Obama Embraces ‘Gang of Six’ Deficit Plan

President Obama heaped praise on a deficit-reduction proposal produced by bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Six,” calling it a “significant step” and arguing that members on both side of the aisle are beginning to coalesce around a balanced approach involving cuts to entitlements and tax increases.

“We’re in the same playing field and my hope is that we start gathering everybody in the next couple of days” on an agreement, Obama told reporters in a brief appearance in the White House briefing room Tuesday.“…We’re seeing the potential for a bipartisan consensus around [the Gang of Six proposal]…but there are still a lot of difficult negotiations to get something done,” he added.

Obama called on all Congressional leaders to support the proposal that includes both significant cuts and revenue raisers (i.e. tax increases and loophole closures.) He also said the plan proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is necessary to consider but only as a backstop if agreement on a broader deal falls apart.

Leaders of the Gang of Six announced Tuesday that they’re close to an agreement on a major deal to cut the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade. The group of senators have been struggling to come up with a plan all of its members could agree upon, and progress was stymied recently when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) left the negotiating table because of a general resistance to cut healthcare costs.

The group said Tuesday it had found some ways to cut healthcare that helped Coburn return to talks. The plan broadly mirrors a proposal put forth by the Debt Commission led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, which the President generally supports. It would call for immediate $500 billion “down payment” on cutting the deficit as the starting point toward the ultimate goal of finding more than $4 trillion over the next decade that would be finalized in a second piece of legislation.

The bipartisan deal would likely gain enough traction to get through the Senate, but Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) have rejected any willingness to compromise on a deal that includes net tax increases.

Republicans have taken issue with the Gang of Six proposals because it would raise $1 trillion in revenues over the coming decade, while Democratic leaders are skeptical for its cuts to entitlements programs including Medicare and Medicaid.