., Ohio) office confirms that the Gang’s proposal is similar to the “grand bargain” touted by the White House, but “appears to fall short in some important areas.”