May 29, 2012

Idaho Reporter: Crapo is still working with 'Gang of Five' on ending debt

By Brad Iverson-Long

The "Gang of Six" may now be a "Gang of Five," but Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo and four other U.S. senators of differing political stripes say they're still working out a plan for how to reduce the federal government's debt.

Crapo and the other senators, who are keeping the specifics of their talks secret, spoke in Washington, D.C., this week at a fiscal summit discussing solutions to America's budget problems.

The "Gang of Six" senators started talking after a deficit reduction commission created by President Barack Obama couldn't agree on a plan. Crapo, a member of the commission, announced his support for that plan alongside Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who joined Crapo in the "Gang of Six."

Both the commission and the "Gang of Six" have a goal of reducing $4 trillion from the deficit in the next decade. The president's commission proposed billions in spending reductions and changes to the tax code and Social Security.

Coburn recently announced he won't be part of the debt reduction gang any longer, saying he was discouraged. Coburn reportedly wanted to make more cuts than some of the Democrats in the group.

Crapo said that all the options for reducing the national debt are on the table, and that changes to the tax code are necessary.

Crapo said the group is making progress on a plan, which could be part of the next federal budget, which starts in the fall. "We will reach finality when we get a deal," he said.

Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss said the senators aren't at an agreement yet, and it likely won't be popular with everyone. "When we get to that point, and we hope we will, it's going to be a plan that everybody's going to dislike in some respects, because all of America is going to share in the sacrifice if we're truly going to get this debt under control," he said.

Crapo said that both Republicans and Democrats on the group have been criticized by outsiders for their efforts.

The "Gang of Six" has a high bar for its debt reduction plan - any changes to spending or taxing that the group comes up with would need to garner support of 60 senators.

"It's a difficult task unless you have bipartisan cooperation," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. He said both Republicans and Democrats are encouraging the group to continue meeting.