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Sen. Tom Coburn ready to release deficit reduction plan

Oklahoma senator hopes is putting the finishing touches on his plan to reduce the federal deficit by $9 trillion. He expects to release it this week.
BY CHRIS CASTEEL Published: June 26, 2011

— U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who has been working on a deficit-reduction plan worth $9 trillion over 10 years, said he hopes to release the blueprint late this week.

That timetable may slip since the scope of the plan requires so many calculations (mathematical, not political). Coburn, R-Muskogee, and his staff have been working on the plan since the senator dropped out of the bipartisan Gang of Six deficit reduction talks in May.

He has declined to discuss details, though a plan that big — more than twice what the president's fiscal commission recommended in December — would have to include everything, including new revenue. Coburn has said repeatedly that new revenue — from eliminating or modifying tax breaks — will be necessary.

In an interview after the budget talks collapsed Thursday between lawmakers and Vice President Joseph Biden, Coburn said he was worried that “nothing's going to happen” before the Aug. 2 deadline set by the Treasury secretary to raise the debt limit. Republicans have said they won't vote to raise the debt limit unless a major deficit-reduction plan also is passed.

“And if something does happen, I'm worried that it won't be enough to send the right signal,” Coburn said. “It may get us past the bump.”

For Coburn, “enough” is at least $4.75 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.

“What's going to happen is that in 2012, interest rates are going to start rising … and could very well rise 1 to 2 percent,” Coburn said. “That's $300 billion right there (in additional interest costs on the national debt) — $3 trillion over 10 years.

“So if you haven't figured in some interest rate increases in what you're cutting, you haven't helped us. If you only do $2.5 trillion (in cuts) and you got $3 trillion in interest costs, where are you? You're half a trillion in the hole.”

In an editorial Friday, The Washington Post urged Coburn to rejoin the Gang of Six, but a Coburn spokesman said the senator would remain “on sabbatical” from the group.

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