As Deficit Looms, 'Gang Of Six' Seeks Compromise In the budget battle raging in Washington, Republicans are insisting on deep spending cuts while Democrats struggle to defend their favored programs. But one bipartisan group of senators is focusing on the longer term — the looming deficit. By putting defense, entitlements and tax breaks on the table, they're hoping to break the deadlock.
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As Deficit Looms, 'Gang Of Six' Seeks Compromise

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As Deficit Looms, 'Gang Of Six' Seeks Compromise

As Deficit Looms, 'Gang Of Six' Seeks Compromise

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR's Scott Horsley was there.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia says that includes a lot of popular programs, from NASA to children's nutrition, but it's only about 12 percent of the federal government's budget.

MARK WARNER: If you keep coming back to this 12 percent, and that's the only focus, then programs that have provided real value, you know, are going to potentially be fully eliminated or dramatically cut back. I think everybody recognize that we've got to get our deficit under control, and that means you've got to broaden the debate to where the money's at.

HORSLEY: Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss says to get a long-term handle on the government's budget, those are the areas Congress needs to look at. He and Senator Warner are leading an unusual bipartisan effort to do just that.

SAXBY CHAMBLISS: For a Republican to put revenues on the table is significant. For a Democrat to put entitlements on the table is significant. The only way we're going to solve this problem is to have a dialogue about all of these issues, because there is no silver bullet.

HORSLEY: Just as all parts of the budget have to be on the negotiating table, Warner says, both Republicans and Democrats have to be sitting around it.

WARNER: At the end of the day, it is about trust. It's about making sure that at some point, you're going to have to link arms with somebody and take a jump. This will not happen unless there's a grand enough bargain that everybody feels they've got some skin in the game.

HORSLEY: Virginia banker David Addison said after the meeting, he's encouraged Warner and Chambliss are working on a plan to curb the federal debt. But he wonders if their colleagues in Congress have the political will to move forward.

DAVID ADDISON: I think we're moving in the right direction, but it's definitely going to require more cooperation and more realization that this is the issue. We have to deal with it now.

HORSLEY: Warner admits his fellow senators were initially skeptical of the debt-cutting effort. And he's still not sure many lawmakers are betting on the project. At least, though, he and Chambliss are not being ignored. Chambliss adds lawmakers can't afford to do nothing.

CHAMBLISS: If we don't do it, then those people that buy our bonds, i.e. the Chinese, are going to dictate to us exactly how we do it. And I don't think there's any American that wants to see that happen, and certainly no member of Congress who wants to see that happen.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, Richmond.

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