Senators Mark Warner and Saxby Chambliss have re-animated the Catfood Commission, and plan to introduce a bill based on its recommendations in the next Congress.

Two senators pledged on Monday to offer bipartisan legislation next year that reflected proposals to slash the federal budget deficit submitted this month by a presidential commission.

“Taking the commission’s report … we’ll be introducing that as legislation, a legislative vehicle, next year, recognizing in the process that a lot of that would be subject to change,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner said.

He was joined on a conference call with reporters by Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss, who said the two are working together on the project. It would face an uphill political climb next year, despite wide agreement in Congress the yawning deficit must be dealt with soon.

Uphill battle, ay? Chambliss and Warner have a gang of apparently 20 Senators committed to this. You’ll remember that even Tom Coburn voted for the Catfood Commission recommendations, so I’d expect unanimity on the right, at least in the Senate. The House Republicans may be so far gone that they won’t accept much of anything that doesn’t abolish everything in the federal government except their expense accounts and free health care, but that would be essentially the major chance that something similar to this doesn’t get through.

Hilariously, Warner and Chambliss, who want to bring forward a plan that cuts the budget deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years, just both voted for a tax cut bill that, if the Bush tax rates are continued into perpetuity… add $4 trillion to the budget over the next ten years. This is why I thought that the tax cut deal had to be looked at as a whole. You could have basically eliminated the need for this Warner-Chambliss clown show simply by doing nothing.

Chambliss raised the spectre of taking the debt limit hostage in a call with reporters:

Chambliss said on the call that an impending vote in Congress to raise the government’s debt ceiling — expected to be needed in the first or second quarter of 2011 — will be an important turning point.

“It gives us a deadline to look to from the standpoint of getting some meaningful decisions made … If we can use that as leverage that’s an ideal scenario,” Chambliss said.

“Ideal” is one way of putting it. Another is “will make “The Perils Of Pauline” look like a romantic comedy.” You’re basically going to see a concurrent fight over the debt ceiling AND the funding of the federal government (which will run out March 4), and while it would be logical for Democrats to combine the two, it’s almost certain that Republicans will make different demands on each, leading to separate hostage incidents.

There’s some credible discussion that the debt limit increase really hurts Wall Street more than anyone, and so the Republicans should go ahead and try to slay that beast, with the assumption that they will be miserably unsuccessful. But with government funding set for March, and money for health care and financial reform implementation still lacking, there are simply too many hostage situations to dodge.

Warner, at least, said that the economy would have to recover before moving to austerity, which is a nice view, but almost certainly not one Republicans share. So the more likely outcome here is major budget cutting in the 2011 calendar year, canceling out a lot of whatever stimulative effects come from the tax cut deal. Warner and Chambliss are showing the way.

UPDATE: The Hill has ferreted out the Gang of Catfood.

In Dec. 14 floor speeches, 16 members of the Warner-Chambliss group spoke in praise of the debt commission plan. Speaking were Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

David Dayen

David Dayen