John Avlon is totally stoked to see the Gang of Six return, as is evident from the biblical terms in which he casts their comeback:
There might still be a chance to depolarize the political debate over the debt ceiling and deficit reduction.
That’s thanks to the Lazarus-like resurgence of the Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of senators who have been working tirelessly to come up with a balanced plan to restore our nation to fiscal responsibility.
Washington’s professional partisans and cynical scribes had written the Gang of Six’s efforts off in recent weeks as well-intentioned but ineffectual, especially after Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, took a hiatus from their talks.
But Coburn was back on Tuesday at a presentation of their $3.7 trillion deficit reduction plan to 46 of their fellow senators. Even more impressive was the endorsement the outlines of their plans got from the president of the United States.
“Lazarus-like resurgence”? The Senators weren’t dead, and neither was their ability to propose legislation, individually or as part of a coalition. In fact, the Gang of Six had been meeting as the Gang of Five since Coburn’s departure, but like the Democratic leadership in the Senate, they hadn’t bothered to put any plan forward until this week. The “chance to depolarize the political debate over the debt ceiling” has existed all along, but Harry Reid made clear that he didn’t want to pursue any budget plans in the Senate while Republicans controlled the House.
Besides, as The Hill reported last night, it looks like Lazarus was a little late in resurging:
Key Senate Democrats on Tuesday said the Gang of Six’s $3.7 trillion deficit-reduction proposal could not be included in a package to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2.
Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), a member of the Gang of Six, said Tuesday the group’s plan is not ready to be attached to legislation to increase the debt limit.
“The Gang of Six plan has not been drafted nor has it been scored by the CBO — it’s not ready for prime time,” Durbin said, making reference to the Congressional Budget Office. “But as a concept, I think we have the starting concepts together, and that’s what we presented today.
In other words, it’s a big non-sequitur. The only way the Gang of Six Lazaruses have any relevance to the debt-ceiling debate now is if the White House insists on a clean hike in the ceiling in exchange for adopting the Gang of Six plan down the road. That has zero chance of passing the House, and it might not move in the Senate, either. Even the White House acknowledged that there won’t be a debt-ceiling hike without some kind of deficit-reduction agreement attached to it, and they surely know that the GOP won’t be mollified with promises of a deficit-reduction commitment in the future.
That leaves us back where we started, in pre-Lazarus condition, due in large part of the lack of leadership demonstrated by the Democrats. In my column at The Week today, I reference the new definition of leadership at the White House, while pointing out that Republicans have proposed a series of approaches to the debt ceiling and deficit reduction. In fact, they’ve now passed two such plans in the House:
Republicans have now presented four different, specific plans (and passed one in the House), and took part in the Gang of Six proposal – which the Democratic leadership in the Senate now says won’t be ready for the August 2nd debt-ceiling deadline anyway. Democrats in the Senate otherwise have offered nothing for the crisis, despite having control of the chamber. In his three press conferences, Obama repeatedly refused to provide detailed answers for the crisis, talking only about process.
That brings us back to yesterday’s briefing. After Obama left, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Carney when the President would lead by presenting his own plan to deal with the crisis for which Obama himself keeps raising the alarm. Carney then offered what seems to be the White House definition of leadership: “Leadership is not proposing a plan for the sake of having it voted up or down.”
Obama wants to define leadership as somehow not leading or taking any kind of political risks. Meanwhile, Republicans have offered an array of approaches to the issue, and have done so for months, while Democrats take the same approach to the debt and deficit issue in 2011 that they did for the FY2011 budget in 2010. Leadership may not entirely about proposing plans for an up-or-down vote, but it almost always involves doing just that as a basic prerequisite. Obama and Democrats have abdicated leadership, while Republicans have had to govern in their retreat.
So where is Barack Obama’s plan? Harry Reid’s? Will they offer the nation a Lazarus-like resurgence back to responsibility, or will they continue to demonstrate leadership through abdication? It looks like a number of Democrats in high positions are “not ready for prime time.”
Update: Added the actual link to my column rather than just the link to my page. The editors gave the title a Carmen San Diego twist …