Partnering with a freshman Democratic senator from Colorado, Sen. Lamar Alexander has been quietly working on an "emergency backup plan" that could be put in place if Congress and the president cannot agree how best to address a mix of tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to go into effect at year's end, better known as the "fiscal cliff."
Along with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Alexander has reportedly been hatching the plan for the past several months in anticipation of potential gridlock as the deadline approaches. On Thursday, a Denver Post report said that the senators had remained quiet on their plan out of a desire to not get in the way of negotiations between President Barack Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.
Alexander and Bennet's plan is different from a recent proposal put forward by Sen. Bob Corker in that it aims to prevent elements of the fiscal cliff from being enacted and provides a framework for Congress to approach a broader deficit reduction deal sometime next year if current talks fail. According to a recent report from Washington, D.C., newspaper The Hill, the proposal would make a "substantial down payment" on the deficit during the current lame-duck session before setting guidelines for future negotiating procedures.
The senators have not revealed how big the down payment would be or what it would be comprised of, instead opting to let the final amount be determined by party leaders. Language for the bill has been delivered to the staff of both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, along with staff in the White House.
In the Hill report, Alexander was quoted giving a brief description of the plan's purpose.
"It simply pushes the pause button on all the elements of the fiscal cliff, extends everything for a year, and then gives us six months in which to reform entitlements and reform taxes and reduce the debt," Alexander said.
If Congress is not able to pass a broader deficit reduction package by the six-month deadline, the Senate Budget Committee would be given special power to move on a reduction package. If that failed, a so-called "backstop" would be implemented, allowing for a mix of increased revenues and spending cuts to be put into effect.
Although the framework for the backstop has reportedly not been put into writing, Alexander was quoted saying that proposals such as Corker's bill could be used to fill the role.