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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gang of Six Surprised by Obama’s Entry Into Fiscal Debate

From the New York Times:

A Republican leader in a bipartisan Senate group working on a debt reduction plan said Monday that President Obama “threw us a little bit of a curveball” with the announcement that he would deliver a speech this week on fixing the nation’s fiscal problems.

The Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and his Democratic negotiating partner, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, said they were surprised when Mr. Obama’s senior White House strategist, David Plouffe, said on Sunday talk shows that Mr. Obama would ask Congress to join him in writing a long-range plan of domestic and military spending cuts and higher taxes for the wealthy.

People familiar with the Senate group said Mr. Obama’s entry into the fiscal debate could upset the senators’ fragile unity. If the effort becomes associated with him before there is a deal, they say, it could provoke such conservative opposition that Republican lawmakers will shy away.

“We just didn’t know — none of us did until yesterday,” Mr. Chambliss said, referring to the three Republican and three Democratic senators in the so-called Gang of Six.

“Irrespective of that, we’re going to continue working with our group,” he told reporters at the Rotary Club of Atlanta, where he and Mr. Warner addressed about 400 receptive business people on the need for both revenues and spending cuts to rein in projected debt.

Mr. Warner said, “To get this done, we’re going to need the president’s involvement and the president’s leadership.”

The senators said their group was close to a deal but would not announce one this week. With Congress about to recess for two weeks, they worry that opponents on the left and right would savage the plan in the interim.

Mr. Chambliss praised the House Republicans plan as “very serious” but said it would not balance the budget for decades because it seeks to do so “simply by reducing spending, and that’s not going to work.”

The senators told the audience that their goal was a plan to cut $4 trillion from deficits over the next 10 years. Relevant committees would be instructed to reduce military and domestic spending, including for the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs, and overhaul the tax code to end many tax breaks and use the new revenues to lower tax rates and reduce deficits. Their framework is last year’s majority report of Mr. Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission, which included four of the six senators, but not Mr. Chambliss and Mr. Warner.

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