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“Gang of Six” Seeks Compromise on Federal Budget

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March 22, 2011

Writing for National Public Radio, Scott Horsley outlines the efforts of a bipartisan group of senators that has been meeting “to focus on the longer term and how to deal with the government’s mounting debt.”  The senators (dubbed the “Gang of Six”) believe that the current focus on non-defense discretionary spending — only 12% of the federal budget — is not going to solve our nation’s fiscal problems.

The six senators contend that the government must begin “looking at defense, entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, and a wide variety of tax incentives.”  From the article:

[Senator] Chambliss (R-GA) says that to get a long-term handle on the government’s budget, those are the areas Congress needs to look at.

“For a Republican to put revenues on the table is significant. For a Democrat to put entitlements on the table is significant,” Chambliss says. “The only way we’re going to solve this problem is to have a dialogue about all these issues, because there is no silver bullet.”

The “Gang of Six” is working on building trust between the parties and attempting to bring both sides to the negotiating table.  Horsley writes, “Republicans will be more willing to raise tax revenue, and Democrats more willing to tinker with Social Security if there’s a sense that sacrifice is being shared.”  The willingness of their fellow party members to share in that sacrifice, however, remains to be seen.

Teachers could use this article to demonstrate the process of political compromise and the role of bipartisanship in complex fiscal decisions.  Students could be asked to research the progress of the “Gang of Six” and other bipartisan groups like the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, to see if they gain or lose influence as the 2012 elections approach.  Students should be encouraged to develop their own opinions about which group or party (or combination thereof) has the best plan for reducing the federal budget deficit and the national debt.

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