It Begins: Top Republicans Push Away From Gang Of Six Plan

As time goes on, and conservative interest groups and members of Congress rip into it, support among Republicans for the Gang of Six plan to reduce deficits will begin to wane. In fact, that’s already happening.

In a publicly released memo meant to undermine support for the Gang of Six plan in its current form, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) laments, “it increases revenues while failing to seriously address exploding federal spending on health care, which is the primary driver of our debt. There are also serious concerns that the proposal’s substance on spending falls far short of what is needed to achieve the savings it claims.”Read the full memo here.

Not all of Ryan’s complaints ring hollow. The plan legitimately does punt a lot of the spending cut questions to Congressional committees — though under the threat of across the board cuts if those committees fail to report out more targeted reductions. And, whether you want plenty of new revenue, or no new revenue, the plan leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Members claim it would count, in budgeting terms, as a tax cut, because the Congressional Budget Office’s baseline assumes that all of the Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of 2012.

Relative to current policy, though, it’s supposed to draw in $1 trillion in new revenue — surely a sticking point for House Republicans. But where do those revenues come from if the plan lowers top tax rates (or at least the top rates), eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax (at a cost to the deficit of $1.7 trillion), and doesn’t eliminate the most expensive loopholes and benefits in the tax code? That’s left to Congress to decide

It’s not just Ryan, though. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) says he opposes the Gang of Six plan because it cuts too deeply into military spending.

And, perhaps most telling of all, a Senate GOP Leadership Aide told Politico, “Background guidance: The President killed any chance of its success by 1) Embracing it. 2) Hailing the fact that it increases taxes. 3) Saying it mirrors his own plan.”

One imagines that if Obama’d said nothing, GOP aides would be complain just as loudly that the President hasn’t publicly embraced any proposal coming out of Congress. Now that he has, Republicans will run away — and that’s just what we’re seeing.

Top Republicans do still have nice things to say about it, but always couched in doubt. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said the plan “does seem to include some constructive ideas to deal with our debt,” adding, “I am concerned with the Gang of Six’s revenue target, the plan fails to significantly address the largest drivers of America’s debt, and it is unclear how the goals of tax and entitlement reforms would be enforced.”

Ryan himself said the proposal “serves as a sign that we can work together on a bipartisan basis to make a serious down payment now to avert the debt-fueled economic crisis before us,” not withstanding his complaints.

That’s still a warmer welcome than other plans received from top Republicans. But Tuesday’s hyperventilating praise from Senators from both parties came a bit too early.

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