“If there is ever a time for people to get out of their political fox holes and put the country first, it’s right now.”
As a founding member of the bi-partisan “Gang of Six,” Senator Mark Warner is just one of the few lawmakers working across the aisle to find a solution to America's debt crisis.
It seems that trend could be changing--with the payroll and Bush tax cuts set to expire, and sequestration set to go into effect on January 1st of next year, even more lawmakers are becoming involved in the effort Senator Warner started.
“There is not going to be a Democrat-only or Republican-only solution, so a group of senators in excess of 40 have been meeting on a regular basis, quietly trying to talk through some of these ideas,” said Warner.
These secret, closed-door meetings take place at exclusive DC restaurants, private social clubs, and even at lawmakers' homes. They are all meant to foster dialogue between senators of both parties, who would normally be attacked for fraternizing with those on the other side of the aisle.
“We are going to take arrows, but that’s what I got hired to do. We have to take some shots from groups on the left, groups on the right, and that’s okay,” said Warner.
So what is being discussed? What deals are being negotiated in these "secret" meetings?
CBS recently reported that a possible budget deal would lower corporate tax rates, but let the payroll tax cut expire, taking money out of working people's paychecks.
“Those are not accurate reports, anyone can go and look at the framework of what we are talking about. It’s all included in the Simpson/Bowles plan put out three years ago,” said Warner.
That plan included a complete overhaul to the tax code, reforms to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and across the board spending caps to make sure the country doesn't add to the debt.
It’s the base for the new plan senators are working on--dubbed Simpson/Bowles 2.0.
“If we get our act together and put this deal together, there would be nothing that would bring more economic growth, nothing that would bring more jobs,” said Warner.
Even with that January 1st deadline looming, in a presidential campaign year, Warner admits nothing can be done until after the election.
He and other senators say they hope to have a plan in place ready to be voted on by the end of the year.
“It’s going to take Democrats and Republicans working together,” said Warner.
Still, the big question remains...can that actually happen?