Pressure builds for debt reduction

By Jeanne Sahadi and Ted Barrett

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The push to come up with a plan to reduce national debt got a bipartisan bear hug in the Senate on Tuesday.

Three lawmakers who sat on President Obama's bipartisan debt commission -- Sens. Kent Conrad, Tom Coburn and Mike Crapo -- convened a meeting of more than 30 senators from both parties "to make sure everyone comes to consensus on how big the problem is and how real it is," Coburn told CNN.

Sen. Ron Wyden, who attended the meeting, said senators want to figure out a serious "down payment" on debt reduction and tackle one structural problem.

"I believe there is a sense that if you're going to turn this around and grow the economy, you're going to have to deal with one, major, long-term issue this year," he said. (Data visualization: Spending crunch ahead)

Conrad, who chairs the budget committee, said a broad effort -- sooner rather than later -- is needed.

"I think it's important to move on a comprehensive plan. Our whole challenge is so great I think you have to move on a broad front, really a comprehensive plan," said Conrad, who has been pushing for a fiscal summit between the White House and both parties in the House and Senate.

Separately on Tuesday, a bipartisan bill was introduced to establish a cap on spending at 20.6% of the economy as measured by the gross domestic product, on part with the 40-year historical average. Currently it's close to 25% and is projected to remain above 23% for the rest of the decade.

Several of the attendees at Tuesday's meeting are also part of another bipartisan group of senators organized by Sens. Mark Warner and Saxby Chambliss who are calling on the Senate to start tackling debt reduction this year.

Warner and Chambliss intend to introduce legislation this month that would call for many of the debt-reduction proposals put forth by president's debt commission.

-- Sahadi is a senior writer at CNNMoney. Barrett is a CNN congressional producer. To top of page

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