Senate working on sequester deal

Evan Vucci/AP file photo

Lawmakers and aides say a bipartisan group of senators is working on a “three-step process” for the lame duck session to avoid the automatic sequester cuts set for January, The New York Times reports.

While the two sides remain far apart, the senators are considering a deficit reduction target of about $4 trillion over 10 years, to be achieved by raising revenue from an overhaul of the tax code, savings in Medicare and Social Security, and cuts to other federal programs, The Times reported.

An alternate plan would mirror the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles debt commission. Lastly, the sequestration cuts could be put off with a “deficit reduction down payment,” as The Times puts it, meant to show “how serious Congress is.”

Lawmakers have a direct incentive to avoid the automatic sequestration cuts, as Roll Call reports:  Congress itself has some skin in the game. Some $101 million would be trimmed from House salaries and expenses next year, and $32 million would be cut from Senators’ personnel and office expenses.

With the blessing of both parties' leadership, Senators Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., have "begun talks on legislative language to lock a deficit reduction framework into law," The Timeswrote.

“A lot of what happens and when it happens depends on the outcome of the election,” Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told The Times.

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