Forget the Gang of Eight -- for compromise, all that matters is the president and the speaker.
First Washington had the Gang of Six, six senators seeking a bipartisan agreement on reducing the nation's debt. Now there's the Gang of Eight, eight senators seeking an agreement on dodging looming end-of-year spending cuts and tax increases. But the only bipartisan decision-makers who actually matter, said one Gang of Eight member, are the president and House Speaker John Boehner.
"I will say, at the moment, that this really is between the president and the speaker," said Sen. Michael Bennet at The Atlantic's Washington Ideas Forum. If those two players could reach an agreement that would avert the impact of the so-called fiscal cliff, it would meet with "broad bipartisan support in the Senate," Bennet said. (Standard disclosure: Senator Bennet is the brother of James Bennet, editor in chief of The Atlantic.)
He added that the details of such a plan don't really matter as much as getting something done. "We've gotta clear this hurdle," the Colorado Democrat said.
Some observers have suggested that a bipartisan compromise that would prevent the nation from going over the fiscal cliff is most likely to emerge out of the Senate, where there's a larger portion of legislators ready to reach across the aisle. Bennet suggested that a deal needs to come from two leaders who agree on very little -- but who both need to be on board before a deal can become law. Boehner needs a deal that he can get a critical mass of restive Republicans behind. President Obama needs a deal that aligns with Democrats' principles and with his campaign promises.
Bennet said that the recent election has shifted the tone in Washington, at least somewhat. The American people want to see compromise, he said.
"We have gotta deal with this fiscal cliff," Bennet said. "If we fail, it will be a colossal failure of leadership in Washington, D.C."
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