‘Gang of Six’ inch forward with grand-bargain plans

‘GANG OF SIX’ INCH FORWARD WITH GRAND-BARGAIN PLANS…. Talk continues to percolate about a bipartisan “grand bargain,” worked out by six senators, who envision a sweeping compromise that tackle entitlements, tax reform, and deficit reduction, all at the same time.

The discussions were initiated by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) in December, and the two are now spearheading a group calling itself the “Gang of Six” — oh good, another “gang” — that also includes Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) on the Democratic side, and Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) on the Republican side.

Nearly all of the gang’s efforts have unfolded behind closed doors, but members appear to be inching closer to public scrutiny.

While Washington bickers noisily over cutting a small slice of the federal budget, Sens. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, and Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, launched a campaign Monday to convince the public that merely cutting spending will do little to tame the $14 trillion national debt.

The nation will be “up the creek” economically, Warner told a crowd of more than 200 lobbyists and business leaders in Richmond, unless Congress and the White House come together in support of highly unpopular measures such as raising taxes and overhauling Social Security and Medicare. […]

The town hall meeting was part of an emerging effort to build support beyond the Beltway for possible steps that have so far been deemed politically suicidal, such as asking business owners to give up tax breaks and workers to put off retirement until age 69.

“Everything is on the table,” Chambliss said. “For a Republican to put revenues on the table is significant. For a Democrat to put entitlements on the table is significant. But Mark and I believe and know in our hearts that the only way we’re going to solve this problem is to have a dialogue about these issues.”

I continue to give Chambliss credit for saying increased tax revenue has to be “part of the mix,” though it’s unclear exactly what he’s prepared to accept.

Indeed, the notion that Warner and Chambliss are starting to go public with a grand bargain seems odd, since we still don’t know what the plan includes. The Gang of Six hopes to “convince the public”? That might work if the public were told what the plan is. Warner and Chambliss are even taking their show on the road, doing a presentation in Atlanta on April 11, but it’s hard to persuade someone on the merits of a plan while sticking solely to generalities.

I’ve been trying to keep an open mind about the prospect of a “grand bargain,” though I suspect it’s going to be horrible, but the very idea tends to generate questions that participants can’t, or won’t, answer.

Still, participants are clearly taking this more and more seriously, suggesting we may get a clearer picture of the gang’s proposal fairly soon.

Prediction: it will be regressive and awful, the media will love it, and nervous/centrist Democrats will embrace it with both arms.