The Gang of Six plus two self-professed “cheerleaders” huddled late this afternoon behind closed doors, after their plan had some time to breathe on Capitol Hill today in an attempt to figure what the next step is as the clock ticks closer to August 2 nd.
The next step: members of the Senate will be asked to sign a letter supporting the “basic direction” of the Gang of Six’s plan. There will be another meeting tomorrow with the group to discuss how he plan may be advanced.
Members of the Gang of Six did not immediately shoot down the idea that their plan could be attached in some way to the plan being worked on by McConnell and Reid.
“It is a possible,” Senator Conrad, D-ND., said after leaving the meeting, “one possibility that is being discussed is that this special congressional committee would have this as a fall back or maybe the basis of their discussions.”
At the same time, they are trying to draft the plan legislatively so it can be considered.
Conrad admitted that they know the time frame is working against them.
“That’s a problem. As you know scoring of these things can take an extended period. I know CBO told the Democratic Leader that just the mandatory spending piece from the White House talks could take as long as two weeks to score. So all of these issues are being discussed and considered.”
All that said, the first thing to do is see how much support the plan has among members of Congress.
“We saw very strong and positive reaction this morning. We’re seeking to get greater clarity based on signatures on a letter, and we’ll see where that winds up,” Conrad said.
Senator Chambliss, R-GA., said that now the group has agreement on the plan, they have to go out and sell it.
“I think we saw this morning that there was an awful lot of support that was out there for this void that’s out there from the stand point, a bipartisan agreement on something with respect to the long-term debt,” Chambliss said, “Does it play into the short term deficit and is that now what people are looking at? I don’t know the answer to that. So how many we actually get signed up for it, I don’t know.”
Senators Bennett, D-CO., and Mike Johanns, R-Neb. – who members not in the Gang of Six – sat in on today’s closed-door meeting. They said they will continue to be “cheerleaders” for the plan.
“We are trying to do all we can to engage our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support an effort to try to deal with the crisis we are facing,” Bennet said. “The initial response on both sides has been very positive, more positive than anything I’ve seen since I’ve arrived here.”